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The Science and Beauty Behind Hexagons

Have you ever admired the shape of a beehive? We have and let us tell you, it is one of the most unique looking structures we have ever seen. The six sided shape of the golden honeycomb fits perfectly together with no gaps to be seen…but why is it shaped this way and how do the bees do it? 

WHY A HEXAGON? 

All cells inside a beehive are in the shape of a six-sided hexagon and that is the only shape anyone has ever seen so there must be a reasoning behind the hexagonal shape. First off, the shape of a hexagon makes the honeycomb fit together like a puzzle. The shapes can hold the queen bee’s eggs and store pollen and honey that the worker bees gather. This would not be possible if the shape was made up of tiny circles because that would leave gaps in the honeycomb. Other shapes such as triangles or squares are a possibility. The hexagonal shape is the strongest, but do we know why?

 

Roman scholar and writer, Marcus Terentius Varro, proposed that it was a mathematical hunch known as “The Honeybee Conjecture.” He said that a structure that was built from hexagons is slightly more compact than a structure built from tiny squares or triangles. The more compact the structure is, the less wax the bees need to complete the honeycomb. Wax is not an easy task for these bees to produce. A bee must consume around six to eight pounds of honey in order to produce a single pound of wax…now just imagine producing that for an entire hive. 

 

 

With all of this work that needs to be done, it is only logical that bees choose the most efficient and compact and efficient structure which mathematically, is a hexagon. Now the question is, how do bees create this amazing structure? It is quite impressive…we could learn a thing or two from bees! 

CONSTRUCTION OF BEEHIVE

As we mentioned before, bees need quite the load of honey in order to produce a small amount of wax, so this process is anything but simple. Let’s start from the basics shall we?

It all begins when worker bees collect nectar from flowers and bring it back to the hive where it becomes honey or beeswax. These worker bees spend their short lives performing survival tasks for their colony and around 10 days old is when they develop their wax-producing glands in their abdomen. 

They will continue to forage for food and gather nectar which eventually becomes honey (a topic we will tackle in a future blog)! The honey they eat turns into wax and oozes through the bees tiny pores in order to produce tiny flakes of wax. This beeswax is used to construct the individual combs in which the bees will store a surplus of honey and pollen for the upcoming winter

Worker bees chew these wax pieces until they are soft and moldable enough to add to the construction of the honeycomb. When adding this wax, the bees will make circles in the wax and use their body heat to melt the wax from a circle shape into the perfect hexagon. 

Now that you have learned all about the unique hexagonal shape of a beehive and how hard bees have to work to create the perfect hexagon, does this make you admire them even more than you already do? Will you admire them like we do?

We have a nerdy obsession with hexagons here at Beepods. There’s a reason why so many beekeepers call themselves “beeks” . We love to see them come together in hives and we find ourselves constantly looking for them in other parts of nature. Keep an eye out for the next time you see a hexagon whether it be in honeycombs, snowflakes or even a pattern found on fruit skins, they’re everywhere! If you don’t love them already, hopefully we have given you some reasons to love and appreciate hexagons in the world around you.  Hopefully, you all can be as fond of hexagons as we are someday!

Extra Information: 

Why Do Bees Make Hexagons? 

https://www.nwpb.org/ask-dr-universe/why-do-bees-make-hexagons-in-their-hives/ 

What Is It About Bees And Hexagons? 

https://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2013/05/13/183704091/what-is-it-about-bees-and-hexagons 

How Bees Make BeesWax 

https://beeswaxco.com/bees-making-wax/ 

How Do Honey Bees Make Hives? 

https://www.orkin.com/stinging-pests/beHow Bees Make Beeswax For Our Natural Candles | Beeswax Co.es/how-do-honeybees-make-hives

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