Honey is not bee vomit
Why do people insist that honey is vomit when observation says otherwise? Seriously, does it look like vomit? Smell like vomit? Taste or feel like vomit?
Animals don’t build storage units for vomit, they don’t save it for winter meals, and they don’t rob each other of it. My guess, although I’ve never experimented, is that most vomit has a short shelf life and an in-your-face pull date. And antibacterial properties? Hmm, let me think.
In fact, the nectar a bee collects never goes into its digesting stomach or into its intestines. The nectar goes into a honey stomach where it is stored for a short time and mixed with special enzymes. But between the honey stomach and the bee’s digestive stomach is a one-way valve, a check valve of sorts. If the bee needs some fuel, some of the nectar can go through this valve, but once through, it can’t go back. Nothing from the bee’s digesting stomach or the bee’s intestines can return to the honey stomach.
When the bee enters her hive, the contents of the honey stomach—and only the honey stomach—are transferred to other bees through trophallaxis before it is ultimately stored in the comb. Excess water is then fanned away until the honey is the proper consistency for capping.
For some reason, people believe that food which reappears after having gone “down the hatch” must be vomit. But vomiting is defined as the involuntary and forceful expulsion of stomach contents, usually associated with illness or poisoning. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is considered normal, voluntary, and without unpleasant side effects. Other animals, such as birds, regurgitate partially digested food to feed their young, but bees store undigested food in a convenient and separate carry-pouch.
I sometimes get the feeling that those who insist that honey is vomit are in some way trying to belittle or denigrate honey as “nothing special.” But honey is indeed special as are the creatures that make it.
In the diagram below, the arrows show which way the food can move. Once the food goes through the one-way valve (proventriculus), it cannot move back into the honey stomach.
mouth↔esophagus↔honey stomach (crop)→one-way valve (proventriculus)→digesting stomach (ventriculus) →intestine→rectum→anus