Do bees eat honey?

24 July, 2020


          
            bee on purple flower

We all know they make it, but do bees eat honey?

Reading time: 3 minutes

Summary

  • Honey bees mainly produce honey however they do consume small amounts of honey
  • Bees eat honey to fuel drones, refuel worker bees and for winter stores
  • If honey is taken in moderation, it doesn't harm bees

 
Interestingly, all species of bees that make honey also eat it. They use it as an energy source, and it is packed with the nutrients they need to remain healthy.

Let’s take a closer look at their eating process and why bees eat honey!

What is honey and do bees eat their own honey?

Bees make honey from honeydew (also called plant nectar) which are excretions of insects that have eaten nectar. Nectar is a sugary substance broken down by bees into carbohydrates. These flowery grains are also packed with all sorts of goodness like protein, which is nutritionally essential for bees.

The other nutrient that bees require is found in pollen. The bees’ salivary glands release an enzyme that mixes with the nectar. The bees share this nectar with other bees in the colony, creating a syrupy substance we know as honey. This is how they eat and also feed their young.

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Do queen bees eat honey?

Every worker bee consumes the honey, however the Queen Bee’s diet consists of ‘royal jelly’ - and not the kind your Granny gets you for Christmas! ‘Royal jelly’ is a nutritional secretion produced by worker bees. Bees, when in their infancy - also called larvae - will feed on royal jelly during their first few days of growth. There is one exception, which is for the larvae chosen to become the Queen Bee. It will feed off royal jelly throughout their entire development, allowing the Queen to develop, reproduce and become strong enough to sustain the beehive.

To find out more about how bees make honey, read our previous blog by clicking here!


Why do bees eat honey

FUELLING DRONES

Male bees are known as drones (you may have seen our Instagram post about this!) These drones are only produced seasonally and are born to repopulate the hive. They mate, propagate the species… and then die in the process. Unlike the colony worker bees, drones don’t perform hard labour and instead they live inside the beehive, eating honey stores and resting. Lucky for some!

honey bees in a hive


REFUELLING WORKERS

The working honeybee spends the majority of its life foraging. They are burning energy by carrying heavy loads of nectar and pollen back to the beehive. These honeybees mainly eat honey to provide an energy source to refuel after expeditions out of the hive.

bee foraging a flower


WINTER STORES

You might be wondering, when do bees eat honey? The worker bees make and store honey in large quantities for the cold winter months when flowers aren’t as readily available to feed on. Stored nectar in the form of honey is their alternative food source and ensures the survival of the hive. Bacteria can’t grow in the honeycomb because the sugar content is too high for it to multiply thus giving the bees a secured food supply without an expiration date.

bees on hive with big honey flow


Is it bad to take honey away from bees?

It’s the beekeeper’s responsibility to ensure the entire colony have enough to eat while harvesting the honey. On a commercial level, farmers will remove a significant amount of honey and substitute it with sugar for the bees to eat. For this reason, opting for organic or locally produced honey is a much more sustainable and ethical decision. The bees’ health always comes first!

beekeeper checking hive, bees and honey flow


Our heather honey is BSI Kitemark approved which proves the honey is pure, natural and never tampered with. Try our heather honey today and find out more about our BSI Kitemark too! 

heather honey with BSI, great taste and London Honey award icons

  1. https://beehivehero.com/do-bees-eat-honey/
  2. https://beehivehero.com/what-do-bees-do-with-honey/
  3. https://passthehoney.com/blogs/the-buzz/what-do-bees-eat

Comments (4 Responses)

03 February, 2022

Katie

Thank you so much for leaving comments! Here are some answers to the above questions -

Bees die after stinging as they have barbed stingers. The barbed stinger evolved as a method for the bees to get the stinger in as deep as possible. This works well when stinging other insects but unfortunately the skin of mammals is too tough and the sting isn’t released when the bee flies off. This sadly results in the bee’s abdomen being torn open.

It’s advantageous for honey bees to eat honey as it’s packed full of nutrients and provides the bees with a vital source of carbohydrates. This is needed for energy which is crucial for all kinds of colony tasks such as foraging and comb construction.

Katie (Beekeeper, Scottish Bee Company)

12 November, 2021

Honey

What honeybees having advantage of eating honey

22 May, 2021

John

A store of honey also enables honey bees to feed themselves up in preparation to swarm.

05 January, 2021

Linda

Why do bees die after stinging?

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