Why The Hexagonal Shape?
First of all, why are honeycombs hexagonal? The answer lies in mathematics. A hexagon has six sides, which makes it the most efficient shape for storing space within a given area. In other words, if you want to fit as many cells into your beehive as possible, you need to make them hexagons!
The term “honeycomb” is often used to describe both the structure itself and the wax made by bees to construct it. The structure consists of two types of cells: large, rectangular “storage” cells and smaller, circular “brood” cells. The storage cells are used to store honey and pollen while brood cells are used to raise young bees. Brood cells are usually populated with just one larva at a time; however, multiple larvae can be raised in larger storage cells if necessary for survival of the hive (e.g., during winter).
How Do Bees Make Honeycomb?
The bees’ ability to make hexagonal cells is a marvel of nature. To understand how this happens, we need to look at how bees make wax and build their nests.
Bees produce wax from glands in their abdomen. The wax has two components: a waxy substance called cerumen (also known as bee venom) and a protein called plastron. The mixture is secreted as a liquid and then solidifies when it dries out. This process takes place in two separate glands: one produces cerumen, while the other produces plastron.
Cerumen is used to build honeycombs, while plastron makes a kind of sticky material that acts like glue when the bees build honeycombs — this gives the comb its strength and durability.
Bees construct a hexagonal shaped honeycomb using their bodies and wings as tools for measuring distances between each cell wall. Bees know exactly where to place each cell wall by using their body parts — specifically, their eyes (retinae), antennae, legs and wings — as measuring devices for distance measurements.
A single cell can only be constructed by one worker bee because it takes about 24 hours from start to finish — from drawing out wax from an existing cell using its abdomen (called “housecleaning”), forming the cell walls with her head (using her mandibles), then capping off the cell with wax produced by her abdomen (called “building comb”).
In simpler words, when a bee returns to the hive with nectar or pollen, she deposits it in one of these cells. Then she fills up another cell with water by sticking her tongue into the cell that contains nectar or pollen, bringing it back out again covered with water droplets. She then uses this water to seal off the cell containing nectar or pollen while simultaneously sealing off another empty cell nearby with wax so that there are two cells instead of one! She repeats this process until she has filled all of the cells in her section of comb with nectar or pollen and sealed them off with wax.
Honeycomb is as versatile as it gets. Honeycomb may be used as a topping for desserts, paired with cheese or perhaps the best one is to eat it as it is, so you can really enjoy the smooth, soft texture and feel the honey bursting in your mouth. It goes well alongside fruit, charcuterie, aged cheese, or just on top of a salad.
If you love honey, you’re in for a real treat with honeycomb. It’s loaded with all the flavour and benefits of raw honey and then some.
One unique benefit of honeycomb that we need to mention is.. Wait for it… It makes an amazing gift!
Honeycomb makes an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys trying new foods or drinks. And since each piece is unique with its own patterned texture, every piece will be different from the last, making it that much special.