Why Are Honeycombs Shaped Like Hexagons? | Bee Removal

Why Are Honeycombs Shaped Like Hexagons? | Bee Removal

This is a question we don’t often hear asked, but why? The question seems like a pretty good one since a hexagon, or six sided figure, is a pretty specific shape for bees to choose as their home and work station. And bees did, indeed, come up with the hexagon as a useful building block. Some people seem to be under the impression that the hexagonal units that you see making up honeycombs are imprinted by beekeepers. But that is certainly not the case, and not only did bees resort to hexagonal cells in order to build their honeycombs, but they also have very good reason to prefer hexagons over other shapes.

So why not a circle, a square or even a triangle? Well, as it turns out, bees are smarter than you, but they are smarter than all humans, so it’s ok. The reason that bees chose hexagons as building blocks and storage units has only recently been discovered, but the logic behind the choice was always there. Bees avoid using circles as cells within a honeycomb because circles use up too much space, and a good portion of the space would be unusable.

If you put a bundle of flat circles together, there will exist excess space in between each circular-unit that would go unused. By using shapes with straight edges, bees are able to stack units so that no excess space exists between the straight shapes.

Squares are not used because the four corners are too long to offer proper support to other squares. However, if a hexagon has shorter edges, then a honeycomb is less likely to collapse under the weight of other hexagonal units. In other words, the longer the edge, the weaker the support, and the more edges a shape has, then the more support a shape can offer weight coming from above. This is only provided that all shapes are of comparable size.

Finally there are triangles, which seem perfect for honeycomb design. Then again, triangles require a greater amount of beeswax to be built. In the bee community, beeswax is a valuable item. Only one ounce of beeswax is produced for every eight ounces of honey consumed.

So that is why bees are smarter than you. In fact, manned space missions are even utilizing this hexagonal structure for building small living quarters that are capable of housing several individuals within one small space.

Can you think of any other astounding feats of ingenuity that have been demonstrated by other insects?


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