Monday, July 26, 2010


Two new duplicate bee colonies, from the same source, were installed on the same day in early June, in identical hives only two feet apart.  One colony is building parallel planes of wax comb and filling it with well behaved little girls, surrounded by orderly and consistent honey.

But the other colony right next door is running amok, building curve-shaped comb in total disregard for the carefully constructed prepared frames inside their hive box.  This unruly, doing-it-my-way colony is building new babies, new comb and new honey faster than the fastidious, engineers next door.  

See?  This is what happens to a community when an engineer is not in charge of order, discipline, planning and design.

Speaking of engineers...notice on the photo at left how the bees are hanging in a chain.  And notice there is no guide telling them how to build comb straight down.  That chain of bees is believed by some, to be like a gravity-driven plumb-bob.  It tells the other bees what direction is down.  That's how the bees get panels of comb to be parallel to each other.   

Next class, we'll go over the hexagon (the shape of every single one of the cells) and why the mathematics of structural engineering confirms that the strongest/simplest structure is a triangle, and a hexagon is just six triangles formed to simulate a circle.  The beehive comb-cell, it turns out, is the mathematically optimized maximum structural strength from the minimum of construction materials.  (Hey, if you had to make 13,000 flights to flowers a mile away just to build one 1/4" comb-cell, you'd be focused on structural economization, too.)

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