From natural candles that actually clean the air when they burn to uses as varied as shoe polish, mustache wax, and stopping bones from bleeding during surgery, the history of putting beeswax to work for humankind is long and diverse.
Beeswax is predominantly esters of fatty acids and long-chain alcohols. Its chemical formula is approximated adjacent, but to answer the question about why beeswax matters, we have to take a closer look at why honeybees make it at all.
The worker bees who fly out to collect pollen secrete a hard, tough wax from their abdominal glands. They discard these perfectly clear and incredibly tiny scale-shaped bits of wax within the hive, where hive workers collect and chew it, mixing the wax with pollen and pollen oils. This gives the substance its familiar yellowish color and soft texture. The workers then use the softened wax to build the hive's brood comb and honeycomb, instinctively forming perfectly symmetrical six-sided cells.
While the brood comb is the hive’s nursery and place to raise the next generation of bees, the honeycomb is its pantry. In cold weather or times of food scarcity, every bee in the hive feeds on the stored honey, which is essentially regurgitated nectar.
Beeswax is essential in the curing of honey
We may think of nectar as being incredibly sweet, but it's approximately 80% water. Because this percentage is so high, pure nectar would ferment in a hive, so worker bees turn it into honey by filling cells with nectar then fanning their wings furiously, keeping the air flowing over the cells until much of the water evaporates. Once the remaining sugars have thickened into honey — which is no more than 18% water — the bees stop fanning and cap the cells with beeswax, storing the honey inside for later use.
Fortunately for us, a healthy hive makes an abundance of honey, so beekeepers can collect large amounts yet still leave more than enough for the colony to feed on while bunkering down during winter months.
A lesser known benefit of beeswax is that it's not just used for storing honey and raising a brood, but is also a communications tool. While bees have a number of ways to communicate, including pheromones, they're sensitive to vibrations that travel across the comb, which means they can send and receive messages using their feet and the beeswax they're walking on. This is one of the reasons Tapcomb® chose to design their hives in a way that makes use of as much natural beeswax as possible.
Beeswax is natural, safe, and completely free of chemicals and toxins, so it’s easy to see why it’s important for bees to build most of their honeycomb from their own wax, as opposed to starting out with a plastic comb and simply filling it with honey.
This is where Tapcomb® really raises the bar. Our frames are only 30% complete; bees build the other 70% with their own wax. Unlike other tappable hives on the market, Tapcomb® delivers a sturdy and effective framework, not an artificial plastic honeycomb. This means bees still have a lot of work to do building out the comb.
Thanks to Tapcomb's® carefully crafted, innovative products, you get a tappable hive with as little plastic as possible.
Making wax combs is part of the lifecycle of a worker bee and something they are quite literally born to do.
The end result isn’t just healthier honey, it’s happier bees.