The Incredible Honey Bee...Wax Maker

Beeswax housing honey
Beeswax housing honey

  Beeswax is the basic building block of all honey bee hives. It is used by younger bees to perfectly build the comb in which honey, pollen, and babies are housed. The wax is a byproduct of the honey bee ingesting honey in their regular stomach if you will. A honey bee has two stomachs the honey stomach and the regular stomach. When a honey bee digests the honey it is “converted” into beeswax and is “dispensed” by a gland located in the abdomen. As the gland produces the wax in flakes the bee works it to make the comb.

   Depending on who you read, honey bees will have to consume from 8-10 to 18-20 pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax. The wax will start out light in color and will darken with time as it is tainted with propolis and pollen. When cleaned and refined one pound of beeswax will be worth $15 - $20 depending on the market. Refined and cleaned wax is that which has had the propolis and pollen removed from the wax.

   Beeswax like honey bees has a long history. Egyptians used it in medicine and in mummification. It has been used in the making of jewelry. Before there was gum to chew, children and adults alike enjoyed chewing the honeycomb. Candles made from beeswax has been used for centuries especially by the Roman Catholic Church which require all candles be at least 51% beeswax, primarily because beeswax candles do not produce soot like paraffin or soy candles, basically smokeless and dripless. It has been found that when these beeswax candles had been burned in churches and monasteries the wax atomized and coated paintings in the buildings. In effect, the beeswax preserved the paintings over the centuries.

   Beeswax is still used to day in medicines, beauty products, sealants and polishes. Medicines include lip balms and creams for skin diseases. In beauty products it is used in lipsticks and soaps. In sealants and polishes it is used in mouth pieces for instrument mouthpieces called reeds. It is used in furniture and floor sealants and polishes and has been used even in toilet bowl rings. Beeswax is also used as additives in food such as gums and candies.

   The humble bee sets out to create a home for her food and babies and man has taken this great gift to enhance his life beyond the hive. Though beeswax is not a necessity of life it has greatly improved man’s quality of life. A quality of life given by that incredible insect known as the honey bee. 

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