About Beeswax

Swammerdam’s Apprentice

Beeswax. What Is It?

The main constituents and the physical properties of beeswax.Wax is a hydrocarbon – contains the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It contains about 300 different chemicals.

Major components of a typical beeswax:

  • Monohydric alcohols 31%
  • Fatty acids 31%
  • Hydrocarbons 16%
  • Hydroxyl acids 13%
  • Diols 3%
  • Other (propolis, pollen, …) 6%

Physical properties of beeswax:

  • Solid at room temperature
  • Melts at 64°C
  • Solidifies at 63°C
  • It has a nice aroma (acids, alcohols, esters – volatiles)
  • Specific gravity = 0.95. It floats in water and sinks in alcohol.
  • It is not soluble in water.
  • It is water repellent, used as water proofer – wax jackets and waxed threads.
  • Slightly soluble in alcohol. Quite soluble in the higher order alcohols.
  • It is soluble in chloroform, benzene, toluene, petrol, . . .
  • It is brittle when cold.
  • Malleable and plastic at 32°C
  • It can remain stable for thousands of years.
  • It is combustible, giving CO2 and H2O plus heat and light.

How Do I Make A Show Sample?


  • The wet cappings can be put in muslin bags (balanced) and spun in the extractor to recover as much honey as possible.
  • I wash them in a little soft water to remove most of the honey and this can be used to feed some colonies – no waste.
  • Rinse the cappings a few times in soft water. Hard water causes saponification with the calcium in the hard water – gives a bloom to the wax.
  • For show the best wax comes from fresh cappings.
  • Spread the cappings out on a white cloth and pick out any discoloured bits or foreign bodies – bee parts, propolis etc.
  • The wax must be filtered through fine muslin. Place cappings in fine muslin cloth and tie it off.
  • Place this in a jacketed hot water heater – when all of the wax is melted lift out the muslin slowly – reasonably pure wax will be left floating in the water.
  • Filter this hot wax through fine filter paper to remove any further impurities, some use fine filter paper.
  • Other methods can be used – solar extractor – steam boiler – or steam jacketed wax press.
  • Do not use iron or copper vessels – stainlessless is preferred.


  • Buy a mold of oven proof glass (Pyrex), free of internal blemishes and reserve for wax molding only.
  • Check size of wax block from the show schedule.
  • Put the appropriate volume of soft water in the mold and mark this level on the outside.
  • Wash, with unscented detergent, and dry the mould.
  • Heat the purified wax up to 70°C.
  • Rub two to three drops soft water with two to three drops of unscented detergent all over the inside of the mold – to act as release agent.
  • Place the mold in another larger Pyrex container with water at 66°C.
  • Momentarily stand the heated wax container in a shallow tray of iced water – to congeal any dirt that may be in the bottom.
  • Pour the molten wax into the mold, avoiding any air bubbles, up to the mark.
  • Place a preheated lid on the mold.
  • Allow to cool slowly, insulate with newspapers.
  • Put the lot into the oven or the range when going to bed.
  • The following morning submerge the mold in container of cold water – this releases the wax block.
  • Smoothen off the edges and polish the surface with a silk cloth.
  • The process will have to be repeated over several nights to get a block good enough for show exhibition.
  • When you do get a good one – wrap it up well – put it in a plastic container and mind it.
reprinted with permission from
the  Irish Beekeeper