Honeybees are amazing…first of all, there are 60,000 or so females living together under one roof. That could be the end of the story really…but I’ll go on. Every bit of every day is about being busy. They warm the hive or cool the hive. They gather nectar or raise newly hatched bees. Sometimes they die protecting the hives from…well…me. I think one of the most interesting things they do, however, is make wax.
(click each of the pics – you will see more detail in the expanded view)
Bees mainly produce wax during the early bit of their lives…in particular, from days 10-16. They eat honey which is necessary for the wax glands to produce. It takes 6-10 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax. Small flakes of wax protrude from the underside of the bee’s abdomen when the glands are in production. The bees pull the flakes and chew them so they can be molded into whatever shape they need.
The cool part is that bees can also recycle wax! Bees are the ultimate green community! I had some extra honeycomb that I pulled from a hive that I had been working on earlier. I always leave the bits of wax out for a period after I remove it so the bees can have a go at it. This most recent batch has been particularly tasty I guess because bees have been all over it for 2 weeks snatching bits of old wax. They bite chunks of the wax off of the old honey comb and chew it until it can be shoved into their pollen baskets to be carried back to the hive.
I have often seen bees work with wax I leave out for them, but I have never seen them work so long and hard on a single “pull” of wax. It really is sort of inspiring how they use what they have and make do. I think there is a lesson there for everyone…