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Beeswax poured into a block and wax from a sun wax melter on top

Beeswax (Latin cera ) is a wax secreted by honey bees , which they use to build honeycombs .

Structure and properties

Structural formula of myricyl palmitate - an ingredient of beeswax.

Beeswax consists of myricin (proportion of about 65% by weight), a mixture of esters of long-chain alcohols and acids derived from Palmitinsäuremyricylester C 15 H 31 -COO-C 30 H 61 is dominated next free cerotic acid C 25 H 51 -COOH, Melissic acid and similar acids (12%), saturated hydrocarbons (approx. 14%), alcohols (approx. 1%) and other substances (such as flavoring substances specific to bees) (6%). The analytical characterization of beeswax nowadays usually takes place using chromatographic methods . In particular, the coupling of gas chromatography / mass spectrometry using capillary separation columns makes it possible to reliably detect adulterations of the pure beeswax through cheaper substitutes such as high molecular weight paraffins .

Beeswax is soluble in turpentine oil at room temperature , but also in heated alcohol. It has a density of 0.95 to 0.965 g / cm 3 . The fat - titration amount for the acid number , Esterzahl and peroxide : 18-23, 70-80,> 8th

Freshly exuded, white wax flakes with a beeswax center wall above.

At 62 to 65 ° C, beeswax becomes liquid and can be absorbed by the fibers of a candle wick , where it burns through contact with the oxygen in the air, giving off light and heat. As a raw material for candle production, it has been largely replaced by cheaper stearin and paraffin .

The food additive "beeswax" has the designation E 901.


The wax platelets exuded from wax glands by honey bees are originally white in color. The yellow color is caused by the absorption of an ingredient in bee pollen , pollen oil , which in turn contains the natural pigment carotene . Cleaned and bleached white, it comes on the market as cera alba (white wax).

Beeswax in business

Today, beeswax has been largely replaced by artificial wax in wax-processing industries. Nevertheless, it cannot be completely replaced. The largest consumer of beeswax is the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry , where it is a component of creams, ointments, pastes, lotions and lipsticks. Most of the products are labeled with “Contains real beeswax”. Large quantities of wax are used in the manufacture of candles. In the chemical- technical industry ( ski wax , wax paint, impregnation agent, tree wax), beeswax only plays a subordinate role. Beeswax is used as a coating and separating agent in the manufacture of gelatin-based sweets (e.g. gummy bears). Traditionally, beeswax is used in medicine and physiotherapy as a heat pack for coughs, colds and pain in muscles and joints. From antiquity, wax was also used as a drug carrier in wax ointments or wax plasters (technically also Cerat , Ceratum or cerotum ) and wax pills ( cerotum rotundum , as wax suppositories or wax pessaries).

The beekeeper's wax cycle

A large consumer of wax is beekeeping, which has its own wax cycle. The wax is first produced by honey bees for building the honeycombs. The originally light-yellow combs take on a brown-black color after some time in the bee colony due to the incubation. The beekeeper removes the old, brown honeycombs for hygienic reasons. These old honeycombs are melted down using heat and steam. After the dirt has been separated, light, pure wax is produced again. From this new wax center walls are poured, which the beekeepers give into their colonies and on which the bees build honeycombs again. The beekeeper can melt down the honeycombs himself with a steam wax melter or a sun wax melter . There are also shops in beekeeping shops that buy old honeycombs or exchange them for freshly cast wax center walls. The production of new beeswax by the bees costs a lot of energy. It is estimated that the bees use around six kilograms of honey to produce one kilogram of wax.

Backlog problem

Since the appearance of the bee and brood parasite, the Varroa mite, in Europe from 1979, the reuse of beeswax in the wax cycle has become problematic. This is because many synthetic treatments for this mite are fat-soluble and can therefore accumulate in the wax. In the German-speaking countries in particular, beekeepers have now reacted and are increasingly using alternative control methods. For example, the organic acids lactic acid , formic acid or oxalic acid are used here. Oxalic acid and its salts ( oxalates ) occur naturally in the metabolism of humans and animals and also in crops such as rhubarb . Formic acid is also naturally contained in some honeys, such as chestnut honey. For this reason, residues remaining in alternative control methods are classified as harmless in low concentrations. These substances are also not fat-soluble and therefore do not accumulate in beeswax.

