What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is the building block of the hive. Honeybees from the Sweet Drop apiary produce it to build the hexagon-shaped honeycomb where bees live, work, raise their young and store their food supplies. In its natural form, beeswax is actually white or translucent. It becomes the light golden color we associate with beeswax when stained by pollen or propolis. Beeswax is made up of about 300 different compounds. Its composition can vary slightly depending on where the honeybees live.
Young worker bees are responsible for producing beeswax. They have special glands on the underside of their abdomens that secrete the wax in thin sheets called scales. Let’s follow one of the worker bees through the process of producing beeswax.
The first step begins with a worker bee leaving the hive to forage for pollen and nectar. These bees pass on nectar and honey to other bees who will consume it and turn it into wax. Honeybees need vast amounts of nectar to produce wax. In fact, a bee will eat six to eight pounds of honey to make just one pound of beeswax!
Once the honey has been converted into wax, the bees will begin to secrete it through their special glands. The wax starts out as small flakes but is shaped and molded by the other bees in a fascinating way. The bees will form a chain and pass the secreted wax down the line. Each bee will take their turn chewing the wax to make it soft and pliable.
Once the wax reaches the ideal condition, the bees can begin to construct the hexagon-shaped honeycombs. The combs are then filled with honey and capped off with more wax to prevent moisture loss.
How Do We Get Beeswax?
Most beekeepers get their beeswax from the wax caps that cover each honey cell. Using a hot knife, a beekeeper will remove the caps, collect them and then melt them to separate the wax from any residual honey. Since the wax is lighter than the honey, it will rise to the top. The beekeeper will remove the top layer of wax and allow it to cool and become a solid mass of beeswax.