Thursday, March 09, 2006

Worker Bees are Nature's Most Efficient Architects

Daily Press (USA), 3/7/2006

While there are many animal architects, one of the more impressive is the honey bee.

Working in the cavity of a hollow tree or other suitable space of about a cubic foot, honey bees can take pollen and nectar gathered from flowers and construct their hive.

All of the necessary tasks of building and maintaining a hive are done by the worker bees. Worker bees are the non-reproductive adult females that make up the vast majority of the hive's residents. Young worker bees between 12 and 18 days old are the ones whose job is comb construction.

The comb is the main feature of a bee hive. It consists of flat vertical panels of six-sided cells made of beeswax. Beeswax is secreted from four pairs of glands on the underside of worker bees' abdomen. The worker bees take the beeswax and form it into the cells using their mouths.

The cells of the comb provide the internal structure of the hive and are used to store the developing young bees and all the provisions used by the colony. The comb has these six-sided cells on both sides, each cell perfectly uniform in shape and built with a precise distance from other cells depending on whether it will be used for storing food (honey or pollen) or young bees (brood comb). This six-sided shape uses the least amount of wax for the volume of the cell and each wall serves two cells...

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