Seeing how wax is produced and reused within the colony provides insights into the inner workings of the honey bee colony.
A worker caste age approximately 12 – 18 days old can produce translucent beeswax called wax scales from the underside of their abdomen. They use their hind legs to pass the scales to their mandible. Its secreted as a liquid and, when the substance meets the hive air, becomes hardened but moldable white wax.
These honey bees of the wax-producing age participate in the capping of honey cells, building comb, and repairing comb. You can see that in this video.
Another use of wax comes from reused wax, in the form of wax strings. This wax comes from various places in the beehive, like on the rim of the brood cells, or on the top of the frames (to name a few – which is one reason we should be careful in removing wax from frames or inside the hive – since this could be the storage of reusable wax). This wax will be used for capping pupal cells (which gives it that brown color – compared to the lighter color of the cappings on honey cells – which are from new wax). The wax on the pupal cells can be mixed with reused and new wax.
Here is a video of wax strings being used to repair a cell.
Resued wax can also be used in repair work on the hive combs. This ability to use both new and reused wax assists the honey bees in adapting to the ever-changing environments around them.
These videos and the biology of honey bees provide a wonderful looking into the design of the honey bee and the adaptability of its species.
- Beekeeping Biology – Pages 51-52
- Videos from: Institut für Bienenkunde, Polytechnische Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.