Have you ever taken a peek inside a beehive? Beneath all the busy, buzzing honey bees, you’ll see the waxy, hexagonal foundation of the hive. Everything a honey bee does is for the betterment of the hive—including making the honeycomb. That’s why honey bees create hexagons out of beeswax to lay the foundation of their comb. Why the hexagon? Why is it so important, and what does it do for the colony? Discover the reasons why honeycombs look the way they do with this exciting look into the structure of a beehive.
The Importance of the Honeycomb
To understand why honey bees make their combs in a specific shape and pattern, it’s important to first understand the importance of the honeycomb itself. The honeycomb is the building brick of the hive. It stores honey and houses the brood. It’s no wonder why honey bees need the ideally shaped hexagon to work with. This small shape creates the foundation of the colony’s home and allows honey bees to create a structurally sound hive with as little effort and as few materials as possible.
A Sound Structure
The beehive needs to be solid and secure. After all, honey bees rely on the comb to store some of the most valuable parts of the colony. That’s why the hexagon is an ideal choice. The six sides of the hexagon fit snugly together, leaving no gaps or holes between the cells. This creates a strong, solid surface. Furthermore, the geometry of a hexagon allows it to hold weight with as little material as possible. This makes it one of the most reliable shapes for building. That’s why humans have learned to use it as well. Engineers utilize hexagons to build stronger bridges, cars, and more.
Efficiency and Optimization
Honey bees are all about efficiency, especially when it comes to building, running, and protecting the hive. Another reason why honeycombs look the way they do is because the hexagon makes it easy for multiple bees to work together when building the hive. Unlike changing shapes or patterns, the consistent shape and size of the hexagon allow multiple bees to build the comb at once. We also mentioned above that the hexagon holds the most weight with as little material as possible—this means honey bees don’t need to make as much beeswax when building the hive.
Beekeepers can further optimize their hives by using bee kits and frames with foundations. Foundations create a sort of guideline for the honey bees to help them build straight comb along the length of the frame. This prevents cross comb and makes it easier for the beekeeper to work in the hive without destroying honeycomb.
The hexagonal shape of honeycombs is just one of many fascinating facts about honey bees. Are you curious to learn more? Browse Mann Lake to learn all there is to know about honey bees, beekeeping, and how everyone can play a part in protecting these incredible little creatures.