Beeswax: Bees’ Built-in Building Material

Thursday 28 October 2021

Following a brief interruption in our latest series last week, to share some updates on the 2021 blueberry season and harvest, this week we are picking back up on the topic of hive products for human health. We have discussed some of the components and qualities of both honey and propolis that have undergone analyses to determine their potentials to lend benefits in the world of human health. This week, we explore the health benefits related to the building material of honey bees: beeswax.

ATTTA’s “Canadian Beekeeping Minutes” video series of short and informative beekeeping demonstrations has launched! Keep reading below for more details.

Beeswax: Bees’ Built-in Building Material

Beeswax is produced by 4 wax glands on the underside of the abdomen of adult worker bees that are at least 12-18 days old, since this is when the wax glands achieve full development. Beeswax is secreted as a liquid and then solidifies into flakes once it comes into contact with air. These wax flakes are passed to the bee’s mouth and mixed with glandular secretions before being used for building comb, capping comb, and other construction activities in the hive that require beeswax. Understanding this lends awareness to the variability of components in beeswax depending on the consumed honey and pollen which supplied the materials necessary for the bee’s body to produce beeswax. Once built into the hive, beeswax comes into contact with many other materials, some of which may also contribute to the compositional makeup of the wax. For these reasons, it is important to recognize that beeswax components can vary, just like in honey and other hive products.

Beeswax: A minireview of its antimicrobial activity and its application in medicine *

Beeswax is made up of over 300 constituents, including hydrocarbons, various forms of fatty esters, diesters, and other substances from external sources (e.g., propolis, pollen, and pollution residues). Beeswax is hydrophobic (meaning it does not mix with water), allowing it to provide natural protective properties, which have contributed to its popularity in the industry of cosmetics and other topical body products. Beyond this protective property, beeswax also presents certain therapeutic properties. In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, beeswax was used as a main ingredient in various topical healing ointments, used particularly for treating burns, wounds, and joint pain. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates also recommended beeswax in the treatment of purulent tonsillitis. This particular study was one of the first to explore and quantify the antimicrobial properties and activities of beeswax against certain pathogenic microorganism species. When used in combination with other natural products (i.e., honey or olive oil), these benefits of beeswax are often enhanced. The results of this investigation indicate effective therapeutic activities of beeswax against human health conditions associated with pathogenic microorganisms including:

  • Staphylococcus aureus – a staph infection-causing bacteria
  • Salmonella enterica – a salmonellosis-causing pathogen
  • Candida albicans – a fungal infection-causing yeast
  • Aspergillus niger – a “black mold” disease-causing fungus

Since beeswax is hydrophobic and repels water, it is able to mix with and absorb lipid-based components that it may come into contact with, such as residues of antibiotics, pesticides, and other similar products that are used in beekeeping. This emphasizes the importance of purifying beeswax, especially if its intended use involves some aspect of human health.

* Fratini, F., Cilia, G., Turchi, B. and Felicioli. A. 2016. Beeswax: A mini review of its antimicrobial activity and its application in medicine, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine. Full text available ONLINE.


Canadian Beekeeping Minutes – By ATTTA

ATTTA’s series of short demonstration videos, intended for beginner beekeepers, launched on Wednesday and the first video is now available for your watching and learning pleasure! We hope you enjoy and find these demonstrations informative and helpful. If you would like to suggest a demonstration topic for a future video, we are always open to new ideas! Help us help you and we will do our best to provide our supporters with a prepared and well-informed toolbox of best management techniques for beekeeping in Atlantic Canada.

You can find our “Canadian Beekeeping Minutes” series HERE.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: