Do Bees Need Us To Take Honey?

Maia Groudas

There is a lot of debate about whether or not harvesting honey from bees is cruel or necessary. The vegan lifestyle forbids honey, as it is an animal by-product, while others claim bees need the honey removed from their hives to thrive, making the avoidance of honey more harmful to the animals than the consumption of it is. The question that stands is, do bees need us to take honey? 

Bees do not need the amount of honey that they produce. Honey is processed nectar, which is what the bees drink from flowers, also, accidentally pollinating in the process. According to, bees have different diets depending on their jobs in the hive, but many bees eat nectar, and will eat honey as well. Honey gets stored away in the hive, and beekeepers will harvest some, leaving plenty for the bees to eat. People think it is taking something vital from the bees, but it is not. It is simply taking excess of a secondary food source. 

Honeybee hives are made up of frames of hexagonal grid honeycombs. Beekeepers harvest entire frames of honey. According to the Beekeepclub website, “The harvesting time is planned carefully so that it does not harm bees. The beekeeper does not remove all the honey and leave the bees with nothing. A few frames that contain honey are left in the beehive. The frames may be full or only have honey in some of the cells.” The harvesting technique leaves plenty of honey for the bees, while also making room for more honey and other by-products. 

Bees not needing all of the honey they produce shows commensalism; a symbiotic relationship in which one organism benefits and the other is unaffected. But, do bees need to have honey removed from their hives? When hives are left completely alone, they obviously can survive, but there are negative consequences to a build up of honey. As explained by beekeeperfacts’ website, “You can keep honeybees without harvesting honey but its not recommended due to several negative consequences. Your bees won’t have enough room to store excess honey, will become overpopulated, and then swarm. Swarming of unmaintained colonies increases the spread of disease and pests to other healthy colonies.” 

The negative effects of not harvesting honey leads to the conclusion that bees and honey harvesting beekeepers have mutualism, a relationship where both organisms benefit. Though, just because the bees do benefit from honey being harvested, that does not mean they necessarily need honey to be taken. Therefore, the question whether bees do in fact need honey to be taken is up to personal opinion.