Lessons from a Honeybee (Part IX: Why Hexagonal Cells?)

I know you have been wondering this all your life, but have been too shy to ask: “Why is every cell in a honeycomb a hexagon?” Well, I’m glad you finally asked. Let me tell you why that is true—and it is. If you have ever seen a honeycomb, you know that each cell containing honey, pollen or brood is a nearly perfectly constructed hexagon with equal sides, each hexagon fitting snugly with the six hexagonal cells next to it and sharing one side with each one.  But why do bees build hexagonal wax cells rather than random shapes or circles or some other geometric figure.
   Well, keep in mind that the hive is the home to about 60,000 bees who need room to store nectar and pollen, and for the queen to lay eggs.  So, space is at a premium and must be utilized as efficiently as possible. Remember, it takes thousands and thousands of bee hours and tens of thousands of flights to gather nectar from flower after flower after flower to fill those cells with honey, so it is reasonable to suppose that back at the hive, bees want a tight, secure storage that is simple to build, compact storage, yet very strong.    Also, it takes about eight ounces of honey for a bee to produce one ounce of wax, so the cells must be constructed with as much efficiency as possible. The cells also must be strong so they don’t collapse. Wanting to maximize storage and strength and minimize the amount of wax needed, the honeybees “chose” hexagons as the best solution! 
     There are only three geometric figures with equal sides that can fit together on a flat surface without leaving gaps: equilateral triangles, squares and hexagons. So, how well did the honeybee do in choosing the hexagon?  A mathematician at the University of Michigan proved that a hexagonal structure is indeed the most compact—it is absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax and maximizing strength.  Even Charles Darwin acknowledged, “The honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering.”  Honeybees know how to store the most amount of honey while using the least amount of resources. Hmm? Did they learn that over millions of years of evolutionary  experimenting? – or— were they made by an all-wise Creator God who built that knowledge into their genetic structure!  And oh, by the way, archaeologists digging in northern Israel discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and the oldest beehives ever found, indicating that an advanced honey industry existed in the Holy Land at the time of the Bible—and guess what shape the honeycomb cells were?  What I’m sure they have always been since creation—hexagonal!  God, the perfect mathematician and engineer designed it that way.
     Just how strong are their wax hexagonal cell which have walls of beeswax only 1/350 inch thick? Strong enough to support the weight of all the honey contained in each frame. Honey weighs about 11 pounds per gallon and beekeepers may take about five gallons from each hive, still leaving the bees with enough to make it over the winter. According to engineering, the strongest geometric shape is the triangle, and a hexagon is composed of six equilateral triangles!  Aren’t bees smart!
     Beekeepers place foundation frames in hives with pre-formed cell bases to maximize honey production, but all natural beehives, even a honeycomb hanging from a tree branch or a building eave, will be constructed of almost perfectly aligned hexagons.
     The more we examine nature, and creatures such as the “simple” honeybee, the more we see what an amazing Creator God we serve. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:9).
     And the same God who equipped the honeybees to construct such a masterpiece of engineering, is today building His church, made up of individual believers from throughout the whole earth, yet tied together through the bond of the Holy Spirit and Christ living in each one so that we form a unit called the church, or the body of Christ (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 5:23-29; I Cor. 12:13,14). And remember Jesus’ statement to Peter (and the other disciples): “I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mt. 16:18).  The triangle (and hexagon) may be the strongest geometric shapes but the church is the strongest entity in the world. It has faced and is facing tremendous persecution and the onslaught of the enemy trying to destroy it, but it only causes it to increase!  After all, it was built by the Designer of the amazing honeybees!!
                Forever His,
                    Pastor Dave

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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