Hi bees, how are you? Sorry for our tardiness and posting the blog a day late this week, a few bees have been ‘out of the hive’ on their holidays!
Anyway, after reading the blog title you’d be forgiven for expecting the punchline to another one of our terrible bee puns? (If you have one, please let know!) But nope …last week we were looking at the shapes made up by honeycomb in one of Pa Harper’s hives, if you stare long enough you get into a bit of a trance (FYI!). Anyway, after a bit of research we realised that Mother Nature chooses hexagons as her preferred building block in lots of other things too….BUT WHY!? Read on to find out…
So what makes up the beehive?
As you might already know, honeybees live in colonies (groups) called hives. Each hive contains one queen bee, thousands of female worker bees, and hundreds of male drone bees. It’s a pretty BEEsy place! (*For more details on the lifecycle of a worker bee check out our blog post from a few months back! https://www.justbeedrinks.co.uk/life-worker-bee/).
And how is the hive built?
Inside the hive, worker bees build hexagonal (six-sided) cells out of wax. Together these wax cells are known as ‘honeycomb’ and are used by the queen to lay her eggs, as well as by worker bees to store honey, nectar and pollen. So these hexagonal structures are multi purposes and are vitally important to the smooth working of a hive.
Each cell is exactly like the others and is created by the bees by turning some of the honey they have made into wax. It is comprised of 6 walls, which meet precisely at 120 degrees, and they are just big enough for bees to fit into.
WOW – but why do they know to do this? And why hexagons?
According to Sue Cobey, a bee researcher at Washington State University, the hexagon is the best shape, because it’s the most efficient: “The geometry of a hexagon is perfect for hundreds of these shapes fit together perfectly PLUS hexagons use the least amount of wax to build,” she says… “Bees have to consume approximately 8 ounces of honey to produce 1 ounce of wax. They could use 2 other shapes – equilateral triangles or squares, but these would require much more wax, so it would be less efficient for the bees to use them”.
OK – so basically bees are mathematical geniuses?
Yes! …Well, according to William Kirby, a famous entomologist (someone that studied insects) in 1852, bees are “Heaven-instructed mathematicians.” Charles Darwin wasn’t so sure, and he conducted experiments which established that bees build perfect honeycombs because of evolved and inherited instincts, as his theory of evolution would imply…
Well, either way – we are MEGA impressed. And it turns out that nature favours the hexagon in other things too…
Bubbles and The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland (if you haven’t been it’s deffo worth a visit!) – both of which you will find hexagons, just like honeycomb. Scientists have concluded that the reason for both is also down to Mother Nature wanting to find the most efficient way of doing things! For bubbles, they look to find a pattern which has the lowest level of surface tension – a hexagon shape! And the Giant’s Causeway (made from molten lave) – it’s hexagon pattern because this was the most efficient (quickest) way for the molten lave to cool down and release heat energy. Mind boggling we know…
Well, we hope you’re in awe of nature just as much as we are after that – any architect would have been proud to design a hive, I’m sure! And in fact there are plenty of man made buildigns which have indeed copied this design (see below the beehive in Kew Gardens). We’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on this topic – whether its about beehives or bubbles, we don’t care! Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on our social @justbeedrinks and we’ll send our favourite hexagonal masterpiece a Just Bee gift box.
Keep buzzing bright bees!
Blogger Bee x