While the other insects create the nest with the materials found in the environment, the bees produce the construction material by themselves: wax. It is a fatty substance, entirely of animal origin, secreted by the silky glands functioning in workers aged between 10 and 16 days; to produce 1 kg of wax, 9 to 12 kg of honey are needed and the greatest production occurs during the spring period.
As soon as it is produced, in the form of droplets, it is then processed with the jaws and added with pollen and propolis in small quantities. It has a variable color from grayish-white to dark brown but usually yellow predominates.
Wax sticks (photo www.gsheller.com)
|waxy acid esters *|
free acids **
humidity and foreign substances
Source: A. Contessi (2010)
* of which myricyl palmitate, myricyl cerotate, myricyl palmitoleate, ceryl palmitate, myricil hydroxypalmitate, cholesteryl palmitate.
** of which cerotic acid, melissic acid, palmitoleic acid, neocerotic acid, myricic acid.
*** of which heptacosane, nonacosane.
It has antiseptic, emollient, anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
Once upon a time, beeswax had many uses such as in the field of lighting (where unlike mineral wax, organic wax like that of bees leaves no residue after burning), in painting and sculpture, in writing, in medicine , etc.
Today it has been replaced by cheaper substances such as paraffin, plastic, vegetable and mineral waxes, etc.
Its main use is in the production of wax sheets but it is also used for spinning, dental products, waxes for polishing furniture, etc.
One of the methods that allows the recovery of the wax from the honeycombs is concentrated during the honey extraction phase; in fact, using special knives it is possible to scrape the wax capsules that seal the cells filled with honey. After putting them in a bain-marie they can be melted and immediately filtered, or it is possible to separate the wax from the water thanks to the different specific weight that allows you to create a clear division. Alternatively, the solar waxer can be used, except for the old and damaged honeycombs to which it is not possible to extract all the wax; this particular tool allows, through the sun or the heat generated electrically, to dissolve the wax and to separate the impurities by means of a fine mesh filter.
In addition, there are commercially available presses that, thanks to the fusion of wax with steam, extract them in a greater percentage. For long storage periods it is advisable to keep it in airtight containers in order to protect it from attack by the small wax moth.