Honeycomb is a fascinating substance made by bees in which they store honey and pollen as well as housing larvae. But how do bees make honeycomb? This is what I will discuss in this article.
Why is Honeycomb Hexagonal?
Before I explain how bees make honeycomb, it might be worth discussing why they make it in a hexagonal shape. The reason for this is that it is the most efficient method for utilizing space and minimizing energy consumption. As well as this, the geometric shape will use the least amount of wax and will hold the heaviest weight.
How is Honeycomb Made?
Honeybees have wax glands located beneath their abdomen. Each bee has eight pairs of glands, and it is within these glands that sugar from honey is converted into wax. This is then secreted through these glands in tiny flakes which stick to their abdomens.
Worker bees will chew this wax to make it soft. Once soft, it can then be molded into the hexagonal shape that makes the honeycomb.
Is it Easy to Make Honeycomb?
Making wax is a tough job for the honeybee and requires a lot of hard work on their part. In order to produce just one ounce of wax, bees need to consume eight times that amount in honey. By creating hexagonal cells, the bees can share walls, meaning they are expending less energy and using less wax when making honeycomb. The hexagonal shape is stronger than other geometric shapes such as squares or rectangles, allowing the bees to store more honey.
How Long Does It Take Bees to Make Honeycomb?
How long it takes bees to make honeycomb depends on a number of things. Colony strength is a crucial factor, but nectar flow can also affect honeycomb production, as can weather conditions. If there is a strong nectar flow, favorable weather conditions, and a large number of bees in a hive, the colony can build up to ten frames in just three days. However, if it is a new colony, it can take up to two months before the bees have made their honeycomb.
Is It Okay to Eat Bee Honeycomb?
Knowing that honeycomb is made from wax might mean you assume it cannot be eaten, but this is incorrect. Honeycomb is an edible substance which is enjoyed by many people. While some beekeepers simply remove the honey from the honeycomb and then return it to the hive, others do sell honeycomb.
There are those that like to chew the honeycomb to release the honey from inside, then spitting out the waxy cells when the honey is finished. Others will chew the honeycomb and swallow it. Honeycomb can be enjoyed in many ways. Some like to eat it as is, whereas others will spread it on warm toast, waffles, or pancakes. It is also great on salads or paired with a variety of cheeses on an after-dinner cheese board.
Honeycomb is the waxy cells made by honeybees in which they store pollen they have collected, honey they have made, and their larvae. Bees make their honeycomb in hexagonal cells as this is the best shape for minimizing energy and wax. These hexagonal cells also hold the most weight, making them the most efficient shape.
Worker bees have special wax glands under their abdomens from which they secrete the waxy substance that has been converted from the sugar in the honey they eat. Once they secrete this substance, they will chew it until it becomes soft and malleable before creating honeycomb cells.
Honeycomb can be eaten along with the honey held within it. It can be eaten as is or enjoyed in a number of other ways, such as on toast or paired with cheese.