When making 1:1 Sugar syrup for feeding, "A Pints A Pound the world around!"
Michael you have more experience with the bees than I do, but my opinion is that wax production in bees is somewhat similar to say hair growing or nail growing in humans. Bees of a certain age make wax. I don't think it's a huge additional burden to the hive from the stand point of how much those bees are eating. WAx doesn't come out of thin air, but if they are eating and are the correct age they are making wax. Surely if there is more coming in they will make more wax, but I don't think it's a simple X amount of honey = Y amount of wax. I think a better way of looking at it (especially for my area with short honey flow) is that comb production costs the bees TIME. If they are building comb, they aren't out gathering nectar, and don't have a place to spread it out to dry it. Feel free to add your thoughts to this.>we've all heard " 5, 6, 7, 8 lbs of nectar/honey to produce wax" theory, but does anyone know of any studies/research done on this?
Huber was using confined bees and repeated the experiments several times. I don't know of any other research that was entirely confined bees and it's hard to say that confinement didn't change the results in some way.
"A pound (453 grams) of white sugar, reduced to syrup, and clarified with the white of an egg, produced 10 gros 52 grains (1.5 ounces or 42 grams) of beeswax darker than that which bees extract from honey. An equal weight of dark brown sugar yielded 22 gros (3 ounces or 84 grams) of very white wax; a similar amount was obtained from maple sugar.
"We repeated these experiments seven times in succession, with the same bees and we always obtained wax in nearly the same proportions as above. It therefore appears demonstrated that sugar and the saccharine part of honey enable the bees that feed upon it to produce wax, a property entirely denied to the fecundating dust."--Francis Huber, New Observations on Bees
This would be 10 2/3 pounds of white sugar per pound of wax and 5 1/3 pounds of brown sugar or maple sugar per pound of wax. This might indicate that there was some nutrient in the brown sugar and maple sugar that helped with wax production. Hard to say what nutrient it could be small quantities of amino acids (certainly not large quantities).
All of Hubers experiments on wax production were done with confined bees who had absolutely no pollen available and often were confined for a long period of time. The continued to make wax. That does not prove that they would not have been more productive in wax making with more pollen, but they did make it without. If they were stealing it from their bodies, I would expect them to have run out of that supply and production to fall off over time.
From Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Products, Coggshall and Morse pg 35
"Their degree of efficiency in wax production, that is how many pounds of honey or sugar syrup are required to produce one pound of wax, is not clear. It is difficult to demonstrate this experimentally because so many variables exist. The experiment most frequently cited is that by Whitcomb (1946). He fed four colonies a thin, dark, strong honey that he called unmarketable. The only fault that might be found with the test was that the bees had free flight, which was probably necessary so they could void fecal matter; it was stated that no honey flow was in progress. The production of a pound of beeswax required a mean of 8.4 pounds of honey (range 6.66 to 8.80). Whitcomb found a tendency for wax production to become more efficient as time progressed. This also emphasizes that a project intended to determine the ratio of sugar to wax, or one designed to produce wax from a cheap source of sugar, requires time for wax glands to develop and perhaps for bees to fall into the routine of both wax secretion and comb production."
I think there are a few other studies referenced in "Honeybees and Wax" by H. Randall Hepburn.