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How Is Wax Obtained?

Category: WAX.

The inquiry is now made, "Where do they get it from, if not from
pollen?" I might with propriety answer, they don't get it at all.
"Stop, there, if you please; if you expect us to credit you, you must
not give us too much absurdity." Well, let me ask a question. Do
cattle when grazing actually obtain flesh, bone, &c., or only the
materials from which these parts are secreted? As to the production of
wax, I believe all close observers (that I have found) agree that it is
a secretion natural only to the bee. With the ox, fruit, grain, or
grass may be converted into tallow; with the bee, honey and syrup made
of sugar may be converted into wax. These are probably the only two
substances yet discovered from which they extract it. Some writers have
pretended that pollen is also used, but they have failed to prove that
the old bees consume it at any time; which they must in this case if it
is converted into wax. From experiments related by Huber, either of
these substances, mixed with a little water, is all sufficient for its
production. From experiments of my own, I am satisfied that he is
correct. The experiment is tried by shutting up a swarm when first
hived; feeding them with honey--a few of the bees will probably have
some pollen, though not enough to make a comb three inches square, yet
it is something--and to be certain, time must be given them to exhaust
it. In three or four days take out the bees and remove the combs;
inclose them again, and feed with honey as before. Repeat the process,
until satisfied that no pollen is needed in the composition of wax.
Huber removed the combs "five times," with the same result at every
trial. Whenever bees are _confined_ in hot weather, _air and water are
absolutely necessary_.

We will now describe the first appearance of wax, and how it is
produced. When a swarm of bees is about leaving the parent stock,
three-fourths or more of them will fill their sacks with honey. When
located in their new home, of course no cells exist to hold it; it must
remain in the stomach or sack for several hours. The consequence is,
that thin white scales of wax the sixteenth of an inch in diameter,
somewhat circular, are formed between the rings of the abdomen, under
side. With the claws of one of their hind legs one of these is detached
and conveyed to the mouth, and there pinched with their forceps or
teeth, until one edge is worked somewhat rough; it is then applied to
the comb being constructed, or to the roof of the hive. The first
rudiments of comb are often applied within the first half hour after
the swarm is hived. In the history of insects before noticed, is a
minute account of the first foundation of combs, somewhat amusing, if
not instructive.

Next: Huber's Account Of A Commencement Of Comb

Previous: Is Pollen Converted Into Wax?

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