Although it varies from year to year, Montana is generally in the top 5 to 10 producers of honey in the United States each year. In 2002, about 8.5 million pounds of honey were produced by Montana’s bees. This was quite a bit less than the year before, when there was almost 14 million pounds produced. Although much of this honey was probably sold plain, honey may also be mixed with berries and herbs to make even more unique flavors.
In addition to honey, bees also produce beeswax, which can be used to make candles, chapstick and various other skin care products.
Honey is made when the bees add a special enzyme to the nectar, and work to cause part of the water to evaporate. Once most of the water is gone, the individual cells are capped with wax.
At the same time that worker bees are collecting nectar, they are also collecting pollen. As they crawl through the flowers, they collect pollen in the “pollen basket,” a special hairy region on their hind legs. This is used for food for the larvae.