What is Beeswax? (Uses, Images, Benefits)

Written On: by Theo The Beekeeper

It’s roughly estimated that pollinators, primarily bees, are responsible for one out of every three bites of food because of their extraordinary pollinating abilities. This characteristic itself makes our little honeybees one of the marvelous creatures on our planet! However, it doesn’t stop there; they also provide us with delicious raw honey, royal jelly, and beneficial beeswax -what is the latter?

Beeswax is the natural product produced by honeybees for cells for honey storage, larval and pupal protection, and storing food supplies. Beeswax contains fatty acid esters and various long-chained alcohols filled with health benefits, including skincare, heart health, and minimizing pain.

Although beeswax might not receive as much hype or attention as honey, it significantly influences the colony’s success. But then, we haven’t even started on the endless applications of beeswax for humans. We urge you to continue scrolling for an in-depth beeswax run-through.

What Is Beeswax?

beeswax inside of box with stral
Decorative candles in the box, made of beeswax with a honey aroma for interior and tradition.

In simplest terms, beeswax is essentially the natural wax product produced by honeybees belonging to the Apis genus. The worker bees, otherwise known as the female bees, produce the wax using their abdominal segments’ eight wax-producing glands to form thin wax sheets called scales, which they then discard at the hive.

The hive workers collect the excreted scales and use them to intricately from hexagon-shaped cells for honey storage, larval and pupal protection, and storing food supplies within the beehive.

Chemically, beeswax consists of around 300 different compounds, primarily fatty acid esters and various long-chained alcohols. In addition, beeswax has a melting point ranging over 140°F.

Throughout prehistory, beeswax was used as the first plastic and as a lubricant, polish, candle making, and cosmetic reasons.

In short, beeswax is the essential building block of the beehive. Honeybees build the comb from scratch, serving as a house, nursery, and food pantry.

How Do Honeybees Make Beeswax?

beeswax inside of container
Organic cosmetics, natural lip balm of own production. Handmade, home without chemicals. A woman’s hand holds a jar of balm. long format for web

The first step of producing beeswax begins with a worker bee (female bee) leaving the beehive to forage for pollen and nectar. The foraging bee secretes the nectar and honey at the hive, which the younger house (between 12 to 20 days old) bees gorge to activate their glands to produce wax.

As the honeybees grow older, their special glands start to atrophy, and they begin to collect pollen and nectar instead. Though, when in a pinch, the older workers can help make wax -they just won’t be as efficient.

The wax production in the bee colony depends on the following factors:

  • Nectar flow: The greater the nectar flow, the more combs need to be built for storage.
  • Brood rearing: The more eggs laid, the more combs cells are needed for brooding.
  • The presence of the queen bee: Only bee colonies with a queen bee build honeycombs (beeswax).
  • Temperature: Temperatures exceeding 59°F favor comb building activities.
  • Pollen: Bees require pollen as a protein source to build beeswax or combs.

Bees require a vast nectar supply to produce wax. A honeybee will eat between six to eight pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax!

Once the nectar and honey sugar is converted, the worker bees use their abdominal wax-producing glands to form thin wax sheets (scales), which they then discard in the hive using their special glands. The waxy substance starts as tiny flakes, but the bees chew, shape, and mold the waxy in fascinating ways.

Over the millennia, honeybees started building their combs into hexagon shapes, figuring out that the hexagon-shaped combs hold the most honey and require the least wax.

The honeybees hang in strings, forming a chain to pass the secreted wax sheets down the line using their legs and mouths. Each bee takes a turn chewing the wax, making it soft and pliable for molding. Then, once the wax reaches the perfect condition, the bees start to construct the complex hexagon-shaped honeycombs.

The bees fill the combs with honey and cap them with more wax to preserve the honey and prevent moisture loss. However, the wax combs also serve as an ideal area for the bees to undergo metamorphosis from egg to bee.

What Does Beeswax Look Like?

beeswax in a cup and spoon
Beeswax pellets in the spoon

Fresh beeswax starts as translucent or a beautiful pristine white. However, the colors vary depending on the bees’ age, the flower variety from which they gather nectar, pollen, resin, gum content, the region or terroir, and the honey purity.

These elements mentioned above are also responsible for the pleasant scent of honey and beeswax.

Beeswax can range from almost white to black, but it generally ranges along the yellow spectrum, including light yellow, butterscotch yellow, and light amber.

The freshly secreted scales start clear and colorless. Then, the honeybees use the wax to build the honey cells or comb, and the wax starts developing opacity and a light-yellow hue from the pollen and propolis stains.

