Do bees build circular or hexagonal cells?

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Offline satsujin

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Do bees build circular or hexagonal cells?
« on: 04/10/2012 12:29:49 »
An interesting post on this board by a religious nut named Asyncritus who was trying to paint evolution as ridiculous asked why bees build complex patterns like hexagons for their honeycombs when simpler patterns like circles,triangles and squares are an option. (Whew, that was a long sentence!) He was trying to use it to point out the existence of an intelligent designer but it led me to thinking. Do bees really build hexagonal structures? I was thinking maybe they build circular structures(since that would be the easiest and most symmetrical) and as the beeswax fills in the 'gaps' it starts to look hexagonal. Everywhere i googled this question of why bees build hexagonal cells simply stated that it was the most efficient use of space so thats why bees had evolved to used it. But if the hexagon had come thru evolution, then i wondered why other less energy-efficient but still usable patterns didnt emerge in honeycombs...After all, bees wouldn't 'know' that this is the most efficient use of space. I finally did a google image search on 'natural honeycombs' to see what they looked like in the wild and came across this:

Note that sides of cells without surrounding cells are actually circular not hexagonal! Also, note that the side of cells touching surrounding cells takes on a straighter(hexagonal) shape...This would imply that bees start making circular cells but they become hexagonal as the cells touch up. They start with one cell and build a radial pattern out from that one(2 cells on top of single cell, 1 on each side and 2 on the bottom). I think D'arcy Wentworth Thompson may have commented on this in On Growth and Form. He said that cells made by multiple bees were hexagonal but those made singly like queen cells were round and lumpy. So whaddya think? Have I wasted my time >:(.....or deduced something? ;D


Offline Boogie

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Re: Do bees build circular or hexagonal cells?
« Reply #1 on: 05/10/2012 15:11:11 »
Being that the hexagon is just a circle with fewer points, why not? Not fully understanding the hive construction process or bee anatomy, I'm not qualified to answer this, but I'd like to have fun with it.   Could the hexagonal lens of the bee eye have something to do with it? Perhaps the hexagon looks like a circle or square to the bee? Also, the typical outline of flowers resemble hexagon. Maybe the cells are a symbolic tribute to flowers? I know, that was silly.

Building the hive out of circle shaped cells would be more difficult and have wasted space in the corners. Hexagonal cells solve this problem. Square cells wouldn't have wasted space, but may not provide the strength a hexagonal structure celled has and the square shape doesn't fit the body of the bee very well. Square cells may be difficult to fill with honey?

Let's see what the beeologists say.