Can bees make food?
What Do Bees Pollinate?
Many fruits and vegetables would disappear from grocery store shelves if it weren't for honeybees. Almonds, for example, are a $2.5 billion industry in California, and almond growers depend on honeybees to pollinate the crop. No honeybees would mean no almonds. Many berries (like blackberries and strawberries) need bees, as do vegetables like cucumbers and squash. And don't forget tree crops like apples, oranges and peaches. Watermelon and cantaloupes depend on bees, too. In fact, approximately 15 percent of the food Americans eat comes directly from honeybee pollination. Another 15 percent comes from animals that eat foods that bees pollinate. In other words, close to a third of the food that Americans eat currently requires honeybee pollination. Honeybee pollination is so important that bee farmers actually truck their bees from orchard to orchard and farm to farm to help pollinate crops.
How Do Honeybees Make Honey?
A honeybee starts the honey making process by visiting a flower. With luck, the flower contains nectar, and the bee sucks some of the nectar up with a little straw (a proboscis) built into its mouth. Most flower nectars are like sugar water; there is a little sugar mixed with water. Nectars can contain other beneficial substances as well. To make honey, two things happen.
The first thing uses enzymes. One enzyme that bees produce turns the sucrose in the nectar into glucose and fructose. Another enzyme turns some of the glucose into an acid and hydrogen peroxide. By making honey acidic, it kills any bacteria that get into the honey.
The second thing uses evaporation to get rid of the extra water. Most of the moisture has to be evaporated, so that honey is only about 18 percent water. Bees evaporate the extra water by putting little drops of nectar in the hive and fanning it with their wings.
Honey is a very stable food. It naturally resists molds, fungi and other bacteria, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration.