Is Beeswax Sustainable? Everything You Need to Know

Megan

Do you hear the buzz?

It is not merely a bee in the air. No, the real buzz is about beeswax and its potential in eco friendly living.

We live in a world that is always looking for the next best thing, but beeswax is proof that the best solutions do not have to be new.

In fact, beeswax has a long tradition, and many people are seeking to revive that tradition.

This is because beeswax is versatile.

Beeswax is also an eco friendly option.

Sound intriguing?

If you stick around for the article, we will cover the following points:

  • Properties of beeswax
  • Uses of beeswax
  • Sustainability of beeswax
  • Common questions about beeswax

The Basics of Beeswax

beeswax

In order to understand the power of beeswax as an eco friendly solution, you must first understand what it is. This starts with bees.

As the name suggests, beeswax is produced by bees. Beeswax is a byproduct of the bee’s normal work cycle.

As worker bees go about their business in the hive, beeswax is left behind. A closer look at the science can add some clarity.

The wax comes from bee glands. These glands are under the abdomen, which is why beeswax is left behind while the workers go about their duties.

Like most biological features, the wax does serve a purpose for the bees. The worker bees secrete the wax and then use it to build the honeycomb structure. In this way, beeswax is an essential part of the honeybee’s life.

Is Beeswax Bee Poop?

You may have heard people jokingly refer to wax as bee poop. Some people say the same thing about honey.

Neither fact is exactly true.

However, when you look at the facts, you can see why some people think that. As explained earlier, beeswax is a byproduct. It is excreted from the bee’s body because it is not needed inside the body.

This is exactly what a bowel movement does. A bowel movement moves waste out of the body.

In this way, there are clear parallels between beeswax and feces.

Still, for the bee, the process of producing beeswax is not the same as pooping. Scientists have studied bees extensively, which means their pooping habits are thoroughly documented.

Bee poop is actually sticky and yellow. Most notably, bees do not poop in the hive most of the time. Instead, they leave their mess outside in order to preserve the integrity of the hive.

As an interesting aside, bees are able to hold in their bowel movements while in the hive all winter. You are most likely to see bee poop near a hive. Bees will often leave a sticky mess around the hive in the spring and early summer.

The particulars of a bee’s bowel movements are distinctive, but they are not especially relevant to our exploration of beeswax. The key thing to remember is that beeswax is a byproduct of bees. It is not poop.

Is Beeswax the Same as Honey?

Both honey and beeswax have been important tools throughout most of human history. They both come from bees, which is why it is easy to get confused.

Nonetheless, beeswax is not the same as honey.

For bees, beeswax is a tool to make honey.

Honey, on the other hand, is really the endgame. Making honey is what the hive is all about.

This is because bees use honey the same way we use honey. It is a food source.

Instead of making only enough to eat right now, bees look to the future. Because bees are dormant in the winter, they need to stock up enough food to last. This is why honey is produced and stored in the hive. It is the colony’s personal stockpile.

Both beeswax and honey, therefore, are essential to the overall life cycle of the hive. However, beeswax is a means. Honey is the end.

The two are inextricably linked and quintessentially distinct.

Harvesting Beeswax

beekeeper harvesting beeswax honey

Looking at the way beeswax is made is important. It helps us understand what beeswax is.

However, beeswax is made inside the hive. How do we harvest it for ourselves?

The answer to that question is quite important. If beeswax is going to be considered eco friendly or sustainable, then it has to be gathered in a way that protects the bees and the integrity of the hive.

Fortunately, this is possible.

The key is tied to beekeeping. Beekeeping is the practice of storing and fostering a hive. By doing this, it is possible to collect honey and beeswax.

Trying to collect beeswax from a natural hive is quite difficult. Beekeepers design their hives to be accessible. They provide the bees with frames.

These frames allow the bees to start building the hive. The frames can be carefully extracted in order to harvest the honey and wax at appropriate times.

Once the frame is extracted, it must be processed. The cells of the frame should be filled with honey. These cappings can be cut off before the frames are further processed. This is where your beeswax will be.

When collecting the wax, it is important to separate it from any honey that may have collected as well. In order to separate the two, the cappings can simply be allowed to drain. This naturally separates the wax from the honey, and the two substances can be collected separately.

Special tools can be used in this process. Many beekeepers line the bottom of their processing tanks with mesh to catch any excess. Using this kind of mesh can allow the honey to pass through and catch the wax.

The best beeswax is found in these cappings. There is also a significant amount of honey.

While collecting wax, it is important to take precautions to protect its integrity. First, this process should be completed away from the hive. Second, the wax must be cleaned and frozen in order to destroy any wax moths or other contaminates.

Fresh wax has many uses, but it will attract pests if left exposed and undeveloped. Therefore, wax is generally processed and purified for human usage.

Beeswax Applications

beeswax applications wax candles honey

Beeswax is a powerful substance because of its sheer versatility. Scientifically speaking, beeswax is made of at least 284 compounds. One key characteristic of the substance is that it is not soluble in water. This stability in water has given birth to a wide range of uses.

Some applications for beeswax date back to antiquity. However, new uses are being discovered all the time.

Historical Uses

There is plenty of historical evidence regarding the use of beeswax. Beeswax is documented in Egyptian society. Ancient Egyptians notably used beeswax during the mummification process, and it was also used to preserve papyrus scrolls or paintings. It was even used for making figures or objects of worship.

The Egyptians were not alone. Other ancient civilizations also leveraged beeswax to their advantage. Persians used it in embalming while Romans made death masks and effigies. In Greek mythology, wax was used in the story of Icarus in order to fasten wings to his body. Icarus’ story took a tragic turn when the wax melted as he flew too close to the sun.

It was not just the gods in Greek society. Beeswax was used to make artificial flowers, jewelry molds and paintings. It was even used medicinally, being commonly recommended as a cooling ointment.

Additional uses included making seals, writing tablets and more. There is evidence that some ancient people even used beeswax to line their pots for waterproofing.

Beeswax was also used by the ancient Iranians, Chinese and more. These more creative uses were only supplemental. Beeswax has always been most traditionally used for candles. In fact, in the early Christian church, it was explicitly stated that only beeswax candles could be used in the sanctuary.

Medical Uses

Although there have been historical medical applications for beeswax, modern medicine has not overlooked its potential either. In particular, medical experts have looked into beeswax for topical applications.

Much of the research is still early, but the results are worth notice. One study examined the potential of beeswax for hemorrhoids or anal fissures. The wax was combined with other natural ointments. Patients in the study had less pain and bleeding after usage.

Similar treatments have been developed for atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. These skin disorders can cause itching, pain and discomfort. In another study, the majority of patients were able to improve their skin symptoms within two weeks.

The most common way most people use beeswax for their health is through lotions and balms. In fact, one study showed that beeswax was an ideal ingredient for lipsticks and lip balms. Beeswax can be used for natural remedies for chapped lips, dry skin and more common maladies.

The applications do not stop there. There is evidence that beeswax can be used as an effective treatment for burns. Data suggests that it can be a diaper rash treatment.

Additional uses are delineated by major medical sources:

  • Ringworm
  • Mouth sores
  • Jock itch
  • Fungal skin infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Cholesterol
  • Stomach ulcers

Ongoing research will explore the viability of beeswax in additional medical contexts.

Other Uses for Beeswax

lips lipbalm beeswax

For centuries, people have found creative uses for beeswax. With modern ingenuity, the other applications of beeswax continue to multiply.

Just consider all the household contexts where beeswax might be useful. It can be a powerful tool in home maintenance:

  • Lubrication: Beeswax is safe and effective to use when lubricating drawers or windows. It can also be used on nuts and screws that have otherwise become stuck.
  • Wood care: Beeswax can be safely applied to wood surfaces. When applied to wood, the wax can provide a sealing coat and polish. It can be applied to everything from exposed wood beams to cutting boards.
  • Metal preservation: It is also possible to provide protection to metal elements in your home. It is particularly effective with bronze surfaces, protecting against oxidation. Beeswax can also be used to seal your copper sink in an effort to maintain a patina finish.
  • Leather care: You can also use beeswax to waterproof your leather. When beeswax is combined with tallow and neatsfoot oil, you can create a mixture for your work boots and more.

With any of these solutions, the beeswax should be prepared in the correct way. In some cases, it must be warmed up and mixed with other ingredients.

Before you use beeswax in your home, do your research first. You may be surprised to find just how many places you can use it.

Is Natural Beeswax Edible?

Natural beeswax is safe and organic. It can usually be consumed without negative side effects according to medical experts.

Some people take beeswax orally in order to treat high cholesterol. However, this association has not been thoroughly proven in scientific literature so far. More research is needed.

There are other ways to ingest beeswax. In fact, it is sometimes used in the preparation of other foods and drinks. This is because beeswax can be an effective stiffening agent.

Despite the fact that natural beeswax is edible, its most common applications are topical. In other words, you are more likely to spread beeswax across your skin than to put it in your mouth.

This is not a question of safety but an issue of efficacy. There are simply more proven topical uses for natural beeswax.

As a final note on the topic, before consuming any beeswax, you must ensure that it is natural. There are now synthetic beeswax alternatives.

Synthetic beeswax is made from various fatty acids and alcohols. The composition of synthetic beeswax is made to be identical to natural beeswax.

There is no set recipe for synthetic beeswax, which means the ingredients may vary. Therefore, the safety of each variation will vary as well.

