Eli5: How do the combs in honey combs get made? Is there any reason for the stop sign shape?



I know bees take nectar and pollen etc. But how do they make the actual comb part. You see people pressing spoons against them and the honey pours out. Is that a different part of the process? How do bees know to make the shape like that? Rather, why do they make the combs in that shape?

In: Engineering

They secrete a wax-like substance from their abdomen which they then chew a bit and combine with honey to make the honeycomb material. They then manually construct the honey combs.

They are essentially hard-wired to build it in a hexagonal shape, as that shape is the most efficient shape for packing. They don’t “know” this, of course, but there is evolutionary pressure and reward for building more efficient shapes, which would leave to the evolution of creatures that will instinctively build that shape.

They don’t choose to make honey comb shapes. It happens naturally.

Find yourself some soapy water and create seven bubbles. They’re all round, right? Now, nudge them together so one bubble is surrounded but the other six. If your bubbles are suitably equally sized, the central bubble isn’t round any more – it’s hexagonal.

This happens over and over again until all the cells are hexagonal, pushed into shape by their neighbours.

There is a branch of mathematics known as the calculus of variations. It seeks to answer complex problems under particular constraints. There is a principle in physics known as least action, which essentially states that things choose the path which minimizes the total energy of the system the most efficiently. This is a constraint, and can be plugged into the calculus. It allows us to come up with wonderful calculations. From the paths interstellar probes should take out of our Solar System to the pathways chemical reactions will take. Shapes bubbles will make in various conditions can also be calculated this way, and that is how we understand honeycombs presently. The bees don’t know anything, they just produce the wax in bubbles, and it follows the path of least action to harden into hexagonal cells.

Everyone else has already said it, cause hexagons are the bestagons, but actually bees **try** to make circles.
What ends up happening is the constant buzzing of so many bees heats up the inside of the hive and the wax circles. Because the circles are constantly being heated and softened, they settle into the most natural shape, a hexagon.