20 Fascinating Facts about Beeswax

Beeswax is produced by honeybees to construct cells in which they raise their brood and store honey and pollen. It has been used for a variety of applications for thousands of years. I’m sure you’ve seen many images of honeycomb throughout the years, but have you ever stopped to think about how complex and fascinating beeswax really is?

Beeswax plays a very important role in the honeybee colony, but it’s also been used by humans for thousands of years, in many different applications. Read through the beeswax facts listed below to gain a new appreciation for beeswax.

  1. Young worker bees (between 12 and 20 days old) are the main producers of beeswax. They have 8 wax producing glands on their abdomen. Those glands secrete wax in thin sheets called scales. It takes about 1,100 scales to make one gram of wax.
  2. To produce 1 pound of beeswax, bees must consume 6 – 8 pounds of honey. Considering how much work goes into making honey, that means that beeswax is a valuable commodity.
  3. For the wax-making bees to secrete wax, the ambient temperature in the hive must be 91 to 97 °F. On cooler days bees achieve the right temperature by clustering around the wax producing bees when they are building comb.
  4. Beeswax starts off as clear and colorless, but becomes opaque after chewing and the addition of pollen, honey, and propolis.
  5. Bees reuse old comb by chewing it off and placing it elsewhere.
  6. The size of the bee’s wax glands depends on it’s age. After many flights, these glands begin to atrophy.
  7. Most commercial wax is made from cappings. Cappings are the new, thin layer of wax that bees place over their completed honey. Beekeepers must remove the cappings in order to harvest honey.
  8. There are three main types of beeswax – yellow, white, and beeswax absolute. Yellow beeswax is raw beeswax. White beeswax is yellow beeswax that has been bleached lighter. Beeswax absolute is yellow beeswax that has been treated with alcohol.
  9. Beeswax never goes bad, but over time it gets a powder called bloom on it. Bloom is a natural process of the oils rising to the surface. While bloom does not affect the way a beeswax candle burns, it is easily removed by rubbing with a soft cloth, or by blowing on them gently with a hair dryer.
  10. Honeycomb, the hexagonal cells constructed from beeswax, is edible. The raw honey contained in honeycomb is rich in enzymes and antioxidants. Beeswax contains long-chain fatty acids and alcohols which may boost heart health.
  11. Beeswax is often used in skincare products because it provides the skin protection, while remaining breathable. Irritated skin can benefit from beeswax as it is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.
  12. Ancient Egyptians had many uses for beeswax. It was used in mummification and to seal coffins. Ancient writings were also preserved on papyrus and on cave walls using beeswax.
  13. As far back as 2,000 years ago, the Chinese used beeswax medicinally and for wound treatment. The Shennong Book of Herbs, a famous Chinese medicinal book praises beeswax for it’s many health and beauty benefits.
  14. European churches have used beeswax candles since the beginning of Christianity. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church only allowed 100% beeswax candles to be used in the church.
  15. The pysanka, a Ukrainian Easter egg, uses beeswax for it’s wax-resist method of decorating. Designs are drawn on with beeswax and then painted, resulting in beautiful, detailed eggs.
  16. Beeswax is used as a natural cover for cheeses. It works well because of it’s low melting point.
  17. Old furniture, sliding doors, and stuck windows and drawers could all benefit from beeswax, as it is an effective wood lubricant.
  18. Beeswax crayons are great for young children because they are natural, non-toxic, and more durable than regular crayons.
  19. The first cosmetic cream was created in in 150 B.C., by Greek physician, Galen of Pergamon . It was made of beeswax, olive oil, and water.
  20. In recent studies, beeswax has shown antibacterial activity against several bacterial strains.

While honey may get all the attention of bee products, don’t overlook beeswax. Bees put so much work into making beeswax. It’s also amazing how many uses there are for it. From it’s health benefits, food, hobby, and every day applications, beeswax is certainly a gift. These beeswax facts are just the beginning of the many ways beeswax can be used.