Beeswax is secreted by the worker honey bee and used to construct the comb on which
it lives (pictured right). The wax is secreted by eight wax glands situated in pairs
on the workers abdomen. The wax making bees fill themselves up with honey and hang
in a cluster on the comb. As their temperature rises the wax is secreted into abdominal
wax pockets as eight small translucent white cakes. These are transferred to the
mouth where each is worked and manipulated to form comb, or passed to other bees
to be used elsewhere. The wax is moulded into position by the mandibles of the workers
and the comb is quite swiftly built up to the size required. The comb consists of
hexagonal cells, built on both sides of a vertical wax partition. The queen lays
her eggs in the bottom of the cell which are tended by the workers. The cells also
contain the stores of honey and pollen.
It has been estimated that it takes 10,000 bees three days to produce 1lb. of pure
beeswax – and to produce this they need to consume at least 6lb. of honey. One pound
of honey requires 37,000 loads of nectar – the mileage flown by bees to gather this
amount of nectar is approximately 50,000 miles.
A 1oz. block of wax requires a total journey of 18,750 miles or three quarters of
the distance round the world.
The uses of beeswax are numerous and diverse – they range from church candles to
extending the active life of penicillin in the bloodstream: from waxing thread and
fly fisherman’s lines to the manufacture of Commando’s black camouflage face cream.
Experienced needleworkers have a piece of beeswax in their sewing baskets. From ancient
times, thread has been waxed to make it stiffer and to give better holding properties.
The wax in a Viking ship dated AD 900 was found with a ball of thread, partly waxed,
for sail repairs.
Beeswax polish is still the finest way of preserving and caring for, in particular,
antique furniture. Beeswax polish will give a deep shine to all types of wood and
will protect and feed the wood at the same time – something no silicone polish can
do. It also lasts longer than ‘ordinary’ polishes.
Click the buttons below for some Beeswax Polish and Hand Cream Recipes