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Q: why do bees produce so much honey? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: why do bees produce so much honey?
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: healthyfarm-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 29 May 2006 13:19 PDT
Expires: 28 Jun 2006 13:19 PDT
Question ID: 733424
Why do bees produce so much honey?  Why do they sometimes produce more
honey than they actually need?

Clarification of Question by healthyfarm-ga on 29 May 2006 13:43 PDT
Here are some details about what I've read that confuse me... I can't
figure out why certain bees would produce a lot more honey than the
hive needs...

"Bees produce honey as food stores for the hive during the long months
of winter when flowers aren't blooming and therefore little or no
nectar is available to them. European honey bees, genus Apis
Mellifera, produce such an abundance of honey, far more than the hive
can eat, that humans can harvest the excess. For this reason, European
honey bees can be found in beekeeper's hives around the world!"
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
Answered By: sublime1-ga on 29 May 2006 14:50 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

I worked in a honey business for a few years. It really comes
down to the fact that the beekeeper is removing honey on a 
regular basis and replacing the frames that are full of honey
with empty frames with prefabricated wax combs. The bees then
see that the supply is low, and go make more. They've been 
spared the effort of making more comb, so they can devote all
their time and energy to gathering nectar and making honey.

Bees in the wild fabricate their own combs out of, of course,
beeswax. They make a comb large enough to accommodate all the
things they use comb for - housing babies, storing royal jelly,
and, of course, storing honey. When they fill it up, they may
add onto it, but they won't make nearly as large a comb and
honey reserve as they do when they are 'kept'.

However, even in the wild, they often produce more than they
need. It's just their nature to gather honey and store it. 
It's more or less what they're programmed to do with their
lives. You could just as well ask why some humans continue
working and making more money than they'll ever be able to
spend, although humans are more motivated by their beliefs,
traditions and upbringing than by their genetics.

Here's a good page of FAQs about bees, from the British 
Beekeepers Association:


Searches done, via Google:

allintext:why bees produce more honey
healthyfarm-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
thank you, that is interesting information.  it is strange that some
bees in the wild produce more than they need.  i mean people always
talk about how efficient the honeycomb shape is-- if bees are so
efficient you'd think they'd be efficient at limiting honey quantity.

Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: crabcakes-ga on 29 May 2006 16:06 PDT
What an intere-sting answer, sublime1-ga! I had never heard of
prefabricated honeycombs!
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: myoarin-ga on 29 May 2006 16:24 PDT
Nor had I.  Are they made of wax, plastic, reusable?

I just figured that providing the bees with an optimum hive and
generous frames induced them to fill the latter, perhaps enhanced by
the dirty trick of stealing the honey when the frame was full, so that
they had to start all over again to put in their winter's supply.
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: probonopublico-ga on 29 May 2006 21:36 PDT
It's b***** exploitation!

If they weren't so busy they could turn their minds to loftier things.
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: frde-ga on 30 May 2006 02:44 PDT
I once asked a Philosophy tutor:
    'How do you know that bees are not philosophers?'

He did not take it very well :}
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 30 May 2006 14:15 PDT
A cousin of mine used to have a neighbor who was a beekeeper. I once
asked him why the bees made more honey than they needed. His answer
was simple: they do it because they enjoy doing it. If you're a bee,
making honey isn't just a job, it's an obsession which is pleasurable
and fulfilling (if one can assume that such emotions exist in
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: sublime1-ga on 30 May 2006 16:28 PDT

Thanks very much for the 5 stars!

Re the efficiency of bees, they may be so efficient in making
the honeycomb so that they can get back to making honey!  ; )
When you think about it, what else would bees do with their
spare time? As pinkfreud notes, it's not like they have some
other activity they'd rather be doing.

myoarin - the prefab combs used to be made of wax (paraffin),
but now they are made with a foundation of plastic which is
coated with paraffin. They can be purchased either with the
hexagonal cells already constructed, which makes the bees
focus on honey production, or they can be obtained with the
plastic foundation having just the outline of the cells
raised above the surface, which means the bees must build
the actual cells using beeswax. If a beekeeper wants to 
harvest beeswax along with the honey, this is what they use.
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: myoarin-ga on 30 May 2006 17:22 PDT
Hi Sublime,
Many thanks for the additional information.  Very interesting.
I wonder  - now -  what the bees do with the material they gather to make wax
and their urge to do so.  But don't bother to tell me.  :)

Regards, Myoarin
Subject: Re: why do bees produce so much honey?
From: healthyfarm-ga on 31 May 2006 16:05 PDT
hmmm why do you guys think that bees would have nothing to do if they
didn't make honey?!  i can think of plenty for bees to do instead of
making honey...
they could relax and enjoy the world
they could practice flying stunts
they could eat
they could socialize
they could explore


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