Lesson Three: Honeycomb

A special thanks to Big Island Bees for filling in the gaps on this post.

Now that you know about how the bees came to be, I’ll delve into how they live and survive.

The Honeycomb

The best way to honk of honeycomb is that it’s like the rooms of the house. Without rooms, it’d be difficult to store things in their correct places. The best and most concise description comes from the Orkin website (yes, the pest exterminators also want to keep you informed about the pests):

The glands of worker bees convert the sugar contents of honey into wax, which oozes through the bee’s small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax on their abdomens. Workers chew these pieces of wax until they become soft and moldable, and then add the chewed wax to the honeycomb construction.

So these beautiful hexagons are created to store things. I’ve already shared about brood (baby bees), but they also store their food and in the winter, themselves.

After bees are born, there are many in-hive roles that they can take. Here are a few of the more interesting ones:

Nurse Bees: Takes care of the eggs and larva by eating nectar and pollen and turning it into royal jelly to feed them.

Royal Court: There is a group of bees that solely take care of the queen. They feed her and even take care of the queen’s poop.

Undertakers: These bees take care of the 10% of bees that die within the hive. They will carry the bodies outside to keep the place clean.

Food Preparers: These bees take the pollen and nectar from the forager bees and pack it into the cells. The nectar is then fanned to decrease the water content to create honey. Once the nectar turns to honey, it is then capped.

This picture shows the glistening nectar on the bottom and the white capped honey on the top.

This is pollen that has been packed for later.

Outside the hive, forager bees do a few cool things too. Some foragers stop by up to 100 flowers before collecting enough nectar or pollen to bring back to the hive. Other bees guard the entrance to the hive, which can be seen below.

Did you know? If a hive is unguarded due to being weak or sick, it is not uncommon for bees from other colonies to go into and rob the colony of its resources (nectar and pollen). Some beekeepers will even set out the pollen, nectar, or honey frames of dead colonies so their other hives can get an easy meal.

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