Text Box: Beeswax

 

The Story of Beeswax

Pure beeswax is secreted in the form of tiny fish scale-like discs by four pair of glands separating the abdomen segments in 12-18 day old worker (female) honey bees. The bee rakes the wax disc off with combs on one hind leg and passes it to the front two legs (yes, the bee is now standing on three of its six legs) which move it  to the strong jaws. The jaws chew it into malleable wax which the bees use to build their amazingly light and strong honeycomb -- cells where the young are reared and where pollen and honey are stored. Wax production is incredibly energy-taxing --  bees must consume eight ounces of honey for each ounce of wax they make.

Modern day engineers and architects marvel at the perfection of the hexagon shaped wax cells with the 110 and 70 degree angles. This design is the strongest, most efficient for maximum storage, and the perfect angles for cradling the young larvae.

Beeswax has been used since ancient times: traces were found in paintings in the Lascaux cave and in Egyptian mummies. It was also used in shipbuilding. Romans used it as a waterproofing agent for painted walls. It was so valuable in the Middle Ages that beeswax became a form of currency.

Today 60% of beeswax is used by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. The Catholic Church uses beeswax candles extensively – it has a warmer, yellow glow than paraffin and burns cleanly with little or no drippings or smoke. Beeswax is also used as a coating for cheese, a main ingredient in moustache and dreadlock wax, and as the sealing agent between slates in pool table tops. It’s even an essential ingredient in the material used to clean up oil tanker spills!

Around the house beeswax is great for keeping wooden drawers gliding and sliding nicely. Try putting it on screw threads and you’ll have a much easier time getting them out; and they’ll hold better while they are screwed in. Shoe laces keep coming untied?? Run the laces along the beeswax block and they’ll stay tied all day long.  Smell it and have sweet dreams of the hive, the bees and their honey.

 

Or check the This Old House website’s “10 Uses For Beeswax.”

 

 

 

 

Wax being secreted from glands in abdomen of worker honey bee.