When Do Honey Bees Eat? Honey Bee Feeding Times and Habits

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We know about honey bee queenlessness, but what do we know about their feeding habits? For example, what do they do when they land on flowers? When do honey bees eat? And what do they eat besides honey?

Lucky for you, we got the answers right here.

When Do Honey Bees Eat? Honey Bee Feeding Schedules and Habits

Honey bees are organized insects that follow certain “schedules”.

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How honey bees eat

It’s a common misconception that when honey bees land on flowers, they suck out the nectar, and that’s that, nourishment.

That’s only half the truth. You see, honey bees do eat the nectar. But by that time, it’s not for nourishment and energy. It’s for storage. The honey bee gets the nectar out and temporarily keeps it inside its stomach. When it makes it back to the hive, it regurgitates the ingested nectar it has previously “eaten” and passes it to another bee. The receiving bee then uses it for a ritualistic process with other bees. They assemble and repeatedly pass the nectar back and forth, ingesting and regurgitating it until it’s ready to be stored. After that, they keep the partially made honey in some of the waxy cells in the hive. There, it will start to ferment, giving it that distinctive flavor we know and love.

Being true artisans, the bees utilize special methods to make their honey. One is using their wings to fan it. This is done to stop the fermentation process and to get rid of excess water. Finally, after resting for a few days, it’s only then that the honey is ready to be eaten.

The process is long and arduous, but the honey bees are masters of their own craft. Doing this daily yields them plenty of food. So there’s enough to feed thousands of hungry workers and even more of it for nectar-scarce months during fall and winter.

Larvae eat royal jelly

Not all bees feed on honey alone. Larvae, particularly the budding queens, are given massive amounts of royal jelly to develop highly functional reproductive organs. Royal jelly is a secretion produced by young worker bees. They have a special gland in their hypopharynx that produces the substance, using whatever it is that they normally eat.

When Do Honey Bees Eat? Honey Bee Feeding Schedules and Habits - Royal Jelly

Unlike honey, royal jelly is white and pearly. CC Image courtesy of Waugsberg on Wikipedia

Unlike honey, royal jelly has higher protein content. It’s also white, watery and takes less time to create. Some experts even compare this secretion to a mammal’s breastmilk. With its white appearance and how it’s used, the comparison isn’t that farfetched.

Bees also make “bread”

Royal jelly

Honey and royal jelly are the most widely known bee food. But did you know that bees also make their own bread too?

Enter the bee bread. This peculiar food is another source of nutrition for honey bees. It’s a tightly packed yellow pellet that they eat aside from honey and royal jelly. According to Mother Earth News, honey bees make the “bread” by combining collected pollen with bodily enzymes and honey. The final product is a nutritious food source that can easily be assimilated by their bodies.

Bee bread is incredibly healthy for its makers. It has a lot of essential vitamins and minerals. And it’s also home to 188 kinds of fungi and 29 kinds of bacteria that are beneficial for the bees.

Bees follow a schedule

Worker bees make up the largest part of the colony, and they’re divided into different jobs. One of the most important ones are the foragers. They’re the bees that bring home honey’s most essential ingredients. And they’re the most obvious ones that follow a schedule.

Foraging honey bees don’t start the day randomly. They follow a set time that dictates when they should leave the safety of the hive and when to come back and rest.

Like us humans, honey bees are believed to start their day early in the morning. To be precise, it’s usually around 8 o’clock. They’re usually up and flying early in the day, gathering nectar, pollen and water and even travelling up to six miles just to search for them.

Later in the evening, the foragers land back into their hive and call it a day. Unlike other worker bees, the foraging unit sleeps for a long time during the night. Like clockwork, they get up again the next day and start the process all over again. However, they can change this sleeping time when not a lot of food is available.

So when do honey bees eat? In truth, there’s really no specific time when they do it. But logically, foragers can only do stuff themselves with honey once they’re in the hive, usually after they’re back from looking for food or in between their “schedule”. And as for other worker bees, they have it lucky. They can feed on the honey any time they need to.

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