Many people ask: Why do honeybees use hexagonal shapes to construct their honeycombs?
Mathematically, the largest volume of liquid (honey) can be stored in a cylindrical (circular) container. But using circular containers would leave an empty (unused) space between the cells. Other types of shapes can be considered as a triangle and a square, which can be placed next to each other with no empty space between, but viewed three-dimensionally, these shapes could withstand less load compared to the cylinder. Also sharp corners in these forms can be places where waste materials would gather, which would be difficult to clean and would be a potential hotbed for dirt and infection.
This leads to the conclusion that the hexagonal shape is ideal for a wax honeycomb, which is also scientifically proven.
Bees must be extremely efficient in the construction of the honeycomb, because it is a process that takes a lot of time and resources. To produce 1 kg of wax, bees consume about 8 kg of honey. The hexagonal structure of the cells means they also share walls, which allows for even greater optimization. The cell walls are thin, with wax reinforcements at the top, allowing greater dynamic loads on the honeycomb.
About 100 grams of wax, carries a load of about 2.5 kg of honey. According to some studies, the cells connecting the comb to the top of the nesting place can carry more than 1,300 times their weight.
Beeswax as a material is suitable for construction, because it is easy to form when heated. However, if the temperature inside the hive exceeds 35°C, the wax will begin to soften and melt; the combs will lose strength and may collapse.
Bees are good at maintaining the ambient temperature, but this on the other hand takes a lot of energy in summer. If a hive is situated without shade, bees must expend more effort to keep the nest cool.
In terms of the ingenuity of the hexagonal shape, there are a number of scientific papers that try to explain how bees came to this structure. According to some, bees are great mathematicians and accurately determine the angles of 120 degrees of the hexagon. Bees are known to be excellent at orienting and calculating their position relative to the position of the sun.
According to others, the explanation lies in the fact that bees start the cell with a circular base, so gravity over time takes its toll and the cells take on a hexagonal shape. In any case, it is a perfect design of nature that gives us one more reason to admire the bees.