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The Incredible Honey Bee...What a designer.

Updated on February 8, 2011
Honey Bees on new honeycomb
Honey Bees on new honeycomb

 Of all of nature's builder insects, the honey bee stands close to the top. It is a versatile little creature that is intelligent in its own right. The honey comb design, hexagonal, has been proven to be one of the most structurally sound designs known to man. It is used in such things from aircraft design to surf boards because of it space and weight saving attributes.
Honey bees will build almost anywhere that suits their needs. Mostly they prefer to build in a closed box type structure. I have extracted bee hives that ranged from outside of a building to concrete blocks to inside a carpeted compartment in a RV camper. All the bees need is a little hole to get in and out of. They prefer to have more than one entrance, however they will choose a site with only one. Sometimes bees will reuse a home that has been vacated by another hive (they leave or abscond a home for different reasons, more on that on a another post).
The honey bees need a place that is well ventilated. The reason being that they need to control the temperature in the hive or colony and they also need to control the amount of moisture in the honey. They do this by controlling the amount of evaporation before sealing the honey in the comb. Bees control the ventilation in the hive by two distinct ways. One is by the flapping of their wings. It is not uncommon to see bees bearding (gathering) at the entrance of the hive. Either the hive is too hot or they need to evaporate the water content from the honey. Second, they will seal up cracks in the hive with Propolis. Wikipedia defines Propolis as "a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources." It has other uses by humans for health benefits as well. Yet it works extremely well as a bee caulk.
In control of moisture, bees will select a location that is generally free from direct elements. They prefer to get the moisture they need from water supplies outside their colony. That is why you will see bees at water sources like puddles, pools, etc. They are gathering water to make their honey. They will also get wter from the nectar they harvest. They love drink cans. They get an added plus: sugar and water source. Be sure in the spring and summer that you check your drinks if they have been sitting awhile. You may have a visitor.
Bees build with wax that is secreted from glands on their abdomens. The bees will eat 8 pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax. They use the wax to draw out the comb and for sealant. The sealant is called "capping" or "caps". Caps are put over completed honey and over "baby bees" at a particular time of their development.
The honey bee is an amazing architect and builder. However, this is really only a small part of the incredible honey bees' talents. They are great communicators and navigators as well.

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