17 April 2014
THE SHORT ANSWER (TSA)
As the name suggests, beeswax is a type of wax made by honey bees in their hive. The “wax” starts out as a glandular secretion of the worker honey bees, which is colorless and clear as glass. But, after some chewing by the bees, the wax becomes the white color of the familiar honeycomb. Later, as the honeycomb comes into contact with pollen and honey, it can take on a yellow or light brown color.
The honeycomb is composed of “cells” in which the hive’s bees raise young bees and store food in the form of pollen and honey. To remove the honey from the honeycomb, the beekeeper removes the wax caps from the comb’s cells. After the honey is extracted, the empty comb is heated to remove impurities.
Historically, beeswax was used for almost everything from cosmetics 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 easily catching fire.
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. And, finally, “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, moustache wax, shoe polish, furniture polish, and surfboard wax — to name just a few.