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Then, after spending time in the beehive, the honeycomb progresses from a light yellow to brown and even black if left long enough for reuse. Finally, the honeycomb tends to absorb the pollen oils, propolis stains, cocoon remains, and some of the dirt from the thousands of tiny feet actively working.

How Do Beekeepers Harvest Beeswax?

Beekeepers generally harvest beeswax while collecting raw honey.

While extracting the honey, beekeepers use an uncapping knife or machine to cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell. In addition, beekeepers can extract beeswax by scrapping old comb or removing unwanted burr or brace comb -the honeycomb portions are built in other areas than the intended places (mainly on the top of the frames).

The collected beeswax and brace comb need filtering and rendering to remove the impurities before further use, providing us with pure, natural beeswax.

The other leftover residue of the beeswax is known as slumgum -leftover pupa casings, cocoons, wax moth cocoons, shed larva skins, bee droppings, propolis, pollen, mites, and other debris. More so, slumgum is typically brown or black.

A standard method beekeepers use is to separate the beeswax and slumgum is to place the brood combs into a burlap sack and then place the bag into a hot water bath. You’ll notice that the melted was seeps through the burlap sack while the slumgum stays behind in the bag.

Beekeepers press the burlap sacks later to ensure the rest of the trapped wax separates from the slumgum. Then, the beekeepers discard the slumgum and mold the wax into 30 to 50 lb blocks. The resulting wax ranges from amber to light brown and almost black.

Beekeepers use this wax for inclusion in new frames or send it off to commercial beeswax operations. The commercial operations previously used harmful chemicals to bleach the wax; however, they now use carbon filters to achieve a white wax naturally and remove the dark color and aroma.

When the refined or processed brood wax goes through filtering to remove the dark color and signature smell, the charm and myriad health advantages come from the so-called “contaminations” in the wax, including honey, pollen, and propolis.

Different Types Of Beeswax

There are three primary types of beeswax, varying based on their processing, benefits, and uses.

  • Yellow Beeswax: The unrefined, natural, and raw beeswax is derived directly from the beeswax.
  • White Beeswax: The result of yellow beeswax undergoing a filtering or bleaching process to purify it from debris like pollen, propolis, pupa casings, and cocoons. White beeswax is used in cosmetics, food preparation, and pharmaceutical products, including soft-gel capsules, ointments, and coating for medicinal tablets.
  • Absolute Beeswax: Absolute beeswax is derived from treating yellow beeswax with alcohol.

Beeswax History

Beeswax has been correlated to our human history for thousands of years. This versatile, nontoxic, and natural product has played an intricate role in our lives for many years.

The intricate relationship between honeybees and humans dates back to the hunter-gatherer days when the men would use a long stick to knock down the beehives from trees. Then, they would run away and return to the scene to harvest honey when it was deemed safe.

Later, the men discovered that using a smoke-burning stick made the job easier by subduing the bees -the usefulness of beeswax could very well have been discovered back then.

Perhaps one of the less speculated versions of the history between beeswax and humans dates back to the Neolithic times. Other historical findings include:

  • Beeswax figures were discovered in ancient Egypt tombs. The Egyptians recognized the value of beeswax in mummification, using it for embalming. In addition, they used beeswax to seal the coffin, making it airtight and preserving the body.
  • The Egyptians further used beeswax to preserve their writings on papyrus and cave walls. Remarkably, these writings have remained unchanged for over 2,000 years. The Egyptians even recognized the vitality of beeswax in health, prescribing various formulations containing beeswax since 1550 B.C.
  • Ancient jewelers and artisans utilized a beeswax casting technique, involving sculpting an object in beeswax and coating and hardening the object with clay and heating techniques. More so, the Egyptian priests created the first voodoo dolls with beeswax.
  • The Egyptians incorporated beeswax and various aromatic substances to create perfumes that were also used for medicinal uses.
  • The Persians and Assyrians used beeswax for embalming.
  • The Romans used to demand beeswax from the people they subjugated as tribute or tax. In addition, beeswax remained a trade unit in Europe until the 17th century. The Romans used to make wax statues and fashion death masks.
  • The Chinese recognized the importance of beeswax, praising it for its beneficial blood and energy systems, wound treatment, beauty enhancements, and anti-aging properties.
  • Beeswax candles were used by the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. In addition, beeswax candles have been used in European churches since the start of Christianity, and the Roman Catholic Church was strict, requiring the exclusive use of beeswax candles in the church.
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Another early use of beeswax encompasses ‘wax tablets’ as portable, reusable writing surfaces. In addition, beeswax was used for encaustic painting, which involves applying melted beeswax with various pigments to a piece of wood, shaping the wax while hot.

