Bee series: On wax and the dance of the bee
The wax is specifically formed to give shape to the honey combs. Bees will glue together small pieces of wax around them to form circles. These circles, pushed against one another, will give shape to hexagons. It is a stable architecture that is formed through a thermodynamic process. Bees do not, per say, give shape to the rays of the honeycomb. They rely on the properties of the wax which has a particular melting point which allows it to form these complex structures. Wax must be plastic, but not too much, as it may collapse. That is why supporting natural wax is fundamental.
On the top of the honeycomb is a sort of relatively thick tube of wax. It allows vibrations to pass. Knowing that there is very little light in the hive, this tube will serve as a communication cable. The bees will indicate a location by performing a dance which they will spread in the hive. When the bees come out of the hive they can locate the position of the sun. When they come back to the hive, they communicate the position of a distant source of food in relation to the position of the sun. Knowing that there is no sun in the hive, they will consider that the sun is the top of the frame.
The bee will walk in the shape of an 8, and the center axis of the 8 will indicate the direction in relation to the sun, and the number of “waggles” she will perform on the axis will indicate the distance. Why waggling? We can understand that a bee who went very far has flown for a long time and moved a lot. Therefore, she expresses this effort in her dance: “you have to move a lot, a lot, a lot”. The bee will also have to inform the others on the quality of the feed. She will share a small drop of nectar with other bees so that they can evaluate if the nectar is good or not. These are systems of control which allow them to protect themselves from toxic substances.
To know more on the topic:
- 📄 “Spore & Pollen“, our research project focusing on the bee and the impact of climate change on pollinators
- 🔊 “An open-source bee for a poisonous environment” (with beekeeper and biologist Julien Perrin) — Podcast (~35min) 🇬🇧🇫🇷
- 🔊 Umwelt of the bee