Along with royal jelly and venom, beeswax is manufactured by honey bees themselves. Honey, propolis and pollen are botanical in origin and are collected and processed by the bees rather than being produced. Worker bees have 4 pairs of wax glands on the undersides of their abdomens that produce wax in great quantity. Beeswax is produced by worker bees about 14 days old and worked into intricate complex double-sided hexagonal comb nest architectures that has allowed all the members of the true honey bee genus Apis to become the pre-eminent floral foragers of the insect world. Beeswax was probably a major factor in their evolution to the pinnacle of the eusocial insects. Beeswax is extremely valuable to bees because much nectar and / or honey is “forfeited”, that is lost as potential food and converted into structural material from the colony’s annual energy budget to produce the wax combs. For this reason, beeswax is removed, reshaped, molded and used over and over again within the nest. The combs are literally the nursery, walls, storage pantry, home, pharmacy and dance floor for the colony’s myriad of occupants.
As a Bee Balm maker, I use beeswax as my “carrier”. Beeswax can physically include in its structure other remedies – herbs, essential oils, extracts, and propolis.
Beeswax has several attributes. It will not become rancid, it is not a skin irritant, and acts to stabilize other componants. Unlike natural fats and oils, beeswax does not dry out in time. There is a certain romance that is connected with the use of beeswax as well as the knowledge that beeswax is a special commodity that has always commanded a high price.
Beeswax is not one material, but a mixture of many long-chain molecules: there are about 300 components in beeswax, the most common of which makes up only eight percent of the wax. It is therefore a complicated substance that clearly will be impossible to synthesize or duplicate.
In Apitherapy, we use beeswax for its unique low-antiinflammatory, emollient, and antiviral properties.