So, you know that honey comes from bees, but how do bees make honey? Kids ask this question all the time, and it’s because most grown-ups don’t even know the answer! Here is an easy explanation and a quick-and-tasty recipe to make honey flapjacks to show off your learning.
There are many different types of bee, but only the honey bee can make honey. And it all starts when they visit a flower…
The flower that a honey bee visits must contain nectar, otherwise it will move on. Nectar is like sugar water, and this is what bees like–yummers! They suck it up using their tongue which is hollow like a straw–it’s proper name is a proboscis.
Now the nectar is inside the bee’s tummy, and its little body then turns the sugar part of nectar (called sucrose) into different kinds of sugar (glucose and fructose). Some of the glucose then gets turned into an acid. By turning some of the nectar into acid, any bacteria is killed so it doesn’t get into the honey. This is why honey can last for years and years.
But this new nectar mix is still quite watery, so the clever bees get rid of most of the water by fanning the mix with their wings. The mixture is now thicker and resembles what we know as honey.
To protect their honey, the bees will seal the honeycombs with wax.
Those Clever Bees
In its whole life, a single bee only produces about one and a half teaspoons of honey, but they live in really big groups, which means they can make a lot of honey when they work together.
Honey can taste different depending on what flowers the bees have been feasting on. For example, if beekeepers keep their hives close to heather for the bees to enjoy, the honey these bees produce will be much stronger in taste. Different flowers give different flavours.
All honey starts off as being clear and runny, however, over time, some honey can set and become thicker and grainy–this is called set honey. It’s easy to get it back to being runny though, just heat for a short time in the microwave, or put the jar into a bowl of warm water. For cooking, it’s often easier if the honey you use is runny.
You can use this tip if you choose to make our delicious honey flapjacks…
- 200g butter
- 200g sugar (we used demerara, but any will do)
- 200g honey*
- 400g oats
- Large saucepan, wooden spoon, baking tray
* You can use golden syrup, or a combination of honey and golden syrup depending on what you have in the cupboard.
Let’s Get Going
Preheat the oven to 180c, 350f, gas 4.
5. Leave it to cool and then cut it into squares. Yummers!
Did we answer all your questions about how bees make honey? Let us know if you have anything else about bees and honey that you’d like to know.
Image credit: With thanks to mamboman1 for the bee collecting nectar picture.