There is a long-standing debate whether beeswax products fall into the category of vegan-friendly commodities. What's the honest take about this great gift of nature? Let's find out.
Knowing whether a product involves cruelty to animals and insects is vital for all vegans. However, some practitioners aren't fully aware of how things work and the process behind the scenes related to beeswax.
What is Beeswax?
You might not be aware of this fact, but beeswax is pretty much present in most of our household products. Beeswax candles, cosmetics, coloring materials, and pastry usually use beeswax as part of their ingredients. Even soaps often have beeswax components in them. But what is it exactly, and is beeswax vegan?
Beeswax is a natural product from our friendly bees – specifically, honey bees. A worker bee produces this natural wax to make the well-defined honeycomb compartments that we all know.
Bee colonies use these compartments made from wax as a storage facility for their hard-earned honey. As one of nature's best engineers, worker bees secure the colony's storage walls and top it off with a lid. This ensures the hive has an adequate supply to go through the harsh winter times.
Another known natural use for this wax in a colony involves housing the young ones inside their hive. These hexagonal cells act as a protective casing for baby bees as they go through their natural larval and pupal stage cycles.
Bees put a lot of effort into creating and maintaining these honeycomb cells made from beeswax.
How Do Bees Produce Wax?
A special gland in the bee's anatomy is the key to producing this natural substance. This secretion essentially becomes an essential part of the hive. These glands become active roughly between the 12th and 17th day of the bees' life. These glands slowly become less active as they age.
After bees have exhausted the wax inside their glands, most worker bees eventually change their profession. Worker bees will be involved in foraging duties rather than building their unique wax structures once they reach a certain age. However, should the colony face particular danger, their system enables them to produce wax to compensate for the need of their hive.
Initially, this wax takes a liquid form and slowly transforms into thin sheets. Experts call these thin layers of secretion "scales" and are usually the raw form of beeswax. Worker bees process these scales by chewing them up and slowly molding them to create that hexagonal wonder that we all know.
Bee Farming: How Do We Harvest Beeswax?
Now we know the gist of how bees produce their natural wax, it is time to uncover the truth in the question, "is beeswax vegan or not"?
Bee farms and beekeepers usually keep many colonies to harvest that golden honey. Sometimes, farmers gather that sweet produce from bees and their beeswax as well. However, it comes at the expense of exploiting bees.
As we all know, the beeswax compartment is used to store honey, and people need to pry open these wax cells. Beekeepers use a hot knife to melt away the honey lids and what comes out is the sweet golden liquid that everyone loves.
Looking at the surface level from gathering the wax and honey from the colony, you'll not see anything wrong. However, that doesn't mean we have already considered everything about the honey bees.
To give a clearer picture, consider this - Beekeepers use smoke to keep bees at bay to safely gather their specially constructed trays where all the honey and wax are. This smoke makes bees docile and potentially puts them in harm's way.
Many beekeepers indeed love taking care of their bees, but the process of harvesting beeswax and honey from bees may cause damage in the long run. For the most part, this is the thing vegans oppose.
Vegans and Beeswax
The general thought of vegans is to avoid any practice that involves any form of exploitation of any animals. It doesn't only cover food, but products as well. Unfortunately, many things we see on the shelves of our local grocery stores contain animal-derived ingredients. That also includes beeswax. These large companies take little consideration for the general welfare of these living beings in exchange for greater profits. That's why it is essential to check the labels.
Is beeswax vegan? Are there any vegan alternatives to beeswax? To give you answers to the most compelling questions about mother nature's natural wax, it is safe to say that they are not vegan.
Common Uses of Beeswax
Products that are made from beeswax are more common than you think. People suffering from chapped lips use items from them. The candle you use as one of the centerpieces of your romantic dinner is also made from beeswax.
Knowing that the humble beeswax is not vegan, vegans need to avoid products that use them as one of their main components. You might be surprised how many everyday products on our local shelves contain wax from bees. Here are a few examples.
Everyday Products Made from Beeswax
- Dental floss
- Lip balm and lip glosses
- Furniture polish
- Shoe polish
- Hair waxes and pomades
- Waterproofing compounds on clothing.
Beeswax can also be found in food. If you didn't know, it is commonly used as a thickener or lining for pastry cases and alcoholic drinks.
In many European countries, beeswax is used for food additives and included in the label as the "E number." Your best bet is to reach out to the manufacturer or investigate thoroughly before you purchase something for other products.
It is also recommended to look for the symbols trusted by respectable vegan society when it comes to beauty products. This ensures the item you're purchasing passed the vegan standards.
There's a long list of products that contain bee-related products, and it might be a little challenging to avoid beeswax components altogether. If you're unsure, it might be best to drop it from your shopping cart in the meantime while you haven't got any clear confirmation. Good thing there are tons of alternatives to products that contain beeswax.
Beeswax Alternative for Vegans
Beeswax product alternatives are present in today's market, and you might need to do a little bit of shopping to spot them. To lessen the burden, here are a few vegan options for you.
- Soy wax - can be used in candles, lip balm, and other related products
- Candelilla wax - can be an alternative to lotions, lubricants, and varnishes
- Plant oils - mainly used as moisturizers, soaps, salves, and other similar products
- Bayberry (Myrica) wax - can be crafted to become candles and fragrances
- Sustainable carnauba wax - generally used in cosmetics
- Rice bran wax - is another vegan substitute found in cosmetics
- Sunflower wax - can be an alternative to beeswax found in cosmetics, balms, and lotions. You can also find other interesting use for sunflower wax.
- Synthetic beeswax
Is Beeswax Vegan?
Based on everything you learned about beeswax and the process of how bees create them, it is safe to say that they aren't suitable for vegans. Without a doubt, it can be considered as a natural product, but the procedure to harvest them involves practices that may put the friendly bees in harm's way. It's important to remember that these are living creatures just like us.
Fortunately, tons of options and natural products are available that act as alternatives to beeswax. The more research you perform about the daily products you purchase from your local grocery, the more you become aware of the facts.
Is Honey Vegan?
That's a whole new article but to discuss it briefly, In the same way, that beeswax can be harmful to bees when it is harvested the same applies to honey. While many might see it as a natural sweeter that is added to almost everything, the whole process of harvesting honey can be pretty harsh on bees.
Beeswax is a common component in everyday products you see on your local grocery shelves. They are present in all sorts of things ranging from cosmetics, beverages, food, and personal care items.
It might be hard at the start to avoid certain beeswax products in the market. Still, alternatives are always available, as long as you know what to look for. Checking every label is always a good practice for all vegans. This ensures you'll never miss a beat to any items that may be subjected to any form of animal cruelty.
A vegan lifestyle is more than just a vegan diet scheme. It revolves around appreciating every living being and their welfare, making sure everything they consume is considered cruelty-free. The same thought applies to everyday items vegans use, such as animal products and other related stuff.
Most vegans avoid items with honey and beeswax. However, not all are aware of its story and the insect's welfare.