Why we love beeswax…Most people know what beeswax is, but have you ever thought about what’s in it?
Beeswax is, ultimately, made from nectar. The nectar is gathered by honey bees – hundreds of thousands of honey bees – from a wide range of flowers and trees throughout the year, including bluebells and pussy willow in the Spring, honeysuckle, chives and sunflowers in the summer and lavender and ivy in the Autumn. (Btw – if you’re interested in attracting bees into your garden or window-box, here is a great list of ‘bee-friendly’ flowers, bulbs, trees and shrubs from the British Beekeepers Association.)
Pharmaceutical use of beeswax apparently dates back to ancient Egypt: as reported by the Ebers Papyrus (1550 B.C.), and beeswax was the main ingredient in many recipes for the preparation of ointments and creams. In addition, Beeswax is said to be one of the components of the first cosmetic cream, which was created by Galen, the great Greek physician, in 150 B.C.
The actual composition of beeswax is quite complex. It consists mainly of naturally occurring (obvs!) esters of fatty acids (a key component of many of the oils we eat such as olive oil and sunflower oil) as well as over 200 other minor components (including propolis, pollen and small pieces of flowers). When secreted by the bee, the pure beeswax is almost white; only after contact with honey and pollen it darkens to a golden yellow. Why we love beeswax!
It’s amazing how much work goes into producing just a small amount of beeswax:
- To make a jar of honey (1lb or 454g) the bees need to gather nectar from around 2 million flowers – flying about 55,000 miles (more than twice around the world)
- The bees convert this honey into wax – it takes about 800g of honey to produce 100g wax.
- The bees make the wax as tiny wax scales (each about the size of a pin head). 1g of wax contains around 1,000 of these scales.
- Therefore, each tin of Neve’s Bees Lipbalm has been made from approximately 2,000 wax scales created from 16g of honey gathered from around 70,000 Oxfordshire blossoms!