This article focuses on the debate about exactly what bees eat for fuel, So what do bees eat?.
When asking ourselves "what do bees eat" We must first recognize that two things must happen to nectar or sugar syrup for it to become honey. It must be passed through a bees honey crop, and it must undergo an enzymatic reaction.
Nectar and table sugar from sugar syrup are both sucrose, and as such are not ingestible by bees until after they have passed through the honey crop and into the midgut. Nectar and syrup which has passed through the honey crop, and undergone the enzymatic reaction to convert it to glucose and fructose are clearly defined as "honey" even though it is still very high in moisture content and un-ripened.Therefore, it is accurate to state that bees do not eat nectar. It is a source of sucrose, which they then convert to glucose and fructose as honey, before ingestion by exposing it to specialized enzymes in the honey crop and midgut.
When asking ourselves "what do bees eat"? We must also realize that excess honey in the hive is stored in cells, dehydrated to less than 18.6% moisture content and then capped for long-term storage.The act of getting it to the listed moisture content is called "ripening". Once honey is capped it is considered emergency rations by bees and they will not uncap it for consumption so long as there is enough convertible nectar or uncapped honey to sustain the colony.
To be accurate forager bees do not seem to eat the nectar they collect after it's converted to honey inside their own honey crop. They typically pass this fluid to "processor" bees near the hive entrance who continue this process of the conversion of sucrose into glucose, fructose and then honey. These processor bees then pass it to bees who store it in the hive. Bees who have held this sucrose-rich nectar long enough to convert it to a usable food source then feed it to bees who beg for food through trophallaxis, including the forager bees returning from the field.
In closing we can logically come to the following conclusions:
1. Nectar, sugar syrup and table sugar alike are Sucrose, a Disaccharide.
2. Disaccharides cannot be digested by bees.
3. Bees must eat some other form of carbohydrate.
4. The act of a bee moving nectar from a flower to its honey crop is not a method of gaining nutritional supplement.
5. Bees moving nectar to its honey crop is a method of resource storage and chemical conversion.
6. Bees ingest the post-conversion products of this specialized organ as Honey.
I think the confusion is caused by the fact that humans have only one stomach. So when we "eat" we chew swallow and were are done. Bees are highly different, they cant eat any readily available carbohydrates, first having to convert carbohydrates they find in nature (nectar, sugar syrup, table sugar) into a completely different substance, before they can "eat" it.
In conclusion, when asking ourselves "what do bees eat?", I think it is very clear that what bees eat is nothing but honey, since by definition "honey" is any carbohydrate source which has at least begun the enzymatic reaction in a bees honey crop or midgut and started its journey to become honey.