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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just curious about this. Last year I installed 2 new packages with the queen cages suspended between the top bars. A week later when I opened the hives up for the first time, there was semi circular comb hanging from each queen cage made of fresh white, some what brittle wax. This year I installed 2 more packages with the same technique and after the same amount of time before first inspection I found just a small amount of wax but this wax was tan and soft. Almost rubbery. All packages were Georgia Italians. Any idea why the different types of wax?
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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When the bees make wax scales, they are rather hard. They masticate these and mix it with some kind of salivatory secretion that makes it like a soft putty. This they shape into a comb. This changes over time and gets somewhat tougher, but if the bees have time they come back and coat this with some other kind of salivatory secretion that makes it yellow and tough. If they get more time, the come back and reinforce every corner with strings of propolis. If they get time, they come back and tear down the attachments, mix them with propolis and rebuild them. In each of these steps the nature of the wax changes. If wax is left without being used, it gets papery and brittle. I assume it "dries" out in some way, either by losing actual moisture or by losing some sort of volatiles that the bees added along the way. Then if brood is raised in it, it gets cocoons that reinforce the wax with fibrous material. Wax isn't just wax... but it's not different kinds of wax, just wax in different stages.

There is a lot of this detail in Huber's New Observations on Bees Volume II by Francis Huber. There is also a lot of it in Honeybees and Wax: An Experimental Natural History by H. Randall Hepburn.

http://www.amazon.com/Hubers-Observ...1&keywords=Huber's+New+Observations+Upon+Bees
http://www.amazon.com/Honeybees-Wax...bees+and+Wax:+An+Experimental+Natural+History
 

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Freshly made wax is white (although sometimes the pollen they are bringing in will color it bright yellow with flavenoids), and quite soft. When it cools it becomes very brittle. This is what a new package on foundation will produce, although they also chew out wax from the foundation to make comb on the queen cage as well. One reason you need to get the cage out pronto.

If you have old comb in the hive, though, when you install the package, you will get brown comb on the queen cage because they will chew out the old comb, propolis and all, and mix it with new wax, it's faster that way. Tan to brown, and much more elastic than white wax comb due to the presence of propolis.

Beeswax is fascinating stuff.

Peter
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ahh yes Peter. I did start both packages this year with a few pulled frames. Last year was my first year so it was all foundation in the hives.
 
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