Kind Classis: My Thoughts on Beeswax
Ok, so here is my opinion on beeswax: I try hard not to use it, and would rather that no one use it.
Bees are smarter than we think, and have a lot going on in their nervous systems. Like many animals, bees have a very good sense of sight, smell, and communication. According to University of Arizona’s agricultural department, bees can see six “groups” of colors, including ultraviolet, a color that humans can’t see. They can also smell each other’s pheremones, and rely on smell to signal danger, as well as to identify who is part of their hives. They use their antennae to sense the space around them, which comes in handy when they are building comb. Bees experience life, do what they can to avoid pain and harm, and go after things that they want! Yes, they are bees, but they are creatures that deserve their natural, god-given right to life… and they are the most gifted pollinators!
Beekeepers truck nearly 2.4 million hives all over the country to track seasonal crops. This stresses the bees out and bombards them with pesticides and diseases that are present at the different locations where the trucks stop en route. Beekeepers also go to nasty extremes to keep colonies going. They will replace honey (what bees eat) with corn-syrup or refined sugar. Access to only a single food source weakens bees’ immune systems. In fact, studies show that bees who pollinate 5 crops have stronger immune systems than bees who pollinate just one crop, or subsist on just one type of nutrient. Beekeepers will also cut off the Queen bee’s wings, keep her in a cage to stay away from a hostile hive (Queen bees are often transplanted to foreign hives from their home hives), or kill her off when egg production slows. And they will often use smoke to force the bees out of their hives. In 2006 millions of bees across the country vanished from their hives.
There is a great PBS documentary called Silence of the Bees about this that researches why and what happened. The whole deal is just not at all friendly – the bees are kept constantly working and not living their bee lives as they would if they remained undisturbed.
All that said, I do need to give a disclaimer here. I would personally rather support a natural skin care line that has beeswax in it than a company that is vegan but uses tons of chemicals. That’s just my personal feeling. You have to remember that these chemicals we see in so many products on the market are hurting the planet, hurting us, and hurting animals as well (by destroying their habitats). The more we support natural products, the less damage we do to the environment, to ourselves and to animals.
Of course, I prefer that a beauty product line be as natural as can be, and be vegan and free of beeswax…but sometimes a pretty great line will have one or two ingredients that are less than ideal (i.e. carmine or beeswax, both not nice). Now, we can write letters to them and ask them why they use these ingredients and ask them to use something else instead. Maybe they’ve never tried to do it another way and with your help, will consider alternatives. Either way, it’s always good to be an engaged consumer.In the end, it’s all about finding the best possible solution, under all given circumstances. I will continue to search for the perfect solution and appreciate the best ones or the best-for-now ones in the meantime. This is why some of the products I have listed around the website have beeswax in them or insects – because they are the “best for now” options. And to be honest, I had gotten so excited about all natural and lanolin-free stuff out there that I forgot to check the insect/beeswax factor, so thank you, community, for reminding me. I have tons of respect for insects and definitely don’t want to use or harm them unnecessarily.
A word about organic beeswax – regulations are not well defined, and because bees often forage 1-2 miles from their hives, it is hard to control their contact with pesticides. Companies producing organic beeswax do claim that they keep their bees away from chemicals or pesticides. But as far as the bees are concerned, the “organic” label does not address practices that are hurtful to the bees – only practices that would be potentially harmful to humans (e.g. exposure to pesticides and chemicals). That’s an important distinction to keep in mind whenever assessing natural or organic products.
Of course there is so much more for me to learn on this subject – but this is where I sit with the info I have now. Stay tuned as I learn more.
Please share any insights you have here!
above photo source: Treesha Duncan