Bee Wax (Beeswax)
Bee wax (beeswax) is an abdominal secretion of bees (Apis mellifera), its colour being dependent of the flowers gathered by these insects. Bee wax is extracted by boiling the honeycomb in water and skimming the wax off the top. The color of beeswax varies from deep brown to light amber, depending on what flowers the bee visited for pollen. Beeswax is compatible with most other waxes, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and plant glycerides. Bees used it to form the hive cells.
Bee wax (beeswax) is easily saponifiable and emulsifiable because of its content in free fatty acids, diols and hydroxyacids. Its main components are palmitate, palmitoleate, hydroxypalmitate and oleate esters of long-chain alcohols (C30-32) (about 70 to 80% of the total weight). The ratio of triacontanylpalmitate (or melissylpalmitate) to cerotic acid (C26:0), the other major component of bee wax is 6:1. Hydrocarbons (from 10 to 18 % of heptacosane and nonacosane), sterols (up to 2% as cholesterol, lanosterol, b-sitosterol), pheromones (geraniol, farnesol) and terpenoids are also found.
Bee wax is used since ancient times since its presence was detected in the wall pictures of the Lascaux cave and in Egyptian mummies. Bee wax can be classified generally into European and Oriental types. The ratio of saponification value is lower (3-5) for European beeswax, and higher (8-9) for Oriental types.
The world production amounts to about 7000 tons per year and 60% are used in cosmetic and pharmacy.