>I see this 8# of honey to make a pound wax thrown out there alot. Can it be documented? Has there been a scientific study or is it just a number someone threw out at a talk once upon a time?
As I've pointed out, I think its irrelevant. What is relevant is that they need somewhere to put the nectar. It's not a math problem, it's a timing problem.
There are two studies that I have been able to find that are specific about the proportion of conversion. The first was by Huber in Volume II, Chapter II of his "New Observations Upon Bees".
"Amounts of wax produced from various sugars
"A pound (453 grams) of white sugar, reduced to syrup, and clarified with the white of an egg, produced 10 gros 52 grains (1.5 ounces or 42 grams) of beeswax darker than that which bees extract from honey. An equal weight of dark brown sugar yielded 22 gros (3 ounces or 84 grams) of very white wax; a similar amount was obtained from maple sugar.
We repeated these experiments seven times in succession, with the same bees and we always obtained wax in nearly the same proportions as above. It therefore appears demonstrated that sugar and the saccharine part of honey enable the bees that feed upon it to produce wax, a property entirely denied to the fecundating dust."--Francis Huberhttp://www.bushfarms.com/xstar.htm#Huber
The next was by Whitcomb, referenced in "Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Products by Coggshall and Morse (pg 35)
"Their degree of efficiency in wax production, that is how many pounds of honey or sugar syrup are required to produce one pound of wax, is not clear. It is difficult to demonstrate this experimentally because so many variables exist. The experiment most frequently cited is that by Whitcomb (1946). He fed four colonies a thin, dark, strong honey that he called unmarketable. The only fault that might be found with the test was that the bees had free flight, which was probably necessary so they could void fecal matter; it was stated that no honey flow was in progress. The production of a pound of beeswax required a mean of 8.4 pounds of honey (range 6.66 to 8.80). Whitcomb found a tendency for wax production to become more efficient as time progressed. This also emphasizes that a project intended to determine the ratio of sugar to wax, or one designed to produce wax from a cheap source of sugar, requires time for wax glands to develop and perhaps for bees to fall into the routine of both wax secretion and comb production."
Of the two Huber's was confined which insures there was no outside source of nectar. But the conclusions of Whitcomb were that efficiency changes over time and other studies I've seen show that a young bee who becomes a wax worker at the appropriate age and who has done it while is more efficient than an older bee who has reverted to wax making or a younger one who hasn't gotten into the "swing of things". So the actual number would be hard to come by. I agree with Taylor who says:
"The opinion of experts once was that the production of beeswax in a colony required great quantities of nectar which, since it was turned into wax, would never be turned into honey. Until quite recently it was thought that bees could store seven pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax that they needed to manufacture for the construction of their combs--a figure which seems never to have been given any scientific basis, and which is in any case quite certainly wrong."--Richard Taylor, The Comb Honey Book