Bees are undoubtedly indispensable concerning the harmony and balance within nature. They’re infamous for producing honey, as well as pollinating flowers and plant life for continued growth. Still, a commonly overlooked aspect of their natural processes is the production of wax. So, why do bees like wax?
Since beeswax is essential for bees’ wellbeing and everyday life, bees are highly attracted to its visual appeal and scent. Beeswax is used for beehives’ structure, for producing honey, and supports bee colonies’ survival over time, hence beeswax is treasured by bees as a result.
Although beeswax has also become a popular and valuable natural item for humanity, reasons are abundant regarding why it’s adored and treasured by bees. Stick around to find out about the creation of beeswax, as well as why bees are attracted to it.
Are bees attracted to beeswax?
Yes, bees are highly attracted to the scent of beeswax. If they detect the smell within the air, they may interpret it as either food, honey, pollen, or remnants of their own hive’s scent. Beeswax is commonly used as an incredibly reliable baiting method for beekeepers trying to attract a swarm of bees to a hive.
Beekeepers will rub the beeswax on the inner walls of the hive to attract them to the area. They will rub beeswax along certain regions extending from the hive to encourage the bees to continue building in that direction – such as on the tip of v-shaped or ridge-shaped portions and starter top bars.
How do bees make wax?
Before diving into the creation of beeswax, one must understand the purpose of different bees. Every bee has its role within the hive, and worker bees are responsible for creating beeswax. Worker bees are the smallest of all honey bees, and they begin preparing for this role from birth by consuming pollen until the age of 5 – 6 days old.
Worker bees each develop eight wax glands at around one week old, which reside underneath the abdomen, and they secrete beeswax from these glands. They typically produce beeswax in larger quantities when they are 12 – 18 days old and usually create more beeswax when the weather is warm when activity around the hive is prominent. After this age, older worker bees will partake in other activities and assist younger worker bees in creating beeswax by delivering nectar.
The beeswax output does necessitate specific inputs for the bee, and they need to consume certain matters to produce wax internally. Such consumptions include pollen which contains protein needed for developing fat cells, and a plentiful portion of honey. Worker bees will need to consume around 15 – 22lbs of honey to produce 1lb of beeswax. Thus, the production of beeswax can cut back on their honey production.
The internal process typically takes around 24 hours before the secretion of beeswax can take place. The temperature within the hive is essential for this process and should be between 91°F – 97°F. The necessity for suitable temperatures is another crucial influence concerning why beeswax is produced in more significant quantities throughout warmer seasons.
However, bees still need to find ways to produce beeswax during colder temperatures, such as cool spring days. In such cases, the bees will gather around the wax-producing worker bees to achieve the appropriate conditions for their internal processes and secretions. The wax is produced in transparent flakes as the secretion makes contact with the surrounding air, and it generally takes around 1,100 wax scales to form 1 gram of wax.
These flakes are removed from the glands using the worker bees’ rear legs, after which they chew and soften it using the mandibles so the wax can be used for an extensive range of purposes within the hive. After the wax has become malleable and practical for various purposes, the worker bee will shape it into wax pieces, ready to be used by other bees.
The beeswax’s overall aesthetic will be reliant on the type of pollen used for its production, and speckles of pollen and particles may be visible within the beeswax in some cases. Beeswax ranges in color due to pollen’s presence in its composition, but they turn from transparent to an off-white tone after they are chewed and ready for use.
Once they have been used within the hive, the color of the beeswax will progress the longer it is present, turning yellow to golden tones, and eventually to a brownish tone after some time.
Do bees need their wax?
Yes, bees need their beeswax. It takes a ton of effort and methodology for bees to fashion their creations, and they produce beeswax in a precise way to meet the requirements of its use within the hive. Many of us have seen variations of honeycomb, either oozing with fresh honey or empty. These combs are a marvelous wonder, displaying symmetry and organization within nature, and beeswax is key to its fashioning.
After the beeswax has been produced and prepared by worker bees, builder bees use this wax to form the comb. Builder bees use their mandibles and secretions to position and smooth out the beeswax, using their antennas as a natural measuring tool to ensure size, symmetry, and shape. They generally continue the fashioning process until they have created naturally perfect and symmetrical hexagonal walls, measuring at around 0.002 inches.
Drawn comb is precious within the industry, making beeswax incredibly valuable for this reason. It takes time, effort, and it takes a lot of honey throughout the process as well. Beekeepers prefer to leave as much of the comb as possible to evade the necessity for bees to repeat this process, allowing them to focus on what they love doing most – making honey.
How do bees use beeswax?
After builder bees have fashioned the drawn comb, its use is relatively diverse as it is not simply used to create honey in isolation. Beeswax is essentially the foundation of the beehive’s structure and overall construction. While combs are used to stow nectar and pollen to make and store honey, bees also use these combs for other purposes.
They use these combs to store excess food and resources during seasons where they will not be able to produce as much honey, which will lower their ability to produce wax. Beeswax is unique concerning its response to heat and cold, making it a fantastic material choice for hives. Thus, beeswax-drawn combs allow the hive to survive and remain functional throughout varying climates and temperatures, including winters.
The wax is used to repair areas of the hive where needed, and they follow a structural design of six-sided tubes for hives since it allows them to store more honey and requires less beeswax to build. Bees also use beeswax for creating combs and cells to raise their young, as new bees develop in individual cells from birth until they are ready to partake in the hive’s activities. In some cases, hives may form broods that turn darker brown due to cocoon tracks and stains.
Bees are vital for our ecosystem’s health and harmony, and they are indispensable in supporting balance within nature. While beeswax is precious and advantageous for our health and wellbeing, it’s essential to understand it’s obligatory within beehives. It not only aids their ability to produce honey but allows them to survive in varying conditions and supports the birth of new bees as well. A lack thereof will have dire effects on the longevity of every colony.