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How Do Bees Make Wax: A Clear Explanation

a bee making wax comb with a logo for the snowdonia honey co in the top left hand corner in purple

Beeswax is a fascinating substance produced by honeybees. It is used by bees to build the comb that houses the brood and stores honey. But how do bees make wax, and what is its chemical composition?

Worker bees are responsible for producing beeswax. They have specialized glands on their abdomen that secrete liquid wax, which hardens into scales when exposed to air. The bees then chew the wax scales and mix them with saliva, forming a pliable substance that can be moulded into the comb.

The process of wax production is closely linked to the age of the worker bee. Younger bees have more wax glands and are more efficient at producing wax, while older bees tend to focus on other tasks such as foraging. The amount of wax produced by a colony depends on several factors, including the size of the hive and the availability of nectar and pollen.

The Production of Beeswax

The Role of Worker Bees

Worker bees play a crucial role in the production of beeswax. They are responsible for secreting the wax from their wax glands, which are located on the inner sides of the sternites of their abdominal segments 4 to 7. These glands are only present in female worker bees, and they become active when the bees are around 12 to 17 days old.

The Process of Wax Formation

The process of wax formation begins when the worker bees consume large amounts of honey and pollen, which stimulates the wax glands to secrete wax. The wax is then formed into small, flat, translucent scales on the worker bees' abdomen, known as wax scales. These scales are made up of wax and other substances such as pollen and honey.

To make beeswax, the worker bees use the beeswax scales to build comb cells. They use their mandibles to manipulate the wax scales and shape them into the hexagonal shape of the comb cells. The bees then use the beeswax to build the comb structure, which serves as a home for the colony and a place to store honey, pollen, and brood.

Honey bees are the best wax producers among the bee species. They have four pairs of wax-producing glands, which are located on the inner sides of the sternites of their abdominal segments 4 to 7. These glands are most active in the summer when bees are actively producing wax.

In conclusion, beeswax is made by worker bees who secrete wax from their wax glands and use the wax to build comb cells. The process of wax formation begins when worker bees consume large amounts of honey and pollen, which stimulates the wax glands to secrete wax. Honey bees are the best wax producers among the bee species, and they use the wax to build the comb structure, which serves as a home for the colony and a place to store honey, pollen, and brood.

Uses of Beeswax

In the Beehive

Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honeybees. The bees use the wax to build the honeycomb, which is where they store their honey and raise their brood. Beeswax production is a vital part of the bee world, and it is estimated that one hive can produce up to 1.5 kg of wax per year. The wax is produced by special wax-producing glands on the underside of the bee's abdomen. The bees collect nectar and pollen oils and use them to produce wax. The wax must be kept at a temperature of around 147 °F to remain pliable and workable.

Beeswax is used to build honeycomb cells, which are hexagonal in shape and provide a foundation for the bees to store honey and raise their young. The wax cells are used to store surplus honey, which the bees can use during times of scarcity. The honeycomb cells are also full of honey, which is why beeswax is edible.

In Human Use

Beeswax has been used by humans for centuries for a variety of purposes. Pure beeswax candles burn brighter and longer than other candles, making them a popular choice for candle makers. Beeswax is also used in furniture polish, lip balm, and hand creams.

In the beekeeping industry, beeswax is used to make honeycomb frames, which are then used to hold the honeycomb in place. Beekeepers also use beeswax to make foundation sheets, which provide a foundation for the bees to build their honeycomb. Beeswax is also used in the production of various beeswax products, such as candles, soaps, and cosmetics.

Overall, beeswax is a versatile and valuable natural resource. Its unique properties make it an ideal construction material for the honeycomb, while its use in human products provides a range of benefits. Whether in the hive or in human use, beeswax continues to be a vital part of our world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do bees make beeswax in the hive?

A: Bees make beeswax by consuming honey and secreting it through special glands on their abdomen. Then they mold the wax to build honeycomb cells within the hive.

Q: What is the function of beeswax in the hive?

A: Beeswax is used by honey bees to construct the hexagonal cells within the hive, which serve as storage for honey, pollen, and as brood cells for the larvae.

Q: How do bees come to produce beeswax?

A: Bees produce beeswax as they age and their wax glands develop. The process typically begins when the worker bees are around 12-18 days old.

Q: What are some common uses for beeswax?

A: Beeswax has various uses, including making candles, as a natural ingredient in beauty products, and for creating beeswax wraps and polishes.

Q: What is the composition of beeswax?

A: Beeswax is a complex mixture of lipids and hydrocarbons, which gives it a solid yet pliable nature. It also contains propolis, or "bee glue," which is collected by bees from resinous tree saps.

Q: How is beeswax collected from the hive?

A: Beekeepers can collect beeswax by removing the frames containing the honeycomb cells, then using a heated knife or centrifugal force to extract the wax from the comb.

Q: Is beeswax susceptible to impurities?

A: Yes, beeswax can be susceptible to impurities, such as debris, cocoons, and propolis. However, these impurities can be filtered out during the refining process.

Q: What role do older worker bees play in beeswax production?

A: Older worker bees are responsible for the production of beeswax. As the wax glands in their abdomen develop, they begin to atrophy and become specialized in wax production.

Q: How is natural beeswax used by bee colonies?

A: Natural beeswax is used by bee colonies to create the foundation for honey storage, as well as for the construction of brood cells where the queen bee lays her eggs.

Q: Can beeswax become brittle over time?

A: Yes, beeswax can become brittle over time due to its exposure to air and light. Proper storage and handling can help preserve its quality and pliability.

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