17 July 2014
The Short Answer (TSA)
Honey bees use beeswax to build brood combs in their hives. Bees build these combs both in their natural hives in the wild and in commercial hives maintained by beekeepers. The brood comb looks a lot like the well known honeycomb.
The brood comb is made up of six sided cells. But, just as the honeycomb is used only to store honey, so the brood comb is used only for raising the colony’s young bees. “Brood” is the name given to young honey bees of all types and at all stages of development from egg through larva.
A honey bee colony has a single queen bee who lays all the eggs. The queen is the mother all the hive’s bees. The queen lays 1,000 to 2,000 eggs a day during the summer season. She lays all these eggs in the six-sided cells of the brood comb.
The worker bees protect and nurture the queen’s eggs and larvae. When the eggs hatch, the worker bees feed the young bees. The workers select a few from among the larvae to be queens. Queen bees “are made and not born” in the sense that whether a larva grows to be a worker bee or a reproductive queen bee depends on diet.
The future queens selected by the worker bees are fed a diet of royal jelly – an extremely nutrient rich food produced by the worker bees. The rest of the larvae are also fed royal jelly, but only for the first three days of life outside the egg. Then, these future worker bees are switched to diet of pollen and honey.
A short time after the bee larvae hatch from the queen’s eggs, the brood comb’s cells become almost a “second egg” to the developing bees. The larvae are sealed (“capped”) in the brood comb cells with an abundant supply of food. At maturity, they will emerge from the cells as full grown bees.
Brood combs are double-sided with cells on both sides. The brood combs are reused year after year. The combs start out as a white wax color. But, as years pass, the older brood combs develop a yellow, then, amber and, finally, an almost black color.