Beeswax

Bees GoldThe second most obvious evidence of a bee’s continuous hard work is beeswax (the first being honey!). Used as the structural foundation of the honeycomb cells, it is used as a nest in which to raise their young and to store honey and pollen.  Beeswax originates as tiny wax scales barely larger than the tip of a ball point pen.  The tiny wax scales are clear in color and gain their initial white coloring through the process of mastication.  The wax is a byproduct of the sugar in the honey that bees eat. The sugar causes wax glands in the bee to become active and then is extruded through pores on the abdomen.  Bees either scrape the wax scales off their abdomen or have it scraped off their abdomens by sister bees.  The wax is chewed (masticated) and then “worked” into the hexagonal cells that compose the structural “walls” of the honeycomb foundation.  Initially, the hexagonal cells are white in color but over the course of time become golden yellow to dark brown through contact with pollens and the rearing of brood.

Beeswax is a beekeepers dilemma of effort and reward.  To harvest beeswax, a beekeeper must decide how much additional work will be imposed upon the bees.  If a beekeeper is successful in nurturing a hive, there will be honey to harvest in the fall (remember, a beekeeper has to leave enough honey for the bees to make it through the winter).  While some beeswax will be obtained through the wax scored to extract harvested honey (see picture above), the scored wax is not really enough wax to make most of the incredible products of beeswax. Beekeepers are presented with a dilemma over the decision to fully scrape the remaining wax from extracted honey frames or leave it for the bees to build from in the spring.  Keeping in mind that honey frames have to be built out with enough wax to store honey in, beekeepers that harvest all the wax of a honey frame will be adding additional work to their bees come spring…