I left outside a piece of wax few weeks ago and each day I saw lots of bees "eating" it. Why do they do this when they can create new wax? (it seems a really hard work considering how little was taken in the course of few weeks).
1$\begingroup$ I do not have an answer but it is a very cool observation and photo; thanks for posting it. $\endgroup$– WillkOct 15, 2017 at 13:59
4$\begingroup$ Recycling? One would think that it's more efficient to re-use old wax than to make new. Was your wax beeswax, or something else? $\endgroup$– jamesqfOct 15, 2017 at 18:52
1$\begingroup$ @jamesqf It is fully natural beeswax that I solar melted from their old combs. I use it to seal tree cuts. $\endgroup$– Sorin TrimbitasOct 17, 2017 at 11:08
1$\begingroup$ I'm not a bee person so I can't answer, but I'm curious could it be possible that the bees are treating this loose piece of wax as though it's actually part of their normal hive? Like they are trying to do normal activity just in the wrong location? I'm not sure, but I think it could be possible if they are getting the correct chemical signals from the wax. But...no idea. $\endgroup$– user31589Jan 7, 2018 at 1:35
It's unclear how costly wax production really is, here are a few resources with some guestimates and studies:
But doubtless wax is costly to make. So it seems totally reasonable that your bees are actually collecting wax. But my guess, if they were doing this in October, is they drawn by the smell and were poking around for something besides wax per se, like sugar or pollen bits in the wax.
I just saw honey bees buzzing around a compost pile on a warm day in January, focusing on orange peels and used coffee grounds. They would masticate both grounds and peels with their mandibles, but to my eyes weren't actually collecting anything (they didn't bring it to their mouths with their tongues nor pack anything on their corbiciculae). I suspect they will pick at lots of things when there's not a strong pollen or nectar flow, maybe for medicinal reasons or the like, or perhaps more "for something to do."