Honeybees are considered one of the most famous types of bees. Bees are blessed with one of the most amazing qualities. Honeybees received this recognition due to their ability to make honey and beeswax. An estimate suggests that one out of every three bites of food you take is possible because of the bees’ unique ability to pollinate.
People are often aware of honey, the delicious and sweet food material, which in itself is full of nutrition, health benefits, and much more. However, very few of us know about beeswax. Even most people have not heard of it before. So, let’s first understand few things about beeswax.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a type of natural wax. The honeybees make this wax of the genus Apis. The unique production structure of beeswax involves the formation of scales. Eight wax-producing glands form these wax into scales in the worker bees’ abdominal segment. The bees afterward discard it into the hives.
Bees use beeswax for constructing the combs where they raise young bees and store both honey and pollen. However, the details are also discussed in the following paragraphs.
Which Bees are Considered Best Wax Producers?
For producing beeswax, bees need some specialized qualities. The female worker bees are mainly in charge of wax production. However, worker bees with the age of blow 18 days are considered the best wax producers in a hive. Workers above that age limit have a lower capability of producing wax. Higher the age of worker bees lowers their ability to produce beeswax.
How is Beeswax Made?
The production of beeswax has a comparatively complex process. The abdominal area of bees contains eight special types of glands. These glands help in producing beeswax. The wax, when it first comes out, it is colorless and brittle. The glands start atrophying after 18 days.
After completing this period, the bees, with the help of their legs, start moving wax from their abdomen to their mouth. When the wax comes into their mouths, they start chewing it. Bees add their saliva to soften the wax. The color of wax starts changing during this process after beeswax picks up propolis, pollen, and honey.
The bees consume the honey that they collected from flower nectar. This consumed honey is further used in producing beeswax. The bees have to ingest around 6-8 pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax.
How Bees Produce Beeswax?
After the bees form wax through honey and the glands in their abdominal area, the bees then secrets the beeswax glands through the small pores. Afterward, when the wax is exposed to the air, the wax starts getting hard. The appearance of wax resembles the tiny and transparent scales on the abdominal area of bees.
After the bees chew and process the wax through their salivary secretions, the wax turns its color into white. During this process, the wax starts becoming pliable and soft. When the wax gets soft, it becomes suitable for constructing a bee’s comb. Moreover, the intensity and ability of beeswax to soften also depend upon the temperature. Higher temperature softens the wax, while in the lower temperature, the wax begins to get harder.
In colder seasons, the honeybees use their body heat to maintain the ideal temperature in the hive. The unique ability of honeybees to use their body heat for maintaining the hive’s temperature makes the environment highly suitable for the production of wax. The ideal temperature for the production of wax is around 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Bees Make Honeycombs Using Wax?
The hind legs of bees have stiff hairs. After the bees harden the wax, the female worker bees use those stiff hairs and start scraping their abdomen’s wax. Using the hairs, the bees pass the wax to their middle legs and afterward to their mandibles.
After the wax reaches their mouth, they start chewing it unless the wax gets pliable. Then, the bees transform the wax into hexagonal-shaped cells. Further, these cells are used for making the honeycomb of their colonies. Moreover, for measuring the thickness of wax, worker bees use their mouths while building honeycombs. This helps them identify what amount of wax do the bees need in honeycomb making.
How do Bees Change the Color of Beeswax?
As stated above, in the beginning, the color of beeswax is brittle. However, the color changes gradually. When the beeswax is produced at the beginning, it comprises cylinders with a hexagon shape. It is almost colorless and glass clear. But with time, worker bees start including propolis, honey, and pollen in the wax. When the wax combines with these items, it begins transforming its color.
After the combination, the color varies. Sometimes, the resultant wax has a brownish color, while other colors might also be red, yellow, black, and orange. If not the actual colors, the wax will have shades of these colors.
Does Different Colors Mean Different Qualities?
When people hear about this difference in beeswax colors, they often question the quality of each color. However, the differences in colors have nothing to do with the quality of this beeswax. No matter if the wax has yellow, brown, red, orange, or even black color, the implication and quality of all of them will be the same.
Moreover, people also use some formulas and techniques to remove the colors of beeswax. As for making commercial white beeswax, the companies do not use any chemicals. However, the color is naturally removed through various filtration processes that do not involve chemicals.
What is Beeswax Used for?
Beeswax is one of the essential commodities. It has plenty of uses. Beekeepers harvest the beeswax like the honey and then sell it further. Afterward, the wax is used for various purposes. Some uses of beeswax are discussed in the paragraphs below.
One major use of beeswax is found in the cosmetics industry. Beeswax contains antibacterial agents that are highly beneficial for the skin. Companies worldwide use wax for making various items, including lip balms, lotions, sunscreen, makeup, baby products, and more. Companies mix beeswax with various items, including some chemicals and colors, to make cosmetics usable. The lotions made of beeswax are famous for making skin soft, keeping it hydrated, and forming a protective layer.
Another use of beeswax is found in making candles. This is the most common and oldest use of beeswax. Beeswax has been used for making candles since the 6th century. Now companies have started mixing various chemicals to transform the formula and make better forms of candles. They have also introduced some varieties in it.
Coating by Cheesemakers
You have not heard of it before, but beeswax is also used by cheesemakers while producing cheese. The manufacturers use beeswax as a coating. The unique characteristics of beeswax prevent spoilage. That’s why the manufacturers use it to maintain the quality of cheese and save it from getting spoiled to make it usable for longer durations.
Beeswax is also used for treating various illnesses by doctors around the world. Some doctors also recommend beeswax for curing the small tear in anal fissures. They suggest mixing it with olive oil and honey, and apply it to the affected area for relieving pain, itching, and even bleeding.
Moreover, it is also used for treating swelling inside the mouth. Mix it with honey and olive oil and apply it to the rea to reduce the swelling. Some people also recommend using beeswax for curing diarrhea, hiccups, stomach ulcers, high cholesterol levels, and much more.
Other Benefits of Beeswax
Along with having a lot of uses, beeswax also has some other benefits. Beeswax is equipped with moisturizing components. It can lock moisture that helps in making skin plump and firm. Additionally, it also has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy qualities that heal the skin and soothe it. The beeswax forms a protective layer on the skin that saves skin from all types of damages, especially during extreme weather conditions.
Another benefit of beeswax is its ability to promote hair growth. Along with moisturizing hair, beeswax also results in growing hair while reducing hair fall.
- More: How Do Bees See Flowers?
Beeswax is the second most beneficial commodity received from bees. The incredible qualities of honeybees make them exceptional in all ways; the best example is the beeswax used in various items, from something as minor as making candles to something highly useful in medical applications. This makes honeybees one of the essential parts of human life.
If you look around, honeybees’ contribution to human life through both honey and wax is exceptional. It can’t be replaced or compared to other bees, not in any way.