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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Buffalo, New York, USA
    Posts
    17

    Default Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    Hey everyone. I'm a new beekeeper in Buffalo, NY. I have a hive that drew some funky comb on top of standard size black foundation. It was a little gnarled looking so I went to scrape out the funky part. While I was scraping there was this dark red substance in the wax that was very hard and took a bit of effort to scrape off the foundation with the hive tool. Can anybody tell me what that stuff was and if I need to be concerned about it? My first thought was that maybe it was propolis? Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures. If it's still out there next time I'm in the hive I'll take a few pictures.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Gaithersburg, MD
    Posts
    361

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    That's correct. It's pretty much a propolis mixture used to strengthen the comb.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Buffalo, New York, USA
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    Quote Originally Posted by JClark View Post
    That's correct. It's pretty much a propolis mixture used to strengthen the comb.
    Ah great. Thank you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    angola,ny
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    I also am a newbie in the Buffalo area. How are your bees faring so far going from intense heat and humidity then coolness?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Sullivan, MO
    Posts
    901

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    With out a picture to be sure, it could be a build up of the bottom of cocoons or it could be a pollen pellet, both can be the color you described and possibly hard to scrap off.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Bertie County,NC
    Posts
    870

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    I would think it pollen. I see mine bringing in bright red pollen at times.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,593

    Default Re: Hard Red Stuff in Wax

    From Huber...

    "Observation that bees reinforce comb with propolis mixed with wax.

    "The bees do not restrict themselves to painting and varnishing the cells; they also give greater solidity to the edifice itself, by means of mortar which they know how to compose for that purpose.

    "The ancients, who had much studied these insects, knew some of the properties of propolis; they informed us that the bees mixed it with wax in several circumstances; they gave the name of metis or pissoceron to this substance, thus indicating its amalgamation with beeswax.

    "A test which I made with the propolis that coats the inside of beehives, indicated to me how well they had studied the subject, and that, although we may often reject their assertions, it would be a mistake to do so without previous examinations.
    Through my reported experiments, I had learned that ether dissolves propolis, and that it removes but a fraction of the wax submitted to its action: so I took some fragments of this mortar from the walls of an old hive and steeped them in ether. Decanting it several times, I concluded that all the propolis was dissolved, when it ceased to color; the residue remaining in the vial was only the white wax which had been mixed by the bees with the gum-resin.

    "Pliny believed that these insects used a mixture of wax and propolis in constructing the braces and bases of combs. Réaumur, on the contrary, thought it only pure wax. Perhaps the facts that I am about to relate may enable us to reconcile the opinions of these two great naturalists.

    "Bees tear down the foundations of the new comb and reinforce it with a mixture of propolis and wax.

    "Shortly after the bees had finished the new combs, a manifest disorder and apparent agitation prevailed in the hive. The bees appeared directed by a sort of fury against their own combs; the cells of the first row, the structure of which we so greatly admired, were scarcely recognizable; thick and massive walls, heavy and shapeless pillars were substituted for the slight partitions which the bees had previously built with such regularity at the beginning; the substance of them had changed along with the form, being apparently composed of wax and propolis. From the perseverance of the workers in these devastations, we suspected that they intended some useful alteration in their architecture.
    Our attention was drawn to the least damaged cells; some were still untouched, but the bees soon rushed precipitately upon them, destroyed the vertical walls of the cells, broke up the wax and cast aside the fragments. But we noticed that the trapezes of the bases of the first row were untouched; they did not tear down at the same time the corresponding cells on both faces of the comb; they labored alternately upon each of its faces, leaving to it a part of its natural supports, otherwise the combs would have fallen down, which was not their object; they wished, on the contrary, to provide a more solid base, and prevent their fall, by making these joints with a substance the tenacity of which infinitely surpasses that of beeswax.

    "The propolis which they used in this occasion had been deposited in a mass over a cleft of the hive, and had hardened in drying, which perhaps rendered it more suitable for the purpose intended than fresh propolis would have been.

    "Bees add secretions to propolis.

    "These insects had some difficulty in removing it from the wall, on account of its hardness; we thought that they were impregnating it with the same frothy matter from the tongue, which they used to make wax more ductile, and that this process served to soften and detach it. Mr. de Réaumur had observed something similar in a like occasion.

    "Observing bees mixing wax with propolis.

    "We distinctly observed these bees mixing fragments of old wax with the propolis, kneading the two substances together to amalgamate them. They used this in rebuilding the cells that had been destroyed; but they did not follow the ordinary rules of their architecture; economy was entirely set aside; they were occupied alone with the solidity of their edifice; night intervening prevented us from following their maneuvers, but the following day we were able to judge of the result which confirmed what we have just mentioned.

    "These observations teach us that there is an epoch in the labor of bees, when the upper braces of their combs are constructed simply of wax, as Réaumur believed, and that after all the requisite conditions have been attained; the base is converted to a mixture of wax and propolis, as published by Pliny, so many centuries before us. (The change made in the structure of the cells of the first row does not take place at a particular time. It depends perhaps upon the several circumstances which are not always together. We sometimes see the bees satisfied by bordering the edges of the upper cells with propolis without altering their shape and without adding to their thickness.)

    "Bees reinforce combs after they are built.

    "This trait in the conduct of bees explains the apparent contradiction, in the writings of these two naturalists. The first row of cells, built to serve as a base for the subsequent cells, was temporarily established, to carry the edifice as long as the magazines were not quite full: but those light plates of wax would have been insufficient to sustain a weight of several pounds. The bees appear to anticipate the eventual inconvenience: so they soon destroy the too frail walls of the first row, leaving untouched the trapezes of their bases, and substitute, in the place of these light walls, strong pillars, heavy walls of a viscous and compact substance.

    "But this is not the utmost extent of their foresight. When they have enough wax, they make their combs of the breadth necessary to reach with their edges the vertical walls of the hive. They know how to solder them against the wood or glass by structures approaching more or less the shape of cells, as circumstances admit. But if the supply of wax falls before they have been able to give a sufficient diameter to the combs whose edges are still rounded, these combs, being only fastened at the top, leave large voids between their oblique edges and the hive walls; they might break down by the weight of the honey, did not the bees provide against it, by building great pieces of wax, mixed with propolis, between their edges and the hive walls; these pieces are of irregular form, strangely hollowed out and their cavities are not symmetrical. The following happening, in which the instinct of bees is still better displayed, is a development of their particular art in solidifying their magazines."--Francis Huber, New Observations Upon the Natural History of Bees, Volume II, Chapter VI, pg 496 of 2012 edition

    One kind of poplar makes a bright red propolis. It happens to be the kind Huber observed as well.

    "In the beginning of July, some branches of the wild poplar, which had been cut since spring, before the growth of their leaves with very large buds, coated both on the outside and inside with a viscous, reddish and odoriferous sap, were brought to me; I planted them in vessels before my hives, in the way of the bees going out to the field, so that they would be sure to notice them. In less than a quarter of an hour a bee took advantage of this chance; she alighted upon one of the branches, on one of the largest buds, separated its involucra with her teeth, press-ing out its parts, drew out threads of the viscous matter; then taking with one of the legs of the second pair what she held in her jaws, she brought forward one of the posterior legs and placed into the pollen basket of this leg the little pellet of propolis that she had just gathered; this done, she opened the bud in another spot, removed more threads of the same material, took them with the legs of the second pair and gently laid them in the other basket. She then flew to the hive; in a few minutes a second bee alighted upon these same branches and loaded up propolis in the same manner."--Francis Huber, New Observations Upon Bees, Volume II, Chapter VI, pg 487 of 2012 edition
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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