How the Honeybee's Efficiency Made an Entire Industry

It's easy to understand why ancient humans would wish to have bees around. In the ancient Near East, honey was one of the few accessible sweets. Beeswax was also used for medical and practical purposes, such as tool components and waterproofing agents.

Furthermore, as modern beekeepers know, bees are relatively straightforward to deal with. The European honeybee, Apis mellifera, is less likely to sting than many other stinging insects. This is especially true when a bee fills up on honey, as honeybees do automatically when they detect smoke.

While some argue that this behaviour stems from bees' natural tendency to abandon their hives at the first sign of a wildfire, others believe the opposite is true—honeybees may gorge themselves on honey to survive inside the hive for an extended period after a wildfire, which could quickly burn all of the flowering plants on which they rely for nectar.

Whatever the reason, beekeepers have always taken advantage of the fact that the scent of smoke causes honeybees to become docile.

How Do Bees Make Their Honey?

Bees begin producing honey, their primary source of nutrition, by visiting flowers. They take nectar, a sweet fluid, from the bloom by sucking it out with their mouths. They keep it in their honey stomach, which is distinct from their food stomach.

When they have finished their burden, they return to the hive. They then carry it on via their jaws to other worker bees, who chew it for around 30 minutes. It is transmitted from bee to bee until it eventually transforms into honey. The bees then store it in honeycomb cells, which are like small wax jars. Because the honey is still a little moist, they fan it with their wings to dry it off and make it stickier. When it's finished, the cell is sealed with a wax cover to keep it clean.

That is how bees produce honey. They don't make a lot of it, however. It takes at least eight bees their whole lives to produce a single teaspoonful. Fortunately for us, they generally produce more than they require so that we can enjoy some as well.

The Amazing Work Ethic of Honeybees

A bee's work ethic is unrivalled. A swarm of bees may fly 90,000 miles. That equates to three orbits around the Earth. To generate a pound of honey, bees must visit 2 million flowers. A honeybee will fly roughly three miles per day at 15 miles per hour to forage for food. Honeybees do not sleep. Of course, they only survive approximately six weeks, but show me a person who can work uninterrupted for that long!

Temperature-controlling worker bees must flap their wings at 200 beats per second to keep the hive temperature at 92 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of whether it is snowing or hot and humid outside.

Many local beekeepers will tell you about how worker bees defend their queen. The queen is crucial to the hive's existence, and because she is the only reproductive bee in the hive, they defend her at all costs. During the harsh winter months, worker bees have been observed congregating around the queen bee to keep her warm and secure. Instead of moving an inch or two on the comb to consume honey reserves, they stay put, starving to death to defend their queen.


As they have since the time of the ancient Sumerians, honeybees still contribute to the human diet. What was once a luxury is now a commodity, but honeybees are still crucial to local ecosystems everywhere. They keep our forests and farmlands healthy, and they really do give us something to talk about.

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