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Do All Bees Make Honey?

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Types of Bees That Make Honey

Among the thousands of species of bees in the world, each have specific characteristics that define them. One unique feature shared by a small number is the ability to make honey. One of the most well known facts about honey bees is their production of large amounts of honey. But what about the other thousands of members of this insect family, do all bees make honey? 

picture of a honey bee inside the hive putting honey in comb

Apis Mellifera

A member of the genus Apis-the full scientific name is Apis (meaning bee) and mellifera (Latin for “honey bearing”).

This scientific classification includes a diverse group of insects that includes, those that nest in cavities, dwarf bees and giant honey bees. 

Most of these insects originated in southeast Asia.  And, all of them are social insects that live in colonies and make honey.

The most well-known honey producing bee is the European Honey Bee (also called Western Honey Bee).

There are several races or types of bees within this group. All of them make and store honey.

picture of honey bee on yellow flower do all bees make honey

Why do Some Bees Make Honey?

In the insect world, survival depends on the ability to do what is necessary for life.  Insects do not waste energy on needless tasks.

Some types of bees need to store food for times when it may be lacking. And other bees do not.

The different life span and life style of each type of insect dictates their activity. There is much diversity in the world of bees.

Honey Bees Store Food for Winter

Honey production is important to bees that live in a hive or nest throughout the year. Life inside the hive continues during a season when food is not available outside.

Why do bee colonies make so much honey? These bee families need to store a lot of food to feed themselves, their queen bee and any young during the cold months of the year.

Honey stored in the hive can also be used during inclement weather or times when few food resources are available – also called a nectar dearth.

Are There Any Bees That Don’t Make Honey?

Bee species that live as solitary individuals do not need to store food.  These insects do not have large families to support. 

Their goal is simply to feed and raise a small number of young. They do not overwinter as large families so large stores of food is not necessary.

Solitary individuals may gather pollen and nectar.  They mix these together to form a small loaf for feeding their young. Once young emerge, they go out into the world to make their own way.

Most of the bees in the world are solitary insects. Therefore, most bees do not make honey. And, even fewer make enough honey for us to harvest.

Are Wasps Honey Producers?

Wasps are not bee – though to the untrained eye they are sometimes thought of as bees.

A common question is – do yellow jackets wasps make honey?  No, wasps do not make honey. Though these insects are relatives of honey bees, they are primarily meat eaters.

Wasps will certainly enjoy stealing a sweet taste of honey, much like your soda at a picnic, but sweet food is not their primary diet.

How do Bees Make Honey?

Honey is produced from plant nectar that is gathered from plants. Bees make honey by reducing the moisture content of the nectar and converting the simple nectar sugars in a more stable form.

The fact that honey stores well long term is important to bees. Ripe honey is sealed inside cells of beeswax honeycomb.  It will provide food for the colony during times when no nectar is available.

Do all Bees in the Hive Make Honey?

There are 3 kinds of bees in a colony. Colony members include a queen bee, some drones (or males) in the warm season and thousands of female worker bees.

The workers bees are the ones that actually make honey. But a single bee does not make honey alone, it is the work of many individuals. In addition, workers are responsible for collecting all the resources needed by the colony. 

Do Honey Bees Make Honey All Year?

In most regions, colonies do not make honey all year.  Bees are cold-blooded insects.  They can not fly in cold temperatures.

Also, during cold months very few nectar producing plants are blooming.  This is why honey bees work so hard during the warmer month to produce good stores of food inside the hive.

Thankfully, healthy hives can produce a lot of honey.  The thoughtful beekeeper must take care to only take the excess – beyond what the colony needs to sustain itself until next Spring.

picture of a bumble bee gathering plant nectar

Do Bumble Bees Make Honey?

Yes, bumble bees do make a small amount of a honey substance. But not enough is produced for humans to harvest or use.

Bumble bees store food in the nest in small structures called honey pots.  However, because the bumble bee nest is small and does not overwinter as a family, the amount of honey produced is very small.

Only the bumble bee queens live over winter.  They will hibernate in mulch, bark etc and emerge next Spring to begin a new family nest. Therefore, large stores of food are not necessary.

Can Humans Make Honey Without Bees?

Humans can not make real honey without bees. Bees have special glands in their mouths that produce the enzyme invertase. This is part of the complex system by which nectar is converted to honey.

Of course, this does not mean that humans don’t try to make honey. A team of Israeli students claim to be successful at making a synthetic honey.

Final Thoughts on Which Bees Make Honey

With thousands of insects in the world, it is rather amazing that only a very few of them actually produce honey. For the bees that need to store large amounts of food, honey is the perfect item.

But each insect has its own life plan and the majority of bees do not make honey. They rely on other methods to sustain life, reproduce and continue their species.

Our honey making bees are so very special and unique.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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