A Simple Guide To Beeswax Production
Beeswax is one of the 6 natural ingredients used in the composition of our all-day cream. We love it because it is a non-toxic wax with proven dermatological and anti-bacterial properties. (1) It is great to moisturise and soothe the skin from inflammation like eczema and psoriasis. Beeswax also makes for a great base for our product.
However, using beeswax means that our product is not vegan. With this article, we want to dive deep into what beeswax production implies. We want to be transparent and show you that using beeswax has its benefit - without impacting the bees.
Let's dive in.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honey bees, usually from the bee family of Genus Apis. Essentially, beeswax forms the combs of an entire hive. The waxy combs within the hives are used to store honey, nectar, and pollen.
Beeswax mainly consists of fatty acids and natural alcohol. It is formed into the bee's abdomen, then placed on the hive. (2) The pollen within it gives it its golden yellow colour. Beeswax is often used in beauty products because its substance is incredibly stable, no matter the temperature variation. It offers the bees a steady home to survive the summer heat and winter cold.
How Do Honey Bees Produce Beeswax?
Bees secrete beeswax to build, repair, and recycle the combs that make up the hive. However, not all bees are creating beeswax. In a colony, there are 3 types of bees: The queen, the drone, and the workers. Their job will vary depending on their type.
The queen reproduces with the help of the drone - or male bees. The workers are sterile female bees who maintain the hive. They feed the population, gather supply, and create beeswax. (3)
The worker bees develop a special wax-producing gland in their abdomen. This gland converts the pollen's sugar into the wax. The bees have to consume pollen for 5 to 6 days in order to produce wax. After that, they chew the wax to make it malleable and mould it into a new comb.
How is Beeswax Harvested?
The harvesting of beeswax is done by a professional beekeeper. At Sun & Earth, we work closely with a local beekeeper based in northern NSW. His role in beeswax harvest involves several steps. (4)
First, the beekeeper has to remove the wax cappings attached to the frame of his hive. While most of the honey will stay in the frame, some of it will come off with the wax capping. The beekeeper has to put the cappings in a bucket to separate the excess honey from the wax. Once the wax is drained, it can be melted and used.
Does harvesting beeswax impact the bees?
It's important to be aware that bees do not create beeswax first and foremost for humans. As we touched on, bees use their wax to build, repair, and recycle their home. This process requires hard work, so the idea of beeswax harvest is a controversial one.
The over-use of the hive - for both honey and beeswax harvest - has proven to be harmful to the bees. Essentially, when their habitats are overly stripped-down to meet humans' needs, the bees over-worked to rebuild their habitat. Over time, this forces their population to decrease.
Yet, bees are essential in the healthy functioning of our planet. They pollinate a quarter of the world's species. Without them, there will be many fruit and vegetables we wouldn't have access to.
In Sydney, a Woolworth shop recently stripped its shelf bare for a day to raise awareness around the positive impact bees have in nourishing us. Any foods that the bees pollinate were gone from the shelves. (5)
So does that mean that harvesting impacts negatively the bees? Yes, but only when the harvest is not carried out sustainably.
Can beeswax be sustainable?
An unsustainable harvest of beeswax can impact the bees population. This is because those commercially-run harvests involve pesticides, mishandling, and genetically modified crops. Similar to any meat-based industry, the purpose of this system is to create a huge amount of beeswax. This compromises the quality of the beeswax and the bees' survival.
On the other hand, a sustainable harvest means that a beekeeper only gathers the excess beeswax produced by the bees. A sustainable harvest also implies that the bees create a hive in their natural habitats without pesticides and genetically modified crops. (6)
When a sustainable harvest is done, bees can benefit greatly from it as it allows them to fast-track their recycling process and build fresh honeycombs. A sustainable harvest doesn't strip the bees from their entire home, rather than support the process of cleaning it up.
So, should you make use of beeswax to wrap your food or moisturise your body? That decision is up to you. However, you can rest assured that using organic and sustainable beeswax will benefit you without impacting the bees.
At Sun & Earth, we source organic beeswax. Knowing that its production is clean and sustainable is important for us, both for the bees and the environmental perspective.
We would love to hear your thoughts on beeswax! Comment below or reach out to us on Instagram at @sun.and.earth.zinc