W HAT do you suppose becomes of the nectar Miss Apis gathers with her hairy tongue? She swallows it, you say, and that is true. She does swallow it, but that is not the end of the story. When it is swallowed, it passes into a little honey-sac which is not as large as a sweet-pea seed, and which is so delicate that it looks like a little soap bubble.
This honey-sac is in the big end of the abdomen, and in the picture it is shown by a dotted circle. It holds less than a drop of nectar, and we may call it the jug or bottle in which Miss Apis carries the blossom nectar home; for she does not swallow it for her own use, but that she may bear it to the hive for the baby bees to eat.
You can see this honey-sac by feeding a hive bee as much as she wants, and then letting her fly to the window. The light shining through the delicate body makes the clear honey in her little "bottle" plainly visible. The Italian honey-bees, whose abdomens are a light tan color, at the upper end, show the honey-drop better than the common brown bees.
Some of the honey passes on into the true stomach of the bee, which is just beyond the honey-sac, and is digested; but the most of it Miss Apis carries to the hive in her honey-sac.
It is curious that everything Miss Apis eats has to be swallowed into the honey-sac before it can get into the stomach, and yet the honey is always clear and pure. Honey and pollen go together into the honey-sac, yet the honey in the comb contains almost no pollen.
The reason is, Miss Apis strains her honey before she puts it into the comb.
In her honey-sac is a little strainer which is very wonderful and very beautiful.
It looks, as you can see in the picture, something like a flower-bud. Honey and pollen grains go together into the honey-sac, but they do not stay together, for the pollen grains are gathered up by the action of muscles in the walls of the honey-sac, and passed through the strainer into the stomach. The strainer opens its mouth to let them pass, but as soon as they have done so, it closes. Of course a good deal of nectar passes through with the pollen, but this is squeezed back by the muscles of the stomach into the honey-sac through the closed mouth of the strainer. The mouth of the strainer is fringed with hairs that point backwards and cross each other when the strainer mouth is closed. So, though the nectar can squeeze through, the pollen grains cannot. They are kept back in the stomach by this clever little strainer, and only pure nectar or honey can get back into the honey-sac.
When Miss Apis gets to the hive, she makes the muscles of her honey-sac squeeze the honey into her mouth, and she then puts it into the honey-comb.
Miss Apis swallows nectar, as the sweet juice of the flowers is called, but when we take honey from the honey-comb, it has undergone a change and is no longer nectar, but honey. In some way the nectar has been changed and made into honey.