How bees make beeswax
Precious golden beeswax is produced by bees for the purpose of creating the perfect hexagonal wax combs on which they live, and which form an integral part of their life cycle. The wax is made in the wax glands that every worker bee has in her body - the wax is made in very thin scales on 8 chitin platelets at the bottom of the body. These platelets form narrow tray-like moulds, onto which the wax is secreted and allowed to harden. Each wax scale requires several laminations before it can be used to construct comb. An individual beeswax scale weighs only 1.1 mg so that about 910,000 are necessary for 1 kilo of wax.
Newly made wax is pure white in colour, and only achieves the familiar golden colour as the wax is infused with honey, pollen, and propolis. This natural infusion of the wax with the powerful healing properties of anti-sceptic honey, nutrient rich pollen, and anti-viral, anti-bacteria and anti-fungal propolis, is one of the main reasons why it is so uniquely good in caring for our skin. Producing the wax is a huge energy investment on the part of the bees and they use the wax very sparingly. One gram of wax will serve for the construction of 20 square centimetres of comb.
Propolis is a powerful protective substance, which shields beeswax from ever going bad. Propolis is made by bees by combining tree resin with wax flakes and pollen. Also called ‘bee glue’, propolis is used to used fix and strengthen the beehive while protecting the hive with an antiseptic barrier – the name propolis comes from the Greek meaning “defense of the city.” These protective qualities are so effective that unspoilt beeswax has even been found in ancient tombs.
How bees use beeswax
Honey combs are built with amazing precision in the familiar hexagonal shaped cell that ensures optimum comb strength for the amount of beeswax used in the construction. The majority of the cells are called worker cells, these are where the queen bee lays her eggs for worker bees. When the brood cycle has been completed these cells are also used for the storage of honey and pollen. Each hexagonal cell is 5 to 6 millimetres in diameter and are about 0.25 mm in thick. The hexagonal beeswax combs are immensely strong – 100 grams of wax comb can carry the weight of over 2.5 kilos of honey.
Bees in a natural colony will not use beeswax comb indefinitely. Over time the wax becomes a haven for impurities, dirt from bees walking over the combs, and bacterial, fungal, and viral disease pathogens. When bees consider wax comb to be no longer suitable, they will abandon the comb and stop using it - this is usually done after about 3 years. Bees have a symbiotic relationship with a type of moth called a wax moth. Wax moths feed on the abandoned comb and will remove it entirely leaving a new clean space for the bees to build new comb. In this way a beehive slowly moves around the hollow space (eg a tree) in which the hive is located. In a well-managed bee-hive following natural beekeeping principles this wax comb replacement is facilitated by the beekeeper, who rotates the frames of beeswax so that each year wax is removed, and new empty frames are placed in the hives. Flying Wild beehives are managed to follow the natural cycle of the bees, and no wax in the hives is older than 3 years.
Why use organic beeswax?
Beeswax acts like a sponge for chemicals in the hive. Whether these are the beneficial and healing plant extracts gathered by the bees or the agri-chemicals used by many beekeepers – if you are looking for residues of all these chemicals, then look in the beeswax.
Organic beeswax, or beeswax from hives where no agri-chemicals are used, is free from the residues of these aggressive toxic chemicals. This beeswax only contains the natural infusions of honey, propolis and pollen. Flying Wild beehives are chemical-free – the bees are kept using only natural methods of diseases and pest control, that work with the life-cycle of the bees. With the use of these natural methods hive threats, such as the varroa mite, are effectively controlled.
Organic beeswax is produced by melting the wax using hot water, steam, or sunlight (with a solar wax extractor). The melting point of beeswax is 63c. When the wax has become liquid it is filtered several times to remove impurities and allowed to set. After this process the wax is ready for use. The colour of beeswax can vary according to the types of plants the bees are foraging on and the pollen and tree resins they are collecting. If these are very darkly coloured, then the beeswax will also be darker. As such the colour of organic beeswax can vary, ranging from pale yellow to yellowish brown in colour. If the wax is very dark, it is sometimes allowed to bleach in the sun for several days, which serves to lighten the colour of the wax.
Non-organic beeswax is produced by melting the wax in the same way as organic beeswax. After this the similarity ends. Sulfuric acid, oxalic acid, or citric acid are all used in the removal of impurities. Following this the wax is bleached to a uniform colour using hydrogen peroxide. This treatment of the wax with harsh chemicals destroys many of the beneficial properties that come from the beeswax being infused with honey, pollen and propolis.
Beeswax in Flying Wild balms
Organic beeswax is a key ingredient in Flying Wild balms for reflexology. Working together with organic cocoa and shea butter, it is beeswax that gives Flying Wild balms the perfect balance of grip, control, and slip for your reflexology treatments. Beeswax helps lock in moisture and works with the other ingredients to create a non-greasy balm. A balm that nourishes, softens, conditions and moisturizes your client’s skin, while keeping your hands in perfect condition for your reflexology treatments.