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Beeswax

Among different by-products of the beekeeping wax is an important by-product. It is a complex mixture of several components consisting of mainly free fatty acids. The pure beeswax consists of 284 different compounds. Worker bees start secreting wax when they are of 12-18 days old. The wax is liquid at the time of secretion but solidifies when exposed to air. It further solidifies with time and gets deposited as scales. These scales are scraped off by the bee, chewed and masticated into pliable pieces with the addition of saliva and variety of enzymes and prepare a comb of hexagonal calls. To produce one part of wax, bees have to consume about 4-7 times more as they eat for the production of honey. Bee uses thee wax for the assembling of ‘pool tables’ i.e. fill the screw holes and the seams between the slates in the hive. Honeycomb wax is nearly white, but becomes progressively more yellow or brown by incorporation of pollen oils and other chemicals. About 44% of beeswax is a cocktail of diverse minor compounds probably accounts for beeswax’s characteristic plasticity and low melting point. Beeswax is insoluble in water and resistant to many acids but gets dissolves easily in most of the organic solvents such as ether, benzene, benzyl, chloroform and turpentine oil. It is also soluble in alcohol and fatty oils after little warming.

The majority of beeswax produced is consumed by beekeepers for making of comb foundation sheets. However, beeswax is also used in a variety of products and process from packaging to processing, few of the as follows:

Candles

Making candle using the beeswax has a long history. As we know, the candles are used during making celebration. This sector consumes large quantity of beeswax.

Metal Casting and Modelling

This is another important area where the beeswax is being used expansively. You can prepare different designs and models on the metals using the beeswax; which in turn is used to make plaster moulds for casting.

In Cosmetics

The beeswax is an important ingredient in different cosmetics preparations owing to its skin friendly, shine and consistency properties. Few prominent cosmetic preparation in which the beeswax is used are like lipsticks, cold creams, mascara, eye shadows, lotions, hair conditioners etc.

Food Processing

Beeswax is an authorised food preservative. Due to being water proof and glossy, it is coated over the fruits and vegetables to prevent the moisture loss in order to enhance their shelf life. It is also used in the production of different products such as chocolates, chewing gum etc.

Polishes

Due to its being glossy and shining, it is extensively used in the varnishes and polishes. After their painting, the objects shine and also remain intact for longer period of time as there will not be any impact of moisture.

In Medicines

Beeswax is antimicrobial in nature. As a coating agent for the drugs or pills, beeswax facilitates ingestion but retards dissolution of the enclosed compounds until they reach to the digestive tract. Beeswax can also be prepared as a mixture with the drug and then function as a time-release mechanism (releasing the drug over a longer period of time).

Other Uses

Beeswax is used in grafting wax, crayons, floor and furniture polish, textile dyes, sealing wax, corrosion protective, car polishes and sewing thread etc. Beeswax actually finds use in over 120 industrial applications. In conclusion, beeswax is a versatile material with diverse uses and applications across a broad spectrum of products. Being a natural substance it is far more user friendly than any of its chemical counterparts. Humane beekeeping and humane harvesting of wild beeswax contributes towards making a lot of industries a little more sustainable.

Author:
R. Seshadri Ayengar, Assistant Professor, School of Communication Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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