The Structure of Comb – Part 3

The Bee World – September, 1921 – Page 97


Since writing my last notes on this subject, I have been able, through our Editor’s kindness, to examine a partially built-out semicomb. The facts do not bear out the suggestion (BEE WORLD. III., p. 74 – Part 2) that the “pitch” of the cells is connected with the deformation of the cell-bases from the form which geometrical symmetry indicates they should possess. Pitch – that is, the upward inclination of the upper cells in a partly drawn-out comb, and the outward (sideways) inclination of the cells nearer the two sides of the comb – is present in built-out semicombs also. An alternative explanation suggests itself to me; that is, that “pitch” is due to the attempt (not always successful) of the bees to keep the edges of the cell (AA’, BB’, etc., Fig. 13, p. 38, July issue – Part 1) continually at right angles to the surface of the comb A’B’C’D’E’F’. This would account for the direction of the pitch of cells in different parts of the comb, and also for the curvature of the edges AA’ etc., for the slope of the plane A’C’E’ to the horizon varies as the comb is drawn out (especially in comb built naturally, without foundation), and in such a manner that the cell-walls are bound to curve, as we find they do, if the bees always try to build them perpendicular to the face of the comb. When the comb is fully built out, the result is, of course. that many of these cell-edges are not perpendicular to the (now vertical) face of the comb; but at this stage even approximate perpendicularity is probably no longer necessary for the stability of the structure. The whole matter must, however, be worked out in detail before this suggestion can be accepted as proved.

I would wish to add a note on a question of priority. In the “Neues Schlesisches Imkerblatt” or 1920, in an essay by J. Huber, the view is advanced that the thick rims of the cells help in supporting the weight of the comb and its contents. As this is the first time this view has been put forward, to my knowlcdge, it may be as well to state that a similar conclusion was arrived at quite independently by the present writer in 1913, and that the articles in the last two issues of the BEE WORLD were written before Mr. Huber’s essay came under my notice.

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