Ancient Use of Beeswax

By Ol’ Drone

Beeswax is only one of the several beneficial products of the honeybee hive, and is used in hundreds of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Its unique composition is a blend of esters of wax and fatty acids and long chain hydrocarbons. The nectar sugars, glucose and fructose, are actually “short chain” hydrocarbons. The melting point is 144 degrees F and the flash point is 399 degrees F.

How Wax Is Made

Bees consume eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax. Young bees about two weeks old secrete tiny flakes of wax from eight glands on the underside of the abdomen while the hive temperature is 91-97 degrees F. Older, foraging bees do not produce wax.

Used for Centuries

The oldest human use of beeswax has been reported in a finding from South Africa. A lump of beeswax mixed with a poisonous resin from the Euphorbia plant and wrapped with vegetal twine was used for “hafting” purposes. Hafting is the method of securing an arrowhead to the shaft of an arrow.

Dating of this piece indicated that it was at least 40 million years old. The combination of beeswax and Euphorbia sap for hafting is well suited for strength and preservation of the otherwise “biodegradable” fiber twine.

In addition to the preservation properties of the wax/herb sap combination, its toxic effect of the twine on the arrowhead probably poisoned the prey being hunted. Imagine the smart use of natural materials 40 million years ago!

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