Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees. It is composed mainly by esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols. The wax is formed by worker bees, which secrete it from eight wax-producing mirror glands located on the abdominal segments. The size of these wax glands depend on the age of the worker bee, as daily flights lead to atrophy of these glands. The new wax scales are initially glass-clear and colourless ,becoming opaque after mastication by the worker bee. The wax of honeycomb is nearly white, but becomes progressively more yellow or brown by incorporation of pollen oils and propolis. Honey bees use the beeswax to build honeycomb cells in which their young are raised with honey and pollen cells being capped for storage. For the wax-making bees to secrete wax, the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36 °C. To produce their wax, bees must consume about eight times as much honey by mass.
Physical properties of beeswax
The color of fresh wax, just been separated from the secretory glands of the bee is white with a slight yellowish tint, and the more it is stored in the honeycomb - the darker (to brown) it becomes. The color of the wax is influenced by the color of the pollen, of the impurity of propolis resin therein, but also by the way of its processing. It has a pleasant honey aroma, but no taste. Its relative density is 0.956 to 0.970. The higher it is, the better wax’s quality is. The water content is in the range of 0.14 to 0.57%, but in highly emulsification can reach up to 5%. The wax is lighter than water and does not dissolve in it, it does not dissolve in glycerine, almost insoluble remains in alcohol . Dissolves only in organic solvents, oils, benzene, chloroform, turpentine, etc.. It is a very resistant substance at room temperature and can be stored for hundreds of years without changing its properties. It is hard with granular structure , burns with a luminous flame burns. Melts at a temperature of 62-72 ° C (depending on the composition). Upon slight heating beeswax begins to soften and become sticky, and at a temperature of 63-65 ° C it becomes liquid. Pour begins at 61 ° C. The higher the melting temperature and standing are, the better wax’s quality is.
Chemical composition of beeswax
Beeswax is a complex substance, composed by more than 300 different substances. The main chemical elements that compose it, are carbon (73.3%), hydrogen (13.2%) and oxygen (7.5%). An ester of higher fatty acids with higher monohydric alcohols, saturated hydrocarbons, free fatty acids, aromatics, water, stains, and other minerals. The composition can be changed depending on some of the genetic features of the colony or under the influence of the environment. When melting the honeycomb it is enriched with additional impurities from propolis, pollen and honey, which increases its useful bioinfluence. The chemical composition of beeswax is too complicated. It contains about 15 different chemical compounds, which are divided into three groups: free fatty acids (13.5 to 15%), esters (70.4 to 74.7%) and limit saturated hydrocarbons (12.5 to 15.5 %). Furthermore, the composition of beeswax includes small quantities of dyes and essential oils, that determinate its color and smell.