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How Honey Bees Make Beeswax

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Honey bees build their comb from beeswax.

Honey bees build their comb from beeswax, which they produce with special wax glands on their abdomens.

Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Beeswax is the foundation of the hive. Honey bees build their comb from beeswax, and fill the hexagonal cells with honey and brood. Do you know how honey bees make beeswax?

Worker bees secrete wax from eight special wax glands on the underside of their abdomens. The wax is exuded as a liquid, but quickly cools and solidifies. The worker bee collects the wax from her abdomen with her legs. She masticates the wax until it is pliable, and shapes it into the hexagonal cells that make up the honeycomb.

New beeswax is light yellow in color, but over time it darkens to a golden yellow. Beeswax turns brown from contact with bees and propolis.

Beekeepers harvest beeswax, which can be used for everything from candles to lip balm. Beeswax is even used in medicines (as a coating), electrical components, and varnishes.

Sources:

  • The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden , Kim Flottum, Quarry Books, 2010
  • Commercial Products, from Insects, Irwin, M.E. & G.E. Kampmeier. 2002.

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