Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Home Sweet Home and The Beeswax Builders

             The houses we live in provide protection from weather and the outdoor elements as well as a safe place for us to sleep. In contrast, honey bees must put on their construction hats and build their own home. Once honey bees find a safe spot to build their home such as inside a tree or in a hive box, they start building their walls out of a special material called beeswax. These walls are not only their home but also a storage space for honey and other important things.

Honey bees storing honey in their hive made of beeswax.

Worker bees that are 6-7 days old develop their 8 wax glands within their abdomen. These glands allow them to produce and secrete beeswax in the form of fragile flakes. Next, the worker bees peel off these flakes and chew them using their mandibles. This allows them to stick the beeswax to a surface and mold it into their favorite shape with six sides-- the hexagon. Each individual hexagon is called a cell.  Hexagons are honey bees’ favorite shape because they use the least amount of beeswax to allow for the most amount of space inside each cell.  The hexagons collectively serve important purposes within the hive.

Worker bee producing beeswax flakes from her abdomen.
The shape of a hexagon has 6 sides.

This clever construction of hexagon cells made of beeswax allows the honey bees to store their precious foods such as nectar, honey, or pollen. Additionally, the queen bee lays a single egg in each of these cells around 2,000 times a day, ensuring the growth of the colony. The walls of a bee hive are super close together. They leave just enough space for one or three bees to fit in between. This special arrangement helps the honey bees control the temperature inside the hive easily. Ultimately, honey bees are very resourceful and are remarkable mathematicians, engineers, and scavengers!

Beeswax walls close together help honey bees regulate the temperature of the hive.

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