Beeswax is an ancient whole material produced by honeybees of the genus Apis, crafted by worker bees in their abdomen and used to encase their honey cells, brood (bee-children) and bee-bread (processed pollen cakes). During the wax production process, bees inevitably imbue traces of the aromatic flower nectar compounds they have been foraging on, into the beeswax. So if the bees are foraging on a healthy, diverse array of medicinal plants, they are imbuing this plant medicine into the wax. The honey scent that emits from a lit beeswax candle is direct proof of that – from flower to bee to wax to nose.
Humans have a longstanding relationship with beeswax, having used it across cultures for millennia – in cosmetics, candles, wax writing tablets and even as a neolithic tooth filling. Beeswax has proven antimicrobial properties, and is certified as edible in most countries. The beeswax that we use is 100% organic meaning there aren't any agaricides or fungicides which could be present with beeswax from inorganic beekeeping.
WHY NOT PARAFFIN WAX?
Through an incredibly industrial and large scale process, involving many energy-intensive processes and chemical solvents, paraffin wax is extracted from petroleum, coal and shale oils. Studies have found the wax to contain carcinogens such as benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. The National Institute of Health reports that the inhalation of toluene can cause kidney damage, contribute to birth defects and cause respiratory depression.
WHY NOT SOY WAX?
I can understand the surface appeal of soy wax, and I am not fully against using it. However, there are still some key issues with how it is produced and processed. The majority of soy beans come from vast monocultural plantations in the U.S. This land has been deforested and converted into industrial agriculture mega-plots owned by huge multinational corporations. The soil is pumped full of fertilizers, the plants sprayed with pesticides, commercial apiarists deliver their bees for crop pollination (exposing the bees to these pesticides), huge combine harvesters (running on fossil fuels) harvest the crop, then the process is repeated – ultimately degrading the land and reducing fertility and biodiversity.
Once the soy beans are harvested, they are mechanically pressed or solvent-extracted for their oil. This oil is bleached and refined, then goes through a process called hydrogenation to convert the oil into a wax. The oil, along with hydrogen, is heated to high temps (up to 225C) in the presence of a nickel catalyst, to form a saturated fat – known to us as soy wax. Different chemicals are then added, such as hardeners, UV stabilizers, and in some cases paraffin wax or stearic acid. Unfortunately, there are no regulations on the composition of soy wax, so the production process and ingredients become even less transparent.
Is this really a 'vegan' wax when so much destruction to the Earth happens in its wake?
As much as possible, I buy wax directly from local, independent beekeepers and small apiarist businesses. If you are an Australian beekeeper with spare beeswax you would like to sell, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Knowing that the bees are happy and well cared for is paramount ! I do not want any bee misery imbued into the wax I use.
The beeswax needs to be partially refined, filtered of any larger particles or inclusions. A pale yellow color is preferred, but please send through photos if yours differs in tone as I will likely still be able to use it.