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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On another list this subject came up. I'd never really thought about it before. Do bees rework wax? Do bees take cappings and make new comb? I would think that making comb from flakes of wax from their wax glands would be the only way that they would make comb and cap the cells. But I have been known to have a limited imagination and limited skills of observation. So is there anyone who knows about this and can direct me to a written source?

Thanks, Mark
 

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>On another list this subject came up. I'd never really thought about it before. Do bees rework wax?

Of course. It's obvious if you look at dark cappings early in the spring on a light flow.

>Do bees take cappings and make new comb?

Yes.

>I would think that making comb from flakes of wax from their wax glands would be the only way that they would make comb and cap the cells.

They don't ever seem to get it off of the bottom board. But they will tear down comb in one place and move it to another. This is very obvious when you see then chew up foundation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well Michael, I did say that my imagination and powers of observation are limited so it isn't or wasn't "obvious" to me.(this may sound like I'm being defensive, but I'm not)

"dark cappings early in the spring on a light flow"? Does that indicate that the bees took a cap from another cell and used it somewhere else or that the old wax was used to make the new cap and being old and dirty the reworked wax would therefore be dirty looking? Is that what you mean?

"This is obvious when you see them chew up foundation."

I guess I always thought that they were trying to make a hole for communications purposes. I didn't know that they needed the wax to reuse somewhere else.

Mark
 

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>Does that indicate that the bees took a cap from another cell and used it somewhere else or that the old wax was used to make the new cap and being old and dirty the reworked wax would therefore be dirty looking? Is that what you mean?

Old burr comb gets torn down and used to cap new honey. You'll see newly capped comb with dark cappings on it.
 

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The bees will also remove wax from old frames that I've left laying around or from burr comb that I've scraped out of a hive and left laying on top of the hive when I'm done working it. You can watch them put the wax in their pollen basket and carry it back into the hive.
 

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On my TBH last spring the bees began their comb with pure white wax and continued with it while I fed syrup. I had some dark cappings in a bucket from the previous summer so I figured why not toss those onto the floor of the hive and let the bees have the honey. As soon as I did that the newest comb got brown.

>You can watch them put the wax in their pollen basket and carry it back into the hive.

Interesting. Everything I've read or heard says bees won't "mine" wax from outside the hive, but I guess everything you read or hear isn't always so....

[ December 30, 2005, 01:09 PM: Message edited by: Dick Allen ]
 

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The answer may be Yes and No. Wax that has been stuck to the glass window in our observation hive, the bees don't seem to want or are able to remove. Some bees are contantly licking and scrubbing the glass part but they are not removing the leftover wax that is stuck to the glass.
 

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I always dump my cappings in front of the hive for a few days to let them scavenge the honey, and I don't think I've ever seen them take any of the wax. I've also heard/read that they won't reuse from outside, but like Dick Allen said, sometimes that's wrong!
 

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<Here's two pictures of them gathering propolis from an empty hive box:

Them?? Thats the same bee! I can tell by the way she brushes her hair to one side! You trying to pull a fast one on us Mike?............. :D

Just kidding!!!!

Neat pics!
 

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Well I haven't been at this long but I had a hive robbed out this fall and the robbers took 1/3 of the wax out of the hive(1 deep).All capped cells were chewed down almost to the plastic fromes and no it was not new frames all were drawn out early spring.Did find some on the bottom board but not that much.Honey gone,bees gone,most of the wax gone.
Well maybe a few hundred Bees left but not many and no queen,so I combined with another hive.I really think they took it to their hive..
The only pest in the hive were two shb,no larva in the hive.
 

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>Did find some on the bottom board but not that much.Honey gone,bees gone,most of the wax gone.

Bees do get pretty frantic when robbing is going on. My suspicion is that most of the wax you did not see on the bottom board probably ended up on the ground outside the hive. I also think what Carbide saw was likely propolis and not wax. The propolis in Michael Bush's picture could be mistaken for wax at first glance. I do know that if you put too many pieces of brand new foundation in a hive before bees are ready for it, they sure don't mind ruining it by chewing it up and moving it to other places in the hive.
 

