Not Waxing Poetic
Ever seen a wax builder?
A "real" wax builder?
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and beekeeper-research associate Elizabeth Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showed us a wax builder last week.
No, two wax builders. Wax-building honey bees.
"The wax reminds me of fish scales," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "I know it has nothing to do with fish scales, but it reminds me of them."
In his excellent book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees, retired UC Davis professor/apiculturist Norman Gary sheds light on wax.
"When workers are about twelve days old, their wax glands begin to secrete tiny flakes of beeswax," wrote Gary, who is also an internationally known bee wrangler. "They chew the wax and fashion it into the architecturally complex honeycomb that functions as a vertical 'floor' where almost all activities inside the hive take place. Newly constructed combs are light yellow in color and are one of nature's most artistic creations."
"As combs age," Gary pointed out, "they become dark brown, owing to the accumulation of pigments from pollen as well as residual cocoons..."
So, there you have it--the making of beeswax.
Makes us wonder who coined the term, "Mind your own beeswax," doesn't it?
Flakes of wax on a wax builder. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Two wax builders and their sister on the hand of Susan Cobey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)