Honeybees use the beeswax to build honey comb cells in which the young are raised and honey and pollen are stored. For the wax-making bees to secrete wax the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36 C (91 to 97 F). Approximately eight pounds of honey is consumed by bees to produce one pound of beeswax (8 kg/kg). Estimates are that bees fly 150,000 miles to yield this one pound of beeswax (530,000 km/kg). When beekeepers go to extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell. Its color varies from yellowish-white to brownish depending on purity and the type of flowers gathered by the bees. Wax from the brood comb of the honeybee hive tends to be darker than wax from the honey comb. Impurities accumulate more quickly in the brood comb. Due to the impurities, the wax has to be rendered before further use. The leftovers are called slumgum.
The wax may further be clarified by heating in water and may then be used for candles or as a lubricant for drawers and windows or as a wood polish. As with petroleum waxes it may be softened by dilution with vegetable oil to make it more workable at room temperature, whence it may be used to create sculpture and jewelry models for use in the lost wax casting process.
It is a tough wax formed from a mixture of several compounds including: hydrocarbons 14%, monoesters 35%, diesters 14%, triesters 3%, hydroxy monoesters 4%, hydroxy polyesters 8%, acid esters 1%, acid polyesters 2%, free acids 12%, free alcohols 1%, unidentified 6%
The main components of beeswax are palmitate, palmitoleate, hydroxypalmitate and oleate esters of long-chain (30-32 carbons) aliphatic alcohols, with the ratio of triacontanylpalmitate CH3(CH2)29O-CO-(CH2)14CH3 to cerotic acid CH3(CH2)24COOH, the two principal components, being 6:1.
Beeswax has a high melting point range, of 62 to 64 C (144 to 147 F). It does not boil in air, but continues to heat until it bursts into flame at around 120 C (250 F). If beeswax is heated above 85 C (185 F) discoloration occurs. Density at 15 C is 0.958 to 0.970 g/cm3.
Bee wax can be classified generally into European and Oriental types. The ratio of saponification value is lower (3-5) for European beeswax, and higher (8-9) for Oriental types.
Hydroxyoctacosanyl hydroxystearate can be used as a beeswax substitute as a consistency regulator and emulsion stabilizer. Japan wax is another substitute.
Uses as a product
Beeswax is used commercially
It is also used as a coating for cheese, to protect the food as it ages. While some cheesemakers have replaced it with plastic, many still use beeswax in order to avoid any unpleasant flavours that may result from plastic.
The burning characteristics beeswax candles differ from those of paraffin. Beeswax has negative ionization, which binds particulate matter to clear the air. A beeswax candle flame has a "warmer," more yellow color than that of paraffin, and the color of the flame may vary depending on the season in which the wax was harvested.
Beeswax is also an ingredient in moustache wax, and was used in the manufacturing of the cylinders used by the earliest phonographs.
Beeswax has been used since ancient times; traces of it were found in the paintings in the Lascaux cave and in Egyptian mummies. Ancient Egyptians used it in shipbuilding as well. In the Roman period, beeswax was used as waterproofing agent for painted walls and as medium for the Fayum mummy portraits. In the Middle Ages beeswax was considered valuable enough to become a form
Other useful herb information: Caraway | Crataegus | Kelp | Ginkgo | Cardamom | Activated Charcoal | Resveratrol
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