The importance of replacing a honeycombs

Wax plays an important role in the life of bees. It is used as a building material. Honey bees use wax to build honeycombs, which are attached to the ceiling and walls of the hive by wax extensions. With wax lids, they cover honey in honeycombs and bee brood in honeycombs.

Conditions for honeycomb production

The production of wax and honeycomb depends on several factors in the bee colony:

  • Presence of the queen: honeycombs are only built by colonies with the queen;
  • The presence of pollen as a source of protein;
  • Abundant the pasture, the more honeycombs are needed to store honey
  • Quantities of bee brood: the more brood there are, the more honeycomb needed;
  • Space: the possibility of building in a hive;
  • Temperatures: temperatures higher than 15 ° C  increase honeycomb construction.
Naturally made honeycombs

Bees make wax with wax glands that lie on the front of the abdomen, more specifically, from the fourth to seventh members of the bee’s hind. It is excreted from 12 to 17 days old bees, at most when there is a lot of nectar in the wild. Energy-wise, wax production is a very intensive process. For every eight units of honey, only one unit of wax is produced. According to some research, bees metabolize pollen to produce wax.

Below the surface of the abdomen, also called the wax mirror, are hidden cells of the wax glands (these are transformed epidermal cells). These cells secrete liquid wax that penetrates the pores of the wax mirror and solidifies on the surface into shell-shaped, transparent scales with a mass of 0.18 to 0.25 mg and a thickness of 0.5 mm. 

Bees with hairs on their feet transfer the waxy scales to the jaws and fold them into the desired shape. In this task, the salivary glands secrete a dense alkaline substance for lubricating the jaws. The wax is chewed and each scale is individually attached to the newly formed honeycomb. The whole process of moving, chewing, and fixing an hour takes an average of four minutes. Usually, one cell produces several bees. An individual bee probably builds a cell in less than one minute.

Beekeepers make easy for bees by inserting honeycombs foundations made from refined beeswax in the form of plates

Foundations for honeycombs made from refined beeswax

Beekeepers know that the new honeycomb is built of pure wax. If such material is melted and molded, the process is complete. In the honeycomb in which it was already brood, is less wax. Each born bee leaves two layers of brownish cocoons in her cell, including fragments of droppings, many of them particularly at the bottom. The covers used by adult bees to seal cells with entangled embers contain a considerable amount of matter from the cell edges and walls. When the shoots hatch, the substances used for the lids return to the cell walls and edges. Along with several generations, there are already quite a few coconut substances in the cell walls and edges, so the honeycomb is getting darker brown and the cell volume is getting smaller. The thickness, shape, and volume of the cell walls also change. A freshly built honeycomb, measuring 38.4 x 22.6 cm, weighs approximately 100 g. After six generations of bees, honeycomb is twice as heavy, and after 17 generations it is three times harder.

In the reduced cells there is not enough space for the normal development of bee larvae which results in poorer quality bees, as they are less viable and less resistant to disease. Russian experts (Lebedev, Krivcov) calculated the effect of reducing the honeycomb cell volume on bees and honey production. If the cell volume of the newly built honeycomb is 100%, it decreases to 83.3% after ten generations and to 67.1% after 15 generations. The 10,000 bees hatched from the cells of the newly built honeycomb weigh 1 kg, the brown honeycomb 0.838 kg, and the dark honeycomb only 0.671 kg. To produce the same amount of honey as bees produced by a newly built honeycomb, a honeycomb that has hatched ten generations of bees required twice as many bees, and five times as many bees hatched on a dark honeycomb. For years, continuous monitoring of yields has shown that bees from families with old honeycomb produce 40-47% less honey compared to families with quality honeycomb.

This honeycomb will be replaced soon

With young honeycombs, we eliminate the majority   of problems in beekeeping

  • Beekeepers must always be aware that replacing an old honeycomb with a young one is the cornerstone of breeding strong and healthy bee families. It is known that the use of quality honeycomb allows solving the main problems of practical beekeeping:
  • in honeycomb cells, the larvae have a better diet, so larger and more viable bees develop;
  • the use of young quality honeycomb in bees reduces the energy loss in creating optimal conditions for nesting the queen bee and preparing the honeycomb for storing the honey that the bees bring to the hive;
  • Light honeycomb is less contaminated by mold and spores of severe rot of bee stock. Old honeycomb is a source of infectious diseases. For example, spores of severe rot of honey bee in an infected honeycomb remain infectious for up to 35 years, and nosema spores are active for up to two years in the old honeycomb. Old honeycomb is a major factor in the development of lime stocks. Bees from families with mostly old honeycomb are seven times more likely to suffer from lime stock than families with new honeycomb;
  • light honeycombs are significantly less at risk of wax moth attack during storage;
  • During the winter, honey crystallizes more slowly in bright honeycombs so the wintering of bees is also better;
  • honey is better quality as it is not poisoned with residues of chemical agents to suppress varroa;
  • The use of light honeycomb during the beekeeping season enables the bee family to produce more than 40% more productivity.
Younger honeycomb bigger bees!!!

The golden rule of beekeeping

Because of all this, it is necessary to replace the old honeycomb in a timely manner. There are some golden beekeeping rules that every beekeeper should know and stick to it as well. One of these states that one-third to a quarter of all honeycombs in the hive should be replaced annually. As most beekeepers have LR-hives, they should, therefore, replace five to seven old honeycombs every year, preferably from your own, young wax, which has not yet been exposed to acaricides. Such replacement is easier where there is sufficient pollen in nature. So if we want to have a working and healthy bees, there should be no old honeycombs in the plot. For the brood of the colony are suitable only translucent honeycombs. Because only such honeycombs have cells large enough for the normal development of the bee brood. A good overview of the age of the honeycomb is obtained by writing the year of construction on the honeycomb since it will accurately warn us when to remove the old honeycomb from the site.

1/3 to 1/4 of all honeycombs in the hive should be replaced annually

As we can see, honeybee honey is not only a bundle of wax, but it is an integral part of a good and healthy bee family and the basis for the production of quality and impeccable bee products.