You hear it all the time, so it must be true. Sometimes the person asks in a half-joking but tentative way, as if it might be true but they hope it’s not. Others are totally convinced it is true and want verification. And some are just curious because it’s something they heard.
This myth is followed in popularity by a second one: honey is bee vomit. Well, closer maybe, but still not true.
In fact, nectar is stored in an organ called the “honey stomach” which is part of the bee’s esophagus. But the honey stomach—also known as the honey sac, crop, or ingluvies—is a specialized organ designed to expand and store nectar until it can be ferried back to the hive.
Once the forager bee returns home she regurgitates the contents of the honey stomach and, through the process of trophallaxis, transfers it to a house bee. The house bee will begin to process the nectar into honey.
Food flow through the honey bee
Honey bees also have an organ for digestion called the ventriculus or mid-gut. But the mid-gut occurs after the honey stomach and is separated from it by the proventriculus which is a muscular organ that regulates the opening between these two parts of the alimentary canal. Further down the line are the intestines, rectum, and anus. So the major parts of the esophagus and digestive system are lined up like this (arrows show direction of food movement):
mouth↔esophagus↔crop (honey stomach)→proventriculus→ventriculus (digesting stomach)→intestine→rectum→anus
So you see? Everything is separate. It may seem complex to us, but the bees know what they’re doing.