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How would fire honey be useful and manageable to a beehive/bee colony?

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In this scenario, bees harvest nectar from a particular flower. The nectar is not only spicy from capsaicin, but literally fiery. Tiny embers are magically suspended in the liquid, sparks dance over the surface. The bees should be changed as well. They need to produce this firehoney like normal bees would produce normal honey. Instead of royal jelly, a queen is determined by getting fed ember-rich honey. Only the bees that survive this are queens.

The worker bees utilize this honey by absorbing its capsaicin into their venom, making their stings much more painful. The queens have unique stingers because they store an ember in their stinger. They also have no barbs (like those a bumblebee would have) which enables them to sting as many times as they like (in unusual circumstances.)

Question

The bees need to be able to slurp up the nectar to process it to make honey (regurgitated, treated, digested nectar). They also need to be able to store it in regular wax.

  • How can they withstand the heat in their stomachs?

That is to say,

  • What part of their body structures, body plans (levels of organization, cephalization, structures inside germ layers,etc), and anatomical/physiological structures/systems (organs+organ systems) need to be changed to enable this fire-honey to be made?

The flowers have evolved alongside them to become these heat-producing flowers, simply because the flower gets pollinated by attracting the bees.

While the nectar is no more/less nutritious than that of any other flowers, it does radiate a fair amount of heat (probably useful in winter, detrimental in summer.) This nectar is slightly more abundant than any other flower. It is useful because it only grows in a select, highly remote/inaccessible by air place, meaning that the bees have found and filled their niche. There are no other species that use this flower, and indeed no other bees (hence, no competitive exclusion principle as two species compete for a niche). There is an overabundance of flowers (they flower year-round) and they produce plenty of nectar. The colony has settled into a logistic growth curve as the bees rapidly bred to meet the high carrying capacity. The petals of the flower are just as hot as the nectar (and the nectar is the same temperature as the pollen.) Ignore the effects of heat on (1n) haploid gametophytes. The pollen can survive. The question is: how can the bee do it?

The nectar is at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit (~82 degrees Celsius). The actual sparks are at around 1200 F (649 C), however, their low thermal energy and unique composition (chemical formula UnObTaNiUm, if you want to know) keeps them from actually boiling the nectar. The heat of the rest of the flower is identical to that of the nectar.

After being pollinated, the flower doesn't turn into any fruit. It's a small wildflower.

You may use the heat of the flower as an energy or heat source.

And thank you to all in the Sandbox, especially @JoeBloggs and @Secespitus, who helped me work on this draft.

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  • $\begingroup$ Being that hot requires a large amount of energy. Are we to consider this nectar (and honey) to be a magical energy source which might be tapped as part of the answer? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 4 '18 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ Bees are rather sensitive to temperature - they die if overheated (just like we do). Team of workers regulate temperature within each hive to within a few degrees. Hives that freeze in winter generally run out of honey first; starving bees (the real problem) stop regulating the temperature as they die. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 4 '18 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm OK with the science-based tag, this is almost an Anatomically Correct question (and it's probably simpler to assume it is an AC question). I.E., how do I create an anatomically correct firebee? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 4 '18 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a good question. I did modify the title so that if it comes up in searches in the future, it's clear what is being asked about. Also removed the VTC request -- we have amply discussed in meta that providing a reason for VTC is recommended but not required, and a tag repeating that is noise that shouldn't be here. If you want to debate that edit further, please discuss in meta... and if anyone else wants to restore that edit, I won't fight it, but it does seem aggressive given the stance on providing reasons the site generally uses. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jun 4 '18 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM : Thank you for the title modification. I'm fine with the note to VTC'ers being removed--I agree it's been discussed quite a bit on meta--but in the future I'll transfer that request to the comments, to make it less eye-catching. $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jun 4 '18 at 14:05
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Tiny embers are magically suspended in the liquid, sparks dance over the surface.

The 1200F (649C) sparks are a reaction between the embers in the nectar and the atmosphere. Therefore if you remove the atmosphere interaction, you remove the issue with the high heat sparks. Now you just have to deal with the 180F (82C) nectar. Much more manageable.

  • Once your bees have slurped up the warm nectar, with an embedded ember, it is in an airtight stomach container. The nectar provides a 'safe' lubricating layer between bee and ember. No sparks are produced once imbibed.

Seeing as we have the magical UnObTaNiUm element, we can use this or one of it's close Isotopic cousins, to include in a protective mouth, throat and stomach mucus lining. This will have slowly evolved in the bee with exposure to the firenectar over the millennia.

This lining will not provide total protection, else your human or other type characters could possibly decide to harvest the bees for the protective mucus instead of the honey. So the mucus lining wears out quickly once exposed to the nectar. This means that the bees harvesting range will be much shorter than normal bees. Typically Bees forage around 3-5km (max up to ~10km) from the hive, your firebees wil have to be closer to the hive in order to deposit the nectar and embers before suffering irreparable internal heat damage.

Nectar will be deposited into the honeycomb. Once a honeycomb unit has a single ember in it, it should be capped with wax so that no more embers are added. Embers should be spread out amongst the honeycomb to spread the heat evenly (bees are cabable of this level of decision making). Bee eggs and larvae could only be fed pure honey (no hot embers) while queens could be fed honey formed near or from the ember cell (similar to royal jelly).

The wax of the honeycomb may have a similar UnObTaNiUm isotope that the bees stomach lining has, maybe a more stable version. I imagine the wax walls of the honeycomb will be thicker and more spaced out than the dense honeycomb structure we are familar with.

Bee hive locations are chosen for variety of reasons, protection from the wind, and size being two of them. When normal bees live in a hive, they typically raise and maintain the temperature inside the cavity to a temp of ~32C to ~35C. With your excess heat coming from the nectar, I would imagine that the bees would select larger cavities to help dissipate some heat as well as changing their wind preference. This would allow the wind to blow through (or at least around) the hive and expel excess heat, cooling the hive down.

Good luck to any Honey Badgers in the area. I doubt dropping one of these hives will be good for any nearby vegetation.

You may have some very localised weather effects as well!

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    $\begingroup$ Very clever answer. Never thought about making the sparks an exothermic reaction. +1 $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jun 4 '18 at 9:34

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