I bet you have been wondering, where does all that lovely beeswax come from? Right there. There are eight glands on the abdomen of the young worker bee that secrete wax when temperature conditions are right. Fun fact, to yield one pound of beeswax, the bees consume nearly eight pounds of honey.
Bees are amazing creatures and will travel over 60,000 kilometers and pollinate over 2 million flowers to produce less than 1 pound of pure beeswax. That is why it is so precious. Beeswax is secreted by the wax-bees. They use it to build honeycombs. The wax is made from transparent and white scales that appear at the opening of the four small pockets on each side of the abdomen of the bee.
Chemical Composition of Beeswax: Esters of wax acids 70.9%, Cholesteryl esters of fatty acids 1.1%, Flavones (Coloring matter) .3%, Lactones .6%, Free alcohols 1-1.25%, Free wax acids 13.5-14.5%, Hydrocarbons 10.5-13.5%, Moisture and mineral impurities 1-2%. (Ref.–The Chemistry and Technology of Waxes, Albin H. Warth, 1956, Page 92. Reinhold Publishing Corporation, New York; Chapman & Hall, Ltd., London.)
Beeswax is recovered by melting by beekeepers, sometimes by means of a solar furnace. For beekeeping, it is assigned to an « embosser » which will turn it into preprinted cells which invite the bees in the hive to rebuild their shelves inside movable frames.
Beeswax is also used :
– by the cosmetic industry for beauty products like creams, lotions, ointments and lipsticks. It is also used in the manufacture of medicines, candles and sometimes waterproofing and maintenance of certain materials such as wood, leather and even metal treatment.
– it is also authorized as a food additive (E901). Its hydrophobic and antibacterial properties were one of the main ingredients of mummification by embalmers of ancient Egypt.
– to treat animals with split hooves. In Asia and Africa, beeswax used to dye batik fabrics.
– in the manufacture of didgeridoos.
Beeswax can be stored a very long time. Its transformation is simple, a method of heating and filtering enough to prepare the wax, which can be sold in small pieces without special protection.
Beeswax has specific chemical and physical properties:
– A density of 0.96, so the wax is floating on water
– A melting point of 63°C.
– Malleable at room temperature
– Insoluble in water (hydrophobic)
– Liquid when it is melted (non-viscous)
– Solvent free
– Does not contain hazardous additives such as naphtha or naphthalene
Beeswax emits negative ions when burned or diffused which are scientifically proven to clean your air of dust, mold and pollen, pet dander, smoke, odours and even bacteria and viruses.
It is completely incredible that, with thousands of bees coming up and adding their bit of wax to the spot where the « drawing out » is going on, you don’t get a thousand different variations of shape and thickness. You’re led to the conclusion that every one of these thousands of insects in her own right must be a trained engineer.
Each bee adds only a tiny part to a given area of comb. Yet each cell ends up the same size and shape as all the others. From the apparent disorganization and haphazard chaos of work on the combs comes the perfection of uniformity. When you see the work going on it even looks as if each bee constitutes herself an inspection party of one. She looks the work over, gives it a pat here and there and goes on about her business. With thousands of bees doing this, you somehow get that perfect finished product.
(Ref.–Murray Hoyt, The World of Bees, p. 99 et 100)