How do bees make wax?
Bees will collect nectar from flowers and take it back to their hive where it develops into beeswax or honey. The diet of bees consist mainly of honey.
Any honey which is not consumed by the bees or in raising of the progeny is stored as surplus and will be consumed in the winter months when less flowers are available.
But how do bees convert honey into beeswax ?
Beeswax production is essential to the bee colony. Beeswax is used to construct the combs in which the bees raise their offspring and where the bees store surplus honey and pollen for the winter.
The worker bees in the bee colony which live only around 35 days in the summer develop special wax-producing glands on their abdomens ( the inner sides of the sternites of abdominal segments 4 to 7) . The worker bees are most efficient at wax production during their 10th to 16th days of their life.
From around the 18th day to the end of the worker bee’s life, the wax glands consistently decline. Bees consume the honey which causes the special wax-producing glands to convert the sugar into wax which is extruded through small pores.
It takes 2.7 kg – 3.6 kg of consumed honey to produce 450 grams of wax. Wax appear as small flakes on the bee’s abdomen. At this point the wax appears crystal clear and only gets it white colour after being chewed. It is in the chewing process that secretions of saliva are added to the wax to help the softening of the beeswax and change of colour.
The process of how a bee transfers the wax scales from it’s abdomen to it’s mandible was a big mystery for years. Finally now we understand the beeswax is to be processed in either of two ways.
- For most of the activities in the beehive bees work cooperatively. Other worker bees remove the wax scales from each other and then chew them.
- The other method is for the worker bee to process their own wax scales, the bee does this by using one og their hind legs to move a wax scale to their forelegs. The foreleg then makes the final transfer to the mandibles where it is chewed and then gets applied to the comb which needs to be constructed or repaired.
Beeswax becomes very soft and bendable if in a very high temperature and melts at around 65 degrees Celcius. Similarly if the temperature is too low the beeswax becomes toffy and difficult to manage. Still, honeybees maintain their hive at a temperature of around 35 degrees Celcius, which is the perfect condition for the handling of beeswax.
A honeycomb constructed from beeswax is truly a masterpiece of engineering. It consists of six-sided hexagon shaped cylinders that fit naturally side-by-side.
Making cells into hexagons has been proven to be the most efficient shqape for using the smallest amount of beeswax to contain the highest volume of honey.
Also the hexagon shape has been shown to be one of the strongest possible shapes while holding the least amount of material
The colour of a beeswax comb is at first white and then darkens with age and use, especially if it is used to raise the brood. Beeswax pigmentation can result in colours ranging from white, through to shades of yellow, orange, red and even darker to a brownish black.
The colour of the wax has no implementation on the quality of the wax. Previously in earlier years beeswax was bleachedusing sulphuric acid, ionization or hydrogen peroxide which resulted in the wax including toxic compounds.
Luckily bleaching has now been abandoned by all accredited suppliers of beeswax. Be cautious, if beeswax has a medicinal smell, it probably has been chemically altered or bleached.
A-1 Honey only supplies 100% pure beeswax, just smell one of our wax sticks for proof of it’s purity.