Have you ever asked yourself why honeycombs are hexagonal? And if this shape can be better than others to store honey? Many experts believe it is one of the most unique looking structures made by animal beings.
The hexagonal cells serve as storage vessels for honey, as well as homes to raise young bees. Honeycombs are made from beeswax, a substance created by worker bees. When the temperature is right, worker bees secrete wax scales from special glands in their body. Then they chew the wax with a bit of honey and pollen to produce the beeswax.
The hexagonal shape is due to how bees build the hive. First of all, worker bees collect nectar from flowers and bring it back to the hive where it becomes honey or beeswax. In order to work hard, they need to consume honey. The honey they eat turns into wax 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 enough to build 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.
According to many studies, 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. But the hexagonal shape is the strongest. According to the Roman scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro, the structure of hexagons is slightly more compact than a structure built from tiny squares or triangles.
Next time you see a hive, you may find a deeper appreciation for it! Bees are incredible and intelligent insects that are a vital part of our ecosystem, and their complex ways of living continue to surprise us.