Beeswax comes from honeybees and it is fascinating to think they actually produce the material they need to build their nests. Comb, which is the foundation of a colony of bees, is made from beeswax and is used to house brood as well as store honey and pollen.
Worker honeybees have eight wax-producing glands on the underside of their abdomen, and it is the job of the younger worker bees in the hive to make the wax. The younger worker bees, those between 12 and 20 days old, are the most efficient at producing wax and this will be their primary job while the older workers are out foraging, and the very young workers are nursing the brood.
In order for these young workers to produce beeswax they need to ingest honey. The older foragers bring nectar back to the colony where it is converted into honey and stored. The younger bees gorge on this honey and the sugar from the honey is converted by the wax gland into tiny flakes or scales which are secreted through tiny pores. When exposed to the air, these tiny flakes harden into wax.
The secreted wax scales are collected by worker bees and chewed until the wax becomes malleable. The temperature of the hive is really important here as the wax needs to be manipulated easily in order for it to be used as a building material. Too high a temperature and the beeswax becomes too soft, too low a temperature and it becomes brittle and hard. Once again it is down to the bees to sort this out. They have to regulate the temperature of the hive using their body heat. The ideal temperature is around 35 degrees.
As long as this ambient temperature is maintained and there is plenty of honey coming into the hive, the young worker bees can be busily constructing new comb, repairing old comb and capping storage cells.
And that’s how beeswax is made! Pretty amazing stuff.