What is Honeycomb?
When holding a frame of beeswax honeycomb, you must marvel at the beauty. Thousands of individual beeswax cells make up the structure inside the hive. What is honeycomb?
You do not have to be a beekeeper to appreciate the beauty of beeswax comb. It is the internal structure of the hive. The physical “building blocks” of a honey bee colony.
Thousands of hexagon shaped cells make up the sheets of comb inside a hive. Why hexagons? This shape makes the best use of building materials and space. There are no wasted corners.
Where Beeswax Comb Come From?
Worker honey bees have the amazing ability to create beeswax. 8 wax glands are located on the underside of the abdomen.
Younger adults are the best wax producers but older bees can make beeswax too. Wax production requires a lot of energy. Bees that are making wax must consume a lot of honey.
When the wax “scale” first appears it is clear. As the wax cools the color becomes white. Over time beeswax obtains color from honey, pollen and thousands of little bee feet.
As beeswax is produced, worker bees hang in long chains to create sheets of honeycomb.
Using legs and mouth-parts, the soft wax pieces are formed into hexagon cells. Each side of honeycomb has many hexagon cells.
These honeycomb cells will be used to raise young bees, store pollen and store honey. Producing wax is a tough job and requires a high consumption of food by the worker bees producing wax.
What You Will Find Inside Beeswax Cells
Sheets of honeycomb can be thought of as an apartment building. The individual wax cells are like individual apartments.
Things can be stored in the cells and closed off with a wax cap. This protects whatever is inside the hexagon honeycomb cell.
The eggs will develop into worker bees, drone bees or even a new queen bee if needed. From egg laying until adult emergence, the young bee remains in the honeycomb cell.
Another substance found in honeycomb is honey. Honey bees collect plant nectar that is sweet and watery. Nectar would spoil easily. It is not suited to long term storage.
However, once the water content is reduced, nectar is converted into honey. It is then stored in cells and sealed with wax. We call this capped honey or ripe honey.
This stored honey helps the colony survive during the cold Winter months. Bees need constant contact with food during cold temperatures.
Bees also need pollen. It is the only protein source for the colony. Without pollen, no baby bees can be produced.
During the warm months fresh pollen can be collected on nice days. But stored pollen can be used when no fresh pollen is available or the weather is not suitable for flight.
When you see a rainbow of color in your honeycomb, that is probably pollen. The color of pollen varies from one plant source to another.
What is Honeycomb Used for When It is Empty?
Even empty honeycomb cells have a purpose. During cold weather, the bees cluster close together in a mass to sustain life.
Bees are insects. They are cold blooded and must maintain a certain body temperature. In the cluster, individual bees enter empty cells.
The shared heat of all the bees helps to ensure colony survival until the weather warms. So, having some empty honeycomb cells is a good thing.
Is Eating Beeswax Honeycomb Good for You?
Is honeycomb edible? Yes. When you eat honey with beeswax comb, you are eating raw beeswax and raw honey.
Humans are not capable of digesting beeswax. It passes through the body as roughage.
Roughage is good for us and the minerals and vitamins in the raw honey is nutritious. So feel free to enjoy a piece of raw honeycomb anytime you get the chance.
Honeycomb is a marvelous product that is only produced by honey bees. We consume it and use it in many recipes. In addition, there are many uses for beeswax from comb scraps.