Wax adulteration

The high price has always made beeswax a field of adulteration . As early as the 14th century , counterfeit wax developed into such a big problem in the Hanseatic trading branches in Novgorod that quality criteria and meticulous quality controls of the beeswax supplied were contractually regulated in detail. In particular, the wax was weighed down by melted stones, sand or brick flour , or stretched in volume with butter , tallow , pitch , tar , resin , acorn or bean flour , which for many years led to disputes between the Hanse merchants and their Russian suppliers. Modern counterfeits contain cheaper waxes such as stearin and paraffin . The typical smell of beeswax can be obtained by adding propolis . Mixing with the industrial waxes can only be proven by complex analytical procedures . When using the adulterated beeswax as candle wax, the only problem is deception , while converting it into central walls can cause massive damage to the beehive. The bees usually accept the adulterated wax and expand the middle walls into honeycombs. The queen also donates to these combs, but large parts of the brood die within a very short time. Without beekeeping intervention by replacing it with real beeswax, these colonies will wither away for good and will not survive the next winter.


  • Vinzenz Weber: The wax book. Production and treatment of beeswax. Ehrenwirth, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-431-02359-2 .
  • Birgit Susanne Fröhlich: Waxes of the honey bee Apis mellifera carnica Pollm. Chemical and physical differences and their meaning for the bees. Dissertation at the University of Würzburg , Würzburg 2000. Online .
  • Reinhard Büll: The big book of wax: history - culture - technology. 2 volumes, Munich 1977.

Web links

Wiktionary: beeswax  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Beeswax  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Siegfried Hauptmann : Organic Chemistry , 2nd edition, VEB Deutscher Verlag für Grundstoffindustrie, Leipzig, 1985, p. 654, ISBN 3-342-00280-8 .
  2. N. Limsathayourat, H.-U. Melchert: High-temperature capillary GLC of hydrocarbons, fatty-acid derivatives, cholesterol esters, wax esters and triglycerides in beeswax analysis. In: Fresenius' Journal of Analytical Chemistry. 318, No. 6, 1984, pp 410-413, doi : 10.1007 / BF00533223 .
  3. ^ R. Aichholz, E. Lorbeer: Investigation of combwax of honeybees with high-temperature gas chromatography and high-temperature gas chromatography-chemical ionization mass spectrometry. II: High-temperature gas chromatography-chemical ionization mass spectrometry. In: Journal of Chromatography A. 883, No. 1-2, 2000, pp. 75-88, doi : 10.1016 / S0021-9673 (00) 00386-1 .
  4. Hans-Rudolf Fehlmann: Ceratum Galieni. On the history of Unguentum leniens. In: Perspectives on Pharmaceutical History. Festschrift Rudolf Schmitz . Edited by Peter Dilg together with Guido Jüttner, Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke and Paul Ulrich Unschuld . Graz 1983, pp. 65-77.
  5. Caspar Stromayr : Practica copiosa from the right ground of Bruch-Schnidts (1559). Edited by Werner Friedrich Kümmel together with Gundolf Keil and Peter Proff, facsimile and commentary, Munich 1983, sheet 144 r –149 r .
  6. ^ Willem Frans Daems : Dosage forms. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters , I, Sp. 1094-1096.
  7. ^ Ioannes Du Boys: Methodus miscendorum medicamentorum [...]. Paris (Jakob Kerver) 1527, reprint, ed. by Leo Jules Vandewiele and Dirk Arnold Wittop Koning, Gent 1973 (= Opera pharmaceutica rariora , 4), pp. 1-12.
  8. ^ Leopold Karl Goetz : German-Russian trade agreements of the Middle Ages . Friedrichsen, Hamburg 1916, p. 177-180 .
  9. Reinhard Büll: The big book from wax: history culture technology . Callwey, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7667-0385-4 , pp. 186-190 .
  10. Sebastian Spiewok: Stearin in the middle walls damages bee brood. In: German bee journal. Deutscher Bauernverlag, July 25, 2017, accessed December 16, 2017 .
  11. Robert Buchwald et al. a .: Interspecific variation in beeswax as a biological construction material. In: Journal of Experimental Biology. 209, 2006, pp. 3984-3989, doi : 10.1242 / jeb.02472 .