Worker bees fly more than 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers to produce just one pound of honey. To produce just one pound of beeswax, they must consume eight pounds of the sticky stuff. They make wax by secreting it from eight glands on their abdomen. Think about it: they make wax with their tummies. How cool is that!?
The sizes of these wax glands depend on the age of the worker. The daily flights cause the glands to gradually atrophy over their six-week life span.
Unfortunately, the availability of beeswax has been severely affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). A company like Big Dipper Wax Works that cares about clean wax has been especially challenged because of reduced sources.
“Our goal is to source the cleanest wax from the most eco friendly beekeepers,” says Big Dipper owner Brent Roose. “But the price of clean wax has increased by roughly 50 percent partially because the honey flow will be later this year due to weather and CCD and there is no guarantee of how much wax there will be.” Roose is concerned that folks may turn to soy candles, which likely contain GMOs and require petroleum to process.
Dirty Ball Of Wax
Unfortunately, beeswax contains miticides such as amitraz, coumaphos, fluvalinate, bromopropylaten, chlorfenvinophos, and acrinathrin. All of these chemicals share a common feature: they are hydrophobic and mix well with oils such as wax.
“Most commercial beekeepers these days have to treat to stay in business, making it harder to find clean wax,” says Kim Fluttom, Editor of Bee Culture magazine. “Honey crop failure three years in a row means wax shortages too.”
“Annual colony losses have been reported to be 30-33 percent, but that is just the outright winter losses. The reality is that in many beekeeping operations, the actual losses are 70-80 percent,” says beekeeper and activist Tom Theobald. To stay in the game, commercial beekeepers split colonies whenever they can to regain their numbers. Namely, they take one hive and cut it in two and then introduce a new queen. But even this technique of splitting colonies isn’t successful. Many queens for example ‘fail,’ meaning they are not accepted by the hive.
“The only reason we have any semblance of a national honey bee population is because of the work of the beekeepers,” adds Theobald. “Even with all their efforts to stay alive, many operations are not going to make it. And as the beekeepers disappear the national honey bee population is going to plummet even further.”
Light My Fire
Unlike paraffin, which is a petroleum derivative, bees’ wax is 100 percent renewable. This ancient energy source has been found in the tombs of Egypt, in wrecked Viking ships, and in Roman ruins. Beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused. Beeswax candles also burn brighter, longer, and cleaner than any other candle. The flame emits essentially the same light spectrum as the sun. And in the process of burning, it emits negative ions that are known to clean the air and invigorate the body.
Bees’ wax is sacred! Naturally, it smells like honey and flower nectar.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.