Honeybee Nutrition


Nutrition is a chemical process that involves various chemical and physiological mechanisms by which foodstuffs are changed into body materials and energy.  

Honeybees consume their food through the mouth into the alimentary tract where digestion and absorption into the blood stream is done to provide energy and body building.  

  • The antennae of the bees play a big role in food search, food acceptance or refusal.  It is equipped with sensory receptors for this purpose.
  • The honeybee requires a proper diet for growth and development hence the achievement of a healthy bee colony for the beekeeper. 
  • Nectar, honey and pollen form the basic food source for bees.


Honey is rich in carbohydrate (95-99% sugars), thus it is energy source for the bee.  Excess of it is converted into fructose and glycogen.  Bees can live on this diet for long periods of time.

The major carbohydrates found in varying concentrations in nectar and honey is glucose, fructose and sucrose.  

Other sugars available in trace amounts include:

  • Raffubise, Maltose, Melezitose, Trehalose, Sorbitol, Arabinose, Cellobiose, Galactose, Mannitol, Xylos

Thus honey or nectar is a complex sugar.  

  • Most of these sugars are sweet tasting to the bees and are highly preferred but some are not sweet and are less preferred although their nutritional importance is great.
  • Fruit juices and certain plant juices occasionally serve as sugar sources.
  • Some sugars are toxic to bees e.g. mannose will kill bees a few minutes after feeding.  
  • Galactose and rhamnose also cause a reduction in longevity.
  • Formose sugar causes growth inhibition and death of worker bees.
  • Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars while proteins are split into their respective building blocks or amino acids, and the fats are either broken into glycerol and fatty acids or absorbed without undergoing any changes. 
  • Digested and assimilated products are used to provide energy for life while the excess are stored as food reserves.

Energy is needed for:

  • Biosynthesis of organic molecules from smaller units
  • Contraction of muscles
  • Conduction of nerve impulses