WHAT WILL YOU LEARN IN THIS ARTICLE?
- Is Beeswax Vegan?
- How the Bees produce wax?
- How is Beeswax extracted?
- How Beeswax extraction is dangerous to Bees?
- Products made of Beeswax.
- Alternatives to Beeswax.
BEESWAX AND VEGANISM
As a vegan, one makes a vow not to support anything which involves the exploitation of animals.
As such there are always grey areas when it comes to the practical application of that rule.
That rule is often obvious when dealing with things such as meat or clothing made from fur coats.
However, there are many products for instance that are made of bee wax, some of which may not resemble anything to do with the source.
See, beeswax has innumerable uses in our day-to-day lives.
IS BEESWAX VEGAN?
Beeswax is certainly not vegan because it comes from bees. However, Beeswax is in itself does not contain any animal or insect, still, it is not considered cruelty-free by vegans due to the fact that it involves the exploitation of bees.
It’s like milk being extracted from cows, where the milk in itself does not have any animal ingredients but is considered non-vegan.
We have also delved into more details in our “Is Honey Vegan?” article.
In this article, we will cover how beeswax is extracted? if there is any harm to the bees during that extraction, and which products are made of beeswax?
We will also explore the alternatives to beeswax.
HOW THE BEES PRODUCE WAX?
A bee colony consists of many different types of bees including a queen bee, many worker bees, and drones.
The worker bees are the only bees that have special glands that produce wax.
Worker bees fly out into the fields and collect the nectar from the flowers they encounter. They carry that nectar back to the hive where it can then be converted into both honey and beeswax.
The bees first make honey by carrying the nectar back to their hive and giving it to the bees that work inside the hive.
Those bees have an enzyme inside their bodies that they add to the nectar to cause the water in it to dissipate.
Once the water has left the nectar the converted nectar is placed into storage within the hive where it ripens into honey.
The worker bees only live for about a month and their peak wax-making time starts when they are 10 days old and continue until their wax-making glands begin to decline when they are 18 days old.
During this time these bees eat the honey and their special glands convert the honey’s natural sugar into beeswax.
Read also: Fig and The Wasp! The one reason why figs are vegan!
This wax then comes through tiny pores in the bee’s abdomens. The wax appears as tiny wax flakes that are clear in color.
Worker bees can either take the wax from another bee and put it into their mouths or they can use their back legs to grab the flakes and get their own wax into their mouths.
The bees then chew on the wax making it softer and turning it white. The saliva from the worker bees is what creates this wax transformation and it enables the wax to be pliable enough to build with.
Once the beeswax is completed it can be used to repair parts of the comb or to build new sections.
HOW IS BEESWAX EXTRACTED?
Beeswax is extracted at the same time as honey.
There are three different categories when it comes to the methods that can be deployed.
Traditional Method of Bees Wax Extraction
During the night honeycombs and brood are collected and layered on a wire mesh.
A container is then placed under the pile, whilst burning embers are put on top of it.
The heat from the embers to engulfs the honeycombs.
The wax and honey ooze into the container until all the combs are completely engulfed by the heat.
The contents accumulated in the container are left till the next morning.
Beeswax will harden at the top of the honey after which it can be removed.
SOLAR VEX MELTER
A solar vex melter can be used.
This machine converts solar energy heat sufficient enough to melt down a bee comb.
Just like the method that uses the ambers, honey, and beeswax trickle into a container within the box.
Here is a video showing how it is made and works:
HOT BATH METHOD
Another reliable method is the hot bath method. Here is a video showing the process:
WHAT DANGER DOES IT CAUSE TO BEES?
Beekeepers in an effort to make bees produce more honey, tend to clip the wings of bees to prevent a process called swarming.
Swarming is when a fraction of the bees and the old queen leave to start a new colony and this is not in the interests of beekeepers who want to maximize profits as it reduces the amount of honey output.