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Last summer on this forum we had a similar discussion and I had never witnessed bees gathering wax. Walked out to the hives and watched a queen excluder laden with burr comb and proposis for quite a while, what I witnessed was bees gathering wax and bees gathering propolis. Could hardly believe that I previously never noticed.
The bees pollen sacks would get stuffed and away they would go, amazing what we don't see for not looking!
 

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this last fall i had a number of combs worth of wax that i had crushed and strained and then put out for the bees to clean up. the bees cleaned until every thing was gone. it could be that at a differant time of year they would of had better things to do and not of bothered with the wax.
 

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Do bees re-work wax ?

I use Plasticell in the hives. What I have seen is that the bees will strip the wax coating from undrawn frames and use it elsewhere when in desperate need of wax. Have seen this several times now.
Last season I decided to "repair" some of these stripped areas. So I used some heated old clean capping wax and just spooned it onto the bare plastic. It was probably 3/16 thick and 4-6 sq inches of area. When the bees draw the frames out the wax is normally pure white. 4-5 weeks after putting these "repaired" frames on a hive with a super of undrawn plasticell I checked the status. It was quite obvious that they had used the thicker "repair" wax to build the new comb. The color was a creamy yellow instead of the pure white. I was not readily able to identify the repair spots later when I extracted.

So, This year, when adding undrawn frames, I am considering "dribbling" some clean capping wax
onto the frames to give the bees a head start.

Just my thoughts -- Fuzzy
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Fuzzy, You've seen them, or you've seen the results of their work and assumed that they were doing something that you hadn't actually seen them do with your necked eye? I'm not calling into question your observational skills, I'm just asking for clarification. Did you see what you said or did you draw conclusions from evidence?

With respect,
Mark
 

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The most I've been able to see, (besides the evidence of dark wax for cappings or for new comb somewhere) in an observation hive, is some bees chewing bits of wax off, and runing off with it somewhere. It's hard to follow one bee in the tumult of a hive. Then you can usually see some bees with the old dark wax building some comb. Where does the dark wax come from? I never see dark wax on their abdomon. That's always a nice white flake.

What conclusion would you draw?

I've never actually seen a bee build a comb. I've seen them chew some wax and mess around with the comb, but I can't say that there was any percievable progress from that one bee. My perception is more of the comb growing like a plant out of the cluster of bees.

But I have no doubt that the accumulation of all of them chewing a little piece of wax and messing with the comb is what causes it to grow.

Of course you could dye some wax red or blue and put in a sheet of wax early in the spring or late in the fall when there is no white wax in the hive and see if the colors show up in different places.

What would you consider as proof? I believe you'll be hard pressed to find a beekeeper who doesn't believe the move wax around in the hive.

http://www.beekeeping.com/leclercq/wax.htm

"However, bees can seal their honey and brood cells even without an available honeyflow by reusing wax from existing comb"
 

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I have not personally observed the bees removing wax. I do not fit well into a hive and my night vision is terrible.

What I have observed, on multiple occasions, typically at the end of the season... is undrawn plasticell (originally wax coated at the factory) with large area bare spots. Clean as a whistle. So, it is my assumption as to the cause.

I have also observed freshly drawn comb to be of the same general color as the repair wax that I used on other frames. I supose that I could get some red or blue colored beeswax sheets and "repair" some additional frames to see if it really propagates thru the super .... Might be interesting.

Regards -- Fuzzy
 

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I also think what Carbide saw was likely propolis and not wax.
As power napper stated, this past summer this same subject came up on another thread and after a number of people said that they had never seen the bees doing it, a number of people stated that they had seen the bees reusing old wax.

Since I sat and watched my bees strip the leftover wax from some frames that I had cut out due to wax moth damage, and I watched them chew up and carry off bridgecomb that I had stripped from between some frames in my hives and left on the top cover of the hives, I do believe that my new glasses and my old eyes are not lying to me.


Since I got a new digital camera for Christmas I will take pictures of my bees this summer reusing wax. I'll make sure that the pictures show without a doubt that the bees are in fact working on wax and not propolis, and I'll take the pictures in a timed sequence to demonstrate the fact that the wax is getting smaller over a period of time.
 

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What I haven't seen them do, but they probably do to some small extent, is gather any significant amount of wax outside the hive. I've left cappings out until the wax moths ate them and never saw any significant reduction in the volume.

It's not at all like other resources like syrup which they will gather until it's gone.
 
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