Beeswax Heath Benefits

It’s remarkable how bees naturally make the most beautiful structures like beeswax that help raise their young while holding pure liquid gold. It’s even more incredible when these structures produce incredible benefits for everyday life.

This fantastic substance contains a myriad of health benefits and is commonly used to lower cholesterol and relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.

So, what else can beeswax do?

Let us take a peek at the most significant benefits and uses of beeswax.

Beeswax Can Promote Heart Health

Beeswax contains long-chain fatty acids and an array of alcohols that help boost your heart healthy by reducing high blood cholesterol levels.

A review showed that beeswax alcohols could help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 29% while raising “good” HDL cholesterol by 15%.

Beeswax Can Protect Against Infections

Like honey, beeswax is jam-packed with antibacterial properties that help clean and reduce the risks of infections and contaminations.

Beeswax can help boost your body’s ability to fight harmful bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Candida, Salmonella, E. coli, and fungi like jock itch.

Beeswax can also protect your gut against parasites.

Beeswax Can Help Minimize Pain

Beeswax acts as an anti-inflammatory that can help reduce pain associated with infections, swelling, and ulcers.

Beeswax can help relieve osteoarthritis symptoms, including inflammation, physical function, pain, and joint stiffness.

Beeswax May Improve Liver Function

Beeswax can contribute to a healthier liver.

Researchers conducted that the alcohols found in beeswax contain high antioxidant levels that help protect and normalize liver functions.

Individuals suffering from liver disease and fatter liver symptoms experienced decreased symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea.

Beeswax Treats Dermatitis, Psoriasis, and Eczema

Beeswax is an excellent choice for various skin conditions.

Beeswax, honey, and olive oil mixture are a valuable treatment for dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.

Beeswax Skin Benefits

Beeswax does not only have an array of internal health benefits, but it proves to be equally effective in treating the skin.

Here are the most evident beeswax benefits for the skin.

Beeswax Moisturizes The Skin

Beeswax deems a fantastic moisturizer for the skin, deeming why it’s commonly found in skincare products and cosmetics.

Beeswax is a humectant -that effectively attracts water – locks in moisture, forms a defensive barrier that protects your skin from the unforgiving elements of the environment, and repairs rough, dry, and chapped skin.

More so, it is rich in vitamin A and emollient properties that help soften and rehydrate your skin while promoting the development of healthy cellular reconstruction.

Another benefit of beeswax is that it’s noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t “suffocate” the skin or clog pores.

Beeswax Helps Clear Acne

Beeswax is a well-known home remedy that helps treat acne.

Beeswax contains high vitamin A levels and strong, anti-inflammatory, healing, and antiseptic properties, effective in acne treatment.

Beeswax Helps Heal Dry, Cracked Lips

The natural moisturizing qualities of beeswax make it a perfect lip balm for those who suffer from cracked or chapped lips.

Beeswax Reduces Stretch Marks

Beeswax helps to reduce stretch marks thanks to its ability to protect your skin and retain moisture which positively affects those unsightly marks.

Beeswax contains vitamin A, which helps promote collagen production and support cell turnover and reconstruction. Then, collagen increases your skin’s elastic fibers, which greatly benefit the reduction of unsightly stretchmarks.

Beeswax Is A Common Fragrance In Cosmetics

Many cosmetic manufacturers use beeswax to fragrance soaps and perfumes thanks to its pleasant, light, and honey-like aroma.

In manufacturing, beeswax is also commonly used as a thickener, emulsifier, and stiffening agent for cosmetic products.  

Potential Dangers Of Using Beeswax

Beeswax is generally considered safe to consume; eating large quantities can cause stomach obstructions.

Moreover, those with bee venom or pollen allergies may want to cautiously use beeswax and other honey products, as it can cause an allergic reaction. In addition, avoid eating beeswax or honeycomb when you are pregnant or giving it to an infant under a year old to reduce the risk of botulism.

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Then, when melting beeswax for topical use, ensure you place the beeswax in a saucepan, then place the saucepan inside a larger pan of water. Beeswax does not boil; it’ll only get hotter until it ignites.

If overheated, beeswax can be highly flammable, so avoid heating it more than 2 to 3 degrees above its melting point.

Beeswax Uses

There are endless beeswax uses, so we will discuss the most common uses.

