The Origin of Wax
Wax is secreted by young bees of thirteen to eighteen days old. It is produced from glands just under the surface of the bee’s stomach, where it appears and detaches in little flakes. Waxing bees make a chain to carry the wax to the “mason” bees : the flakes are passed along a line of bees until it reaches the work area, where it is used to make the honeycombs. Contrary to popular understanding, bees do not consciously build hexagons. It is the placement of other wax cells around it that end up forming the specific shape. The cells all begin as circles.
The beeswax forms a protective casing for young bees and larvae, and all the hive’s foodstocks (pollen, honey, royal jelly). Every colony lives amongst the wax honeycombs and their hairs, the communicative organs of the bees, are constantly shining from the environmental pommade of the hive.
Wax is undeniably a fundamental building block of the hive, made directly in the stomachs of bees. The transformation of sugar into wax is an extraordinary ability, which demands a lot of energy but does not result in any negative environmental impact. It is very precious as a result of this high intensity production, and is regularly recycled in the hive.
The Composition of Wax
The composition of wax is comprised of a complex mix (more than 300 different molecules) of alcoholic esters, fatty and free acids, sugars, traces of propolis, pollen, natural plant pigments and volatile elements that give it its unique smell. Beeswax is also rich in vitamin A.
We harvest the separated wax after opening the honeycombs for honey collection. Black wax and yellow wax are both obtained by pressing or melting the empty honeycombs, or by leaving them in a solar wax melter. The quality of the wax depends on the flower source and the absence of chemicals, as well as on the methods used to collect it. If the beekeeper has chemically treated their hive, the residues are concentrated in the wax.
Property and Uses of Wax
Beeswax softens and nourishes skin. It is used to heal dry, damaged, and problematic skin, including stretch marks and cracking (as found in our Pommade de Secours and Sensitive Skin Cream). Its anti-inflammatory action also relieves the symptoms of rheumatism. As well, wax works against bacteria like samonella. Wax used in cosmetics and apitherapy usually comes from the honey extraction process. Sculptors use wax with propolis content that come from other parts of the hive. Wax is used to make wound dressings, suppositories, creams, balms, lipsticks, face masks, candles, doll heads, chewing gums, rustproofing products, artistic moulds, carpentry products, etc. For cosmetic use, it mixes well and easily with propolis.
Bees are constantly building new honeycomb. Honeycombs can be used by thousands and thousands of bees over two or three years. This eventually begins to leave a taint from propolis and the remnants of cocoons leftover after birthing; this darkens the wax to a nearly black color if left long enough. It is used to make remarkable cosmetic products because of its propolis content.
Yellow wax comes from the wax cells that hold honey. Its color, smell, and texture vary according to the plants used for harvest by the bees.
Sealing wax is very special: when bees have finished filling a cell with honey, they cap it with a bit of this wax, to which a natural conserving enzyme is added by a bee, possibly venom. This fresh sealing wax is very stimulating for the skin. It is very handy for making sensitive skin creams.
Beeswax can whiten from exposure to the sun. This traditional whitening process allows for the fabrication of snow white candles and creams. It is used in many skin creams.