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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Buzz On Making BeesWax - Lee's Bees

Happy Monday Blogger Pals!

From all of us at www.KissMyBees.com we welcome you to another bee blog! Many people who use our candles and lip balms occasionally ask us "Where Do You Get Your Bees Wax?" and also "How Does Bees Wax Get Made?". Well we are here to answer those questions today.

Our Bees Wax candles are made out of 100% pure beeswax with no additives. We get our beeswax mostly from local Florida bee-keepers. The beekeepers are the ones who house and support the bee colonies and as a result produce honey and bee wax. Below is a perfect description from our friends at The Bees Wax Co. on the formation of beeswax by honey bees.

It all begins on a flower in the field. Bees collect nectar from the flowers and bring it to the hive where it becomes either beeswax or honey. A bee's diet consists primarily of honey, and any honey not consumed by the bees or in the raising of brood is stored as surplus and is ultimately consumed in the winter months when no flowers are available. It is the other use of honey that is of interest to us here: the conversion into beeswax.

The production of beeswax is essential to the bee colony. It is used to construct the combs in which the bees raise their brood and into which they store pollen and surplus honey for the winter.

Worker bees, which live only around 35 days in the summer, develop special wax-producing glands on their abdomens (inner sides of the sternites of abdominal segments 4 to 7) and are most efficient at wax production during the 10th through the 16th days of their lives. From about day 18 until the end of its life, a bee's wax glands steadily decline. The bees consume honey (6-8 pound of honey are need to produce a pound of wax) causing the special wax-producing glands to covert the sugar into wax which is extruded through small pores. The wax appears as small flakes on the bees' abdomen. At this point the flakes are essentially transparent and only become white after being chewed. It is in the mastication process that salivary secretions are added to the wax to help soften it. This also accounts for its change in color.
The exact process of how a bee transfers the wax scales from its abdomen to its mandibles was a mystery for years. It's now known to be done in either of two ways. Most of the activities in the hive are cooperative so it should be no surprise that other worker bees are willing to oblige and remove the wax scales from their neighbors and then chew them. The other method is for the same bee extruding the wax to process her own wax scales. This is done using one hind leg to move a wax scale to the first pair of legs (forelegs). A foreleg then makes the final transfer to the mandibles where it is masticated and then applied to the comb being constructed or repaired.
Beeswax becomes soft and very pliable if the temperature is too high (it actually melts at 149 F). Likewise, it becomes brittle and difficult to manage if the temperature is too low. However, honeybees maintain their hive at a temperature of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit which is just perfect for the manipulation of beeswax: not to hot to be at the point of dripping and not to cold to so as to be brittle.

A honeycomb constructed from beeswax is nothing short of a triumph of engineering. It consists of hexagon shaped cylinders (six-sided) that fit naturally side-by-side. It has been definitively proven by mathematicians that by making the cells into hexagons, it is the very most efficient: the smallest possible amount of wax is used for the volume of honey it contains. It has also been shown to be one of the strongest possible shapes while using the least amount of material.
The color of beeswax comprising a comb is at first white and then darkens with age and use. This is especially true if it is used to raise brood. Pigmentation in the wax can result in colors ranging from white, through shades of yellow, orange, and red all the way to brown. The color has no significance as to the quality of the wax (other than its aesthetic appeal).

Try one of our famous Florida Bees Wax Lip Balms or one of our hand-poured beeswax candles for a true treat any time! Shop online at www.KissMyBees.com, www.FloridaHerbHouse.com, or www.SharpWebLabs.com! We welcome your questions always! :-)


Stephen C. Sharp

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