How Is Wax Obtained?

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.

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