Home » Science » Honeycombs Don’t Start as Hexagons, the Heat Formed in the Hive Softens the Wax and Creates the Shape

Honeycombs Don’t Start as Hexagons, the Heat Formed in the Hive Softens the Wax and Creates the Shape

A honeycomb is a mass of hexagonal prismatic wax cells constructed by honey bees in their nests to house their larvae and honey and pollen stores. But did you know how the honeycombs turn into hexagons?

The holes in honeycombs do not begin as hexagons. Bees build circular tubes that are staggered. The heat produced by the bees’ activity softens the wax, which connects the gaps between the holes. The wax then hardens into the hexagon, which is the most energy-efficient shape.

How Much Honey Do Honeybees Get from the Honeycomb?

To harvest honey, beekeepers may remove the entire honeycomb. Honey bees consume approximately 8.4 pounds of honey to secrete one pound of wax; therefore, beekeepers may return the wax to the hive after harvesting the honey to increase honey output.

When honey is extracted from a comb by uncapping and spinning it in a centrifugal machine, specifically a honey extractor, the structure of the comb may be left largely intact. If the honeycomb is too worn out, the wax can be reused in a variety of ways, including making sheets of hexagonal comb foundation.

The hexagonal pattern of worker-sized cell bases discourages the bees from building the larger drone cells. Fresh, a new comb is sometimes sold and used intact as comb honey, especially if the honey is intended to be spread on bread rather than cooked or used as a sweetener. (Source: Pass the Honey)

How are Honeycombs Created?

Worker bees search for nectar and pollen from various plants. Their pollen combines with a particular enzyme, which is subsequently transported from their mouths to the tongues of other bees. This procedure allows the nectar to be drained and turned into honey later. The sugar component of honey is converted to wax by worker bee glands.

Bees produce wax using their eight pairs of wax glands, which are located on the underside of their abdomen. This substance oozes through their pores, resulting in tiny wax flakes on their abdomens. Bees will chew the wax or do it for a neighboring worker bee until it softens. Bees bond large amounts of wax into the cells of a honeycomb after the beeswax has hardened into a more clay-like material. The temperature required to control the texture of the wax inside the beehive is created by the colony of bees swarming together.

Bees perform a waggle dance to alert their fellow bees to the best nectar sources. This unique form of communication signals the distance and direction of the nectar source so that other bees can find it. The waggle dance is so effective that scientists have used it to map where bees have foraged. The honeycomb-making cycle is kept going thanks to the waggle dance.

When bees make wax cells, they put those cells to use. A completed honeycomb can support up to 30 times the weight of a bee, storing honey in the upper sections and pollen in the rows below, followed by worker brood cells, drone brood cells, and queen cells at the bottom. (Source: Pass the Honey)

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