Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher Starr


  • Ann HarmanEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_173-1

Waxes are a very variable class of compounds, mostly carbohydrates, produced by a broad array of plants and animals. In particular, many insects secrete wax from tegumental glands. This then covers the body and, as in many plants, serves as a protection against excess water uptake or water loss at the body surface. Waxes usually have melting points above 40°C, so that they are solid at most ambient temperatures. A given wax has a great many components (Ref. 2: Table 5.1), and within a species it may show considerable geographic variation in its composition.

In the three groups of eusocial corbiculate bees (bumble bees, stingless bees, and honey bees), certain tegumental glands have developed to produce wax in relatively large quantity. In honey bees, for example, workers have four pairs of wax glands on the undersides of abdominal segments 1–7 (Fig. 1) [ 2]. In all of these corbiculate bees, we find a radical innovation in the use of the wax that they synthesize as a major...
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Flint HillUSA