The story of a single cell within a beehive

The stuff of cells

So with the efficiency of cells understood, what about the substance of cells? Of course we are talking beeswax here. And, once again, there is a fascinating story to be told.

Beeswax is a beautiful and flexible substance. At the chemical level it is a heady mixture of fatty acids and long-chain alcohols. The physical characteristics are well-suited to many uses in everyday life, with the use in candles being the most obvious.

But to the bee it is the basis of their home. Worker bees have eight wax-producing glands in their abdominal segments, which create scales of wax. These are collected and sculpted into cells. Interestingly, these cells are created with a slight upward “tilt”, understood to be a mechanism to retain materials and brood from spilling out, before the cell is capped. The extent of that tilt can vary, but is generally between 10 and 15 degrees.

As a beekeeper. you should keep this in mind when you inspect your hive. If you have reason to brush bees off a frame, use the brush in an upwards motion, rather than downwards. The reduces the risk of bees legs being damaged, since brushing upwards goes “with the grain”, so to speak.

Beekeeper and bees

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