Beeswax Candles

Manufacturers use plain or colored pressed wax sheets to make candles. Beeswax candles are superior to the wax types as it burns longer, brighter, and cleaner than other wax types.

When burning, beeswax produces negative ions that latch onto harmful airborne chemicals and toxins from household products like paint, aerosols, furniture protectant, formaldehyde, etc.

Once the negative ions bond with the airborne toxins, they descend to floor level, essentially purifying the air!

Beeswax Body Balms, Butters, and Salves

Beeswax body balm, butter, or salve are natural double-duty products that help keep your skin moisturized and smooth. In addition, the balms, butter, and salves are “anhydrous,” meaning that they do not contain water.

Beeswax body balm, butter, or salve are super-nourishing and filled with nutrients and vitamins. In addition, these products can serve as a lip balm to a herbal, topical remedy for winter ravaged hands, summer feet, and everything in between.

Beeswax Lotion Bars & Beeswax Exfoliation Lotion Bars

Beeswax lotion bars are solid blocks of lotions used to moisturize and create a protective layer on the skin. These bars are made with beeswax and a combination of other natural ingredients that stay solid at room temperature; however, they melt from body heat.

Beeswax lotion bars are also natural exfoliators, ideal for sloughing all the dead skin cells away.

Beeswax Soap, Shampoo, and Conditioner Bars

Many manufacturers and DIY enthusiasts include beeswax in their soap recipes.

Beeswax not only soothes and moisturizes the skin, but when you add it to softer oils, it ensures that the product (soap) has a firmer texture, especially in warmer weather.

The same applies to shampoo and conditioner bars; the beeswax ensures that the bars have a firm texture while helping your hair and scalp stay hydrated. In addition, beeswax helps keep your hair smooth and straight

Beeswax Is Used In Makeup Products

Beeswax is used in many cosmetic or makeup products thanks to its pleasant aroma and moisturizing benefits.

You can find beeswax in the following makeup products:

  • Lip balm
  • Natural lip gloss
  • Eyeliner
  • Lotions
  • Lipstick
  • Mascara
  • Blush
  • Eye shadows
  • Deodorants
  • Depilatories

Beeswax Is Used For Pharmaceutical Purposes

Beeswax is used in drugs, pills, and capsules for pharmaceutical purposes. However, it’s also common in salves and ointments due to its binding agent, consistency, time-release mechanism, and carrier properties of the drug.

Many soft gelatin capsules and tablet coatings contain E901, a beeswax glazing agent.

Beeswax Wood Finish

Beeswax wood polish of wood finish is a safe, natural wood finish that effortlessly brings out the true essence of wooden furniture pieces.

Beeswax is an effective alternative to synthetic and toxic varnishes and lacquers. In fact, beeswax deems one of the best furniture or floor waxing options.

Beeswax Reusable Food Wraps

Beeswax reusable food wraps are a sustainable and environmentally responsible way to keep food fresh for longer without using environmentally harmful plastic bags or cling wrap.

Super cute and eco-friendly!

Beeswax In Food Preparation

In food preparation, beeswax serves as an effective coating for cheese. The wax coating seals out the air, protecting the cheese against spoilage and mold growth.

Beeswax is a common food additive that acts as a glazing agent, preventing water loss and providing surface protection for fruit. Beeswax is also a prevalent ingredient of natural chewing gum.

Waxed Sewing Threads

Waxed threads are standard threads with a beeswax coating. It is typically used for hand sewing projects like:

  • Basket weaving
  • Beads
  • Bracelets
  • Rosaries
  • Pouches

The coating stiffens the threads, making them less stretchy and more water and mildew-resistant.

Conclusion

Beeswax has been commonly used since prehistory, with an array of nearly endless uses. In addition, the fantastic benefits of beeswax make it a prevalent ingredient in many natural household and cosmetic products.

Are you convinced of the fantastic nature of beeswax? We hope that this overview gives you a little more knowledge about the fascinating lives of honeybees.

Resources

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeswax

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-305/beeswax#:~:text=Beeswax%20might%20help%20lower%20cholesterol,%2Dinflammatory%20drugs%20(NSAIDs).

https://www.newdirectionsaromatics.com/blog/products/all-about-beeswax.html

Author

Theo The Beekeeper

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep bees around the small farm we had, and I absolutely loved helping him. In the past few years, we’ve picked up the hobby again, and I’ve been doing a lot more research. This website is the accumulation of things I’ve learned along the way! You can learn more about my journey and the resources I’ve developed on my about page.

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