For example, some synthetic beeswax may contain lanolin. Lanolin is a sheep byproduct. Because of this, not all synthetic beeswax is vegan, and you may not want to use it or consume it.

If you plan on consuming your beeswax, it is best to choose only pure, natural beeswax. That is the safest option for your overall health.

The Sustainability of Beeswax

It is clear that beeswax is a versatile product. Versatility is not the only consideration. Given the environmental concerns facing the modern world, sustainability must also be considered.

This is where beeswax really stands out from the competition.

Beeswax is entirely sustainable.

This obviously applies to beeswax in its natural form. Synthetic beeswax would have its own considerations. This is true of other types of waxes such as paraffin wax.

In order to understand the sustainability of beeswax, think back to the way it is produced. Beeswax is a natural byproduct. The bees make it on their own. All we have to do is harvest it.

Unlike many other crops, beeswax can also be harvested in completely safe and environmentally friendly ways. In fact, harvesting beeswax is actually beneficial to the bees and their colonies.

This is due to the fact that bees like to have fresh honeycomb for laying eggs. Until the old honeycomb with its wax is harvested, the bees will not be as productive. Therefore, harvesting the wax is a part of the natural life cycle of the bee.

Moreover, the sustainability of beeswax is also a matter of comparison. This is due to the fact that beeswax is often an apt alternative to many less sustainable products on the market.

One example of this is clingfilm or plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is used to keep food fresh, but the plastic is very bad for the environment. One of the best green alternatives is beeswax wraps or paper.

Beeswax wraps are very good for a wide range of foods, and they are very durable in the fridge or freezer. Beeswax wraps are notably better than plastic wrap because they are fully recyclable and biodegradable.

Is Beeswax Organic?

This article has discussed how beeswax can be natural or synthetic. However, there are other distinctions to consider when looking at beeswax. It is also a question of how organic the wax may be.

While many beekeepers use minimal chemicals or pesticides, there is still a question about the bees. After all, bees do not stay in the hive all the time. The beekeeper would never be able to dictate where the bees fly off to during the day.

Accordingly, bees travel anywhere between a half mile and 8 miles from the hive. During that time, the bee could come into contact with any number of plants. Many of these plants could be treated with pesticides or chemicals.

When the bee returns to the hive, it brings those chemicals and pesticides back as well. Since wax is a byproduct of the bee, it can easily be assumed that traces of those chemicals are processed into the wax as well.

Moreover, the bee industry lacks good regulation. Therefore, it is very difficult to discern whether or not your wax is organic or not.

Is Beeswax Biodegradable?

Sustainability is about both the production and the disposal of any given product. As previously discussed, beeswax has a very environmentally friendly production. It is also very green in terms of its disposal.

When you are done with beeswax, you should have zero guilt about throwing it away. Beeswax is completely biodegradable.

In fact, the news surrounding beeswax is even more encouraging. One study discovered that beeswax broke down entirely in the environment within one month’s time.

The study even provided additional insight surrounding other types of waxes. Even petroleum waxes and synthetic blends broke down completely within the month window of the study. The variations in chemical makeup of each product made minimal difference in its overall biodegradable nature.

Does Beeswax Clean the Air?

Despite the varied uses and benefits of beeswax, its most common usage has always been for candles. Even today, wax is the most popular choice for candles.

Unfortunately, while candles provide good mood lighting, they may be bad for your heath. Several studies discovered that many candles emitted harmful gasses into the air. Prolonged exposure could be dangerous to humans.

This should definitely be cause for concern. However, the results were specific to different types of candles.

Paraffin candles were the worst offenders. In the study, paraffin candles released chemicals like toluene and benzene. Long term research is still needed to ascertain the full risk, but there are easy alternatives.

To the point, beeswax candles did not pose this risk. Beeswax candles burn safely and cleanly.

Some people even argue that they clean the air.

The theory is that beeswax releases negative ions while burning. Most of the pollutants in the air are positively charged.

Therefore, the negative ions from the beeswax neutralize the pollutants. Thus, your air is cleaner with beeswax candles.

Is Beeswax Vegan?

One final consideration when assessing the sustainability of beeswax is its place in a vegan lifestyle. Although each vegan may answer this question differently, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

First, beeswax is an animal byproduct. Because of this, many vegans do not feel comfortable using beeswax.

That said, many people believe that beeswax can be collected humanely. Collecting beeswax does not harm the bees. In fact, as explained earlier, beeswax harvesting can actually help the whole colony of bees.

This may not make it a vegan choice, but it certainly does point to the overall environmentally friendly role beeswax can play in our society.

Conclusion

Beeswax has been the natural choice for centuries. Now, that natural choice is backed by science, data and experience.

If you are interested in living a green lifestyle, then make sure to include beeswax as a critical ingredient.

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