17 April 2014
THE SHORT ANSWER
As the name suggests, beeswax is a type of wax made by honey bees in their hive. A glandular secretion of the worker honey bees, the “wax” start out clear, but after some chewing by the bees, becomes an the white color of the familiar honeycomb. Later, as the honeycomb comes into contact with pollen and other substances, it can take on yellow or light brown color.
The honeycomb is composed of “cells” which in which the hive’s bee raise their young and store food in the form of pollen. To remove the honey from the honeycomb, the beekeeper removes the wax caps from the comb’s cells. After the honey is extracted, the impurities are removed from the empty comb often by heating.
Historically, beeswax was used for almost everything from cosmetic to dental filings. In modern times, the wax is still used widely in cosmetics and as a food additive. The traditional use of beeswax for fine candles continues although, in candle-making, beeswax has the drawback of being highly flammable.
Beeswax is separated into three types. “Yellow beeswax” is unprocessed and obtained directly from the honeycomb. “White beeswax” is produced by bleaching yellow beeswax until it has a white color. “Beeswax absolute” is produced by treating yellow beeswax with alcohol.
Beeswax is used in the widest variety of modern products including lip balm, lip gloss, eye shadow, eye liner, mustache wax, shoe polish, furniture polish, and surfboard wax — to name just a few.