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Beeswax is a tough wax formed from a mixture of several compounds including: hydrocarbons 14%, monoesters 35%, diesters 14%, triesters 3%, hydroxy monoesters 4%, Hydroxy polyesters 8%, acid esters 1%, acid polyesters 2%, free acids 12%, free alcohols 1%, unidentified 6% [1]. Beeswax is secreted by honeybees in the form of thin scales. The scales are produced by glands on the ventral surface of the abdomen. Worker bees have eight wax-producing glands on the inner sides of the sternites of abdominal segments 4 to 7. The size of these wax glands depends on the age of the worker.

Honeybees use the beeswax to build honey comb cells in which the young are raised and honey and pollen are stored. For the wax-making bees (12 days old) to secrete wax the ambient temperature in the hive has to be 33 to 36°C (91 - 97°F). Approximately eight pounds of honey is consumed by bees to produce one pound of beeswax. When beekeepers go to extract the honey, they cut off the wax caps from each honeycomb cell. Its color varies from yellowish-white to brownish depending on purity. Wax from the brood comb of the honeybee hive tends to be darker than wax from the honey comb. Impurities accumulate more quickly in the brood comb.

Beeswax has a high melting point range, of 62 - 64°C (144 - 147°F). It does not boil, but continues to heat until it bursts into flame at around 120°C (250°F). If beeswax is heated above 85 °C (185°F) discoloration occurs. Relative density at 15 °C is 0.958 - 0.970 g/cm3.

Beeswax is used commercially to make fine candles, cosmetics, in polishing materials, as a component of modelling waxes, and in a variety of other products. Beeswax candles are preferred in most Eastern Orthodox churches because they burn cleanly, with little or no wax dripping down the sides and little visible smoke. Beeswax is also prescribed as the material (or at least a significant part of the material) for the Paschal candle ("Easter Candle") and is recommended for other candles used in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

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Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:57:39
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