Are beeswax candles vegetarian or vegan? Let's start with the Oxford dictionary definition of vegetarianism and veganism...
“a person who does not eat meat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, fowl, or in some cases, any food derived from animals, such as eggs or cheese, but subsists on vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain etc”.
“the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet. As well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals”
Based on the above definitions it would be safe to say that a beeswax candle is vegetarian. In my opinion it would not be vegan. Despite this I thought it would be worth explaining a bit about how we go about obtaining beeswax just to give people a greater understanding of the process.
Beeswax is a product produced by honeybees and is completely natural. Beekeepers are able to obtain beeswax from beehives during the process of harvesting honey. This is done with little or no disturbance to the colony and I’ll explain a little bit about this below.
A beehive is made up of a series of boxes (Did you know you can sponsor a hive on our website?) The lowest and largest box is known as the brood box and this is where the queen resides. Overnight the majority of the bees in the hive will shuffle down to be near the queen and the brood. The boxes above the brood box are known as supers and these are where the bees store honey. The honey is stored in the comb which is made out of beeswax.
Over the summer there will be plenty of honey coming into the colony and the supers can get full up fairly quickly. As beekeepers we provide the bees with more storage space by adding supers. It is at this point that we can take the excess honey (always leaving plenty on the hive for the bees) away. We do this by lifting up the full box and placing an empty super underneath along with a piece of equipment known as a clearer board. The full box goes back on top but above the clearer board. We can’t immediately take this box away as there will still be worker bees inside.
The clearer board acts as a one-way system. I mentioned above that the bees like to go down at night and be close to the queen and brood. As they move through the tunnels of the clearer board they come out into the main part of the hive and they can’t get back through to the top box. After 48 hours the beekeeper can return, and the top box should be empty of bees. This box can then be taken away for extraction.
When bees bring honey into the hive and store it in the cells of the beeswax comb, they put a protective cap over each cell of honey. This is to prevent any contamination. This cap is made of beeswax. In order to extract honey this wax capping must first be removed. This can be done with a warm blade. The wax cappings go into a bucket and the frame of honey goes into the extractor. This is how we get beeswax. It is the wax cappings from the honey supers that beeswax candles are made of.
I hope this provides a clear description of the process of obtaining wax and perhaps it will help to inform any vegans out there who are unsure about whether or not they should be using beeswax candles.
Check out our range of beeswax gifts and honeys here.