Published: 10/29/2014 - Updated: 03/08/2020
Author: Dra. Loredana Lunadei, PhD
Waxes are insoluble substances in watery mediums that become solid and hard at room temperature. Beeswax is a product of the hive which is secreted by bees between 12 and 18 days old by the wax glands located between their seventh and ninth abdominal segment. Bees use this wax to form their nests and to construct hexagonal cells in their combs, which are already built rigidly and efficiently. These wax honeycombs and where the bees preserve their honey and pollen, and it is also where the queen deposits her eggs. The new bees grow inside. In order to produce 1 kilo of wax, the worker bees must consume between six and seven kilos of honey.
Composition of beeswax
Like all natural substances, the composition of beeswax is very variable and complex. Pure wax from Apis mellifera, for example, is made up of at least 284 different compounds, of which not all have been identified, and near 111 of them are volatile. Around 48 compounds contribute to the wax’s smell. Quantitatively, the major compounds are saturated and unsaturated monoesters, diesters, saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, and hydroxy polyesters.
Characteristics of beeswax
Virgin wax is white and is gathered immediately after being secreted, produced and formed. As it is used up and as it spends time in the honeycomb, it turns a darker color due to incorporation and mixture with pollen, propolis, molting, and anatomical remains.
Melting point is not always constant for wax, as composition varies slightly depending on its origin. However, the melting point in different waxes ranges between 61 and 66 degrees Celcius.
Wax is an inert material with high plasticity at relatively low temperatures (near 32 degrees C). Beeswax is also water insoluble and resistant to several acids, but it is more soluble than the majority of organic solvents like ether, benzene, benzyl, chloroform, etc., and after heating, in alcohol and fatty acids.
Uses of beeswax
The majority of products from the hive, like honey and propolis, are destined for consumption. Beeswax, however, is also used in making numerous amount of cosmetic products, although the vast majority of it is recycled by the honey making industry and then returned to the hives.
A few of the wonders that beeswax possesses are:
- Wax contains 68 times more vitamins than red meat.
- Used to produce candles.
- Has healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Is an excellent emollient, which is why it is used in cosmetics for making all types of skin products, like creams, scrubs, poultices, lip liner, astringents, masks, facials, soaps, etc.
- Helps soften hard tumors.
- Beeswax is rich in vitamin A. 100 grams of beeswax contains 4096 IU’s (International Units), 3300 of which are vitamin A.
- Helps whiten skin.
- Chewing wax cleans and strengthens gums and eliminates dental calculi and nicotine concentrations in smokers.
- Chewing a piece of wax with honey helps clean the nasopharynx and is a recommended remedy for sinusitis, asthma, and hay fever.
Quality and price of beeswax
Beeswax that is gathered could contain environmental contaminants, as well as contaminants from the beekeeper. Beeswax gets its value in part, by its purity and color. White or clear wax is more valuable than dark wax because dark wax could be contaminated or over climatized.
The finest or most expensive wax is extracted from the layers of wax that bees cover their honey with once it is ready. This new what is pure and white, pollen gives in a yellow color.
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Along with honey and other hive produces, international prices for this product have raised due to worldwide contamination of beeswax, that is happening more and more every day, primarily due to the usage of products to control Varroa mites.
One must also be careful that the wax is not adulterated with any other ingredients, and that it is pure. A few of the products that could potentially adulterate wax are: paraffin additives, fats, stearin, resins, starches and flours.
Preservation of beeswax
Beeswax does not deteriorate over time; beekeepers can even collect it and store it until amassing sufficient amounts to sell. Storage does not require special containers.
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