How Do Honey Bees Make Hives?
Worker honey bees make hives to store honey and feed themselves throughout winter when they cannot go outdoors to forage for food. Honey bee hives are made of six-sided tubes, which are the shapes for optimal honey production because they require less wax and can hold more honey. Some hives develop broods which become dark in color over time because of cocoon tracks and travel stains. Other honey bee hives remain light in color.
Wild honey bees make hives in rock crevices, hollow trees and other areas that scout bees believe are appropriate for their colony. Similar to the habits of domesticated honey bees, they construct hives by chewing wax until it becomes soft, then bonding large quantities of wax into the cells of a honeycomb. When worker bees crowd together within a hive, the hive remains at around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, the temperature necessary to control the texture of the wax.
Although worker bees only live for approximately six weeks, they spend their lives performing tasks that benefit the survival of their colony. Around the time a worker bee turns 10 days old, she develops a unique wax-producing gland inside her abdomen. Workers forage for food and gather nectar from different flowering plants. When they carry nectar within their pollen pouch, it mixes with a specialized enzyme. After returning to the hive, the worker bee transfers the nectar from her tongue to another worker’s tongue, where the liquid from the nectar evaporates and becomes honey.
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.
The hexagonal cells of the honeycomb are used to house larvae and other brood, as well as to store honey, nectar and pollen. When beekeepers extract honey from hives, the comb is easily left intact, though beekeepers sell honey comb as well.