On the other hand, beekeeping brings an imbalance to the ecosystem as it disturbs the natural process of pollination in plants.
The bees themselves require honey to survive the cold.
Honey manufacturers have often been accused of using a cheap syrup substitute to maintain the bees in winter.
PETA has also highlighted in its article that the honeybee population has been nearly decimated, but since the demand for the bees’ honey and other products remains high, these tiny animals are raised by industries, much like chickens, pigs, and cows are.
These are some of the many reasons beeswax is not a vegan product.
WHAT ARE THE PRODUCTS MADE OF BEESWAX?
The most obvious use of bee wax that comes to mind is in candle making.
The ability of wax to melt sparked a genius idea for humans to put a string in it and allow it to burn at a regulated rate and provide light.
Candles of course have more uses than just providing light. Sometimes they are used in ceremonies or religious festivities among other things.
They are culturally significant even after the electric lamp.
For Cracked Soles, Lips and Palms
The ability of beeswax to contain moisture makes it a good candidate for use in many cosmetics including lip balm.
It also can protect the palms and soles of the heels from cracking by the very same mechanism.
It prevents dryness of the skin thus it qualifies as a perfect moisturizer.
When fused with colorants, the smooth and slippery fragility of beeswax inclines it to be used in crayons, where it can smear colors onto a surface or paper and stick to it.
The ability for the substance to easily deform allows it to be used for bite registration in the making of dentures and other dental appliances.
When patients bite on it dental technicians can be able to tell which parts may need adjustments before going into the final and hardened sample.
It is also used to create test dentures for the same reasons.
It lowers the cost of having to repeat the job. The philosophy is to measure twice, cut once.
It may serve as a good lubricant for moving parts of wooden furniture such as drawers because of its slippery and deformable characteristics.
Bees Wax Shoe, Floor and Furniture Polish
Beeswax is also good for making polish be it for furniture, shoes, or even the floor.
This prevents the accumulation of dust and also creates a lustrous effect thus maintaining the aesthetic of the objects.
WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVE TO BEESWAX?
We have so far in the above section given a few of the many day-to-day uses of beeswax that even vegans may need at one point or another.
We also highlighted the cultural significance of wax in our culture.
We have largely grown in a culture of romantic candle-lit dinners. We all would like polished shoes and lustrous furniture.
Is there an alternative?
Are bees the only source of wax?
YES THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO BEESWAX
As you may have already guessed, there are indeed effective alternatives to beeswax, thus there is no need to keep inflicting harm on bees that deserve to live in harmony.
A lot of plants tend to have a waxy cuticle layer on their leaves which serves to protect them from losing too much water when it is hot.
There are however some shrubs that can produce wax at a sizable amount.
Carnauba Wax (from Brazilian Palm trees)
As above mentioned, trees protect themselves from dehydration in hot areas by creating a waxy cuticle.
Brazilian Palm trees known as Copernicia cerifera produces wax.
The wax is also widely used in many cosmetic formulations and can exist as flakes, pellets, and even powders.
Extracted from the Candelilla Shrub, Candelilla wax is a good vegan alternative to beeswax.
They differ in composition as this alternative is denser in nature.
It also holds very good skincare properties.
This is a derivative of boiling fruits of the myrica bush. It is very wax and tends to be very brittle as a result.
Soy wax generally is as hard as beeswax derived from soybean oil.
It can be used in candle making amongst all the other uses of regular beeswax.
It is rare to be cruelty-free because Bee Farming does involve their exploitation. Bees produce wax for themselves only and not for humans.
Yes, definitely. It does not contain any animal-derived products or meat. However, it is not vegan.
If we rally behind the beeswax alternatives we can help save the ecosystem and the bees exploited during the creation of beeswax.
The more knowledge we get and apply facilitates a greener and harmonious society.
Please feel free to browse through the various posts on this website and gain more knowledge on how to lead a powerful vegan life.
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