I try hard not to use beeswax and would prefer that no one use it for a number of reasons. It is not vegan and is often not ethically sourced. Here’s what you need to know.
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 the 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 pheromones, 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 their honeycomb.
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 right to life.
Bees are also crucial for our food system as top 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 can 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 five 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.
The documentary Silence of the Bees documents the struggles of modern bees. Kept bees are constantly working and not living their bee lives as they would if they remained undisturbed.
Is using beeswax okay?
All that said, I do need to give a disclaimer here. I would personally rather support a natural skincare 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).
Nowadays, we can write letters to companies 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.
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.
Photo source: Treesha Duncan