Why We Avoid Beeswax and Honey
There are a number of reasons why we avoid beeswax and honey – both in our skincare products and in our diet. Many of us grew up putting honey on our pancakes and burning hand-rolled beeswax candles. We may even have tasted a real honeycomb. But times have changed. Colony collapse disorder is threatening to render the honeybee, as well as many other native bees, extinct. For a species that has been around for tens of billions of years, this is truly concerning.
It is important to understand the role that bees play in agriculture. Yes, they pollinate our flowers, but they are also crucial to the production of about 30% of the world’s crops. That includes such crops as berries, avocados, apples, citrus fruits, sunflowers, and the list goes on. Without bees, most of these crops would cease to exist. While other animals are known to transfer pollen, bees are the workhorses of the agricultural world.
Why Are Bees Dwindling in Number?
There are many theories; here are a few:
- Large agricultural operations with hundreds of acres of a single crop require a huge number of bees in order to produce a large harvest. To do this, they often “rent” bees from individuals who truck them in from far away. Prolonged travel puts a tremendous strain on the bees. Feeding on just one type of crop can suppress their immune system, leading to disease.
- Bees involved in large commercial operations are often fed poor diets consisting primarily of high fructose corn syrup during these long trips across the country, which leaves them weakened and susceptible to disease.
- Environmental factors like high levels of pesticides, excessive heat and a changes in flower growth patterns leave the bees with less food and damaged immune systems.
To learn more about these issues, watch the documentary https://youtu.be/CBmlwx_6A8Q on Youtube.
What Can We Do To Help The Bees?
The demand for both beeswax and honey continues to grow. In much the same way as palm oil (which we also avoid), these products are found in everything from skincare products to furniture wax to candies, candles, etc. This can only fuel in increased use of bees in ways that leave them vulnerable to disease and death. While there are thousands of bee species, the few that produce honey are the ones that are relied on to produce ever increasing amounts of honey and beeswax. Here are a few things that you can do:
- Avoid the use of pesticides. Not only have they been implicated in colony collapse disorder, but repeated exposure may put your health at risk, as well. Use natural means like vinegar (for killing weeds), diatomaceous earth (avoid inhaling), and hand picking to eliminate pests. Use companion plants (e.g. tomatoes and basil), which will encourage good bugs to take care of pests. After all, pesticides can kill beneficial species like bees as well.
- Avoid products containing commercially-produced honey and beeswax (Cera alba). Although honey, propolis and royal jelly have been touted for their health-promoting properties, these products are not essential for good health and these claims have not been substantiated scientifically. Moreover, more and more consumers are experiencing sensitivity to beeswax. Harvesting these products disturbs the bee’s habits and habitat in some way – which is something that we’d like to avoid. There are many substitutes for honey like maple syrup, agave nectar, and simple syrup made from organic cane sugar. Instead of beeswax, we use candelilla wax, carnauba wax, sunflower wax, and (in the future) bayberry or non-gmo rapeseed wax in our products. For example, we have been using sustainably-harvested candelilla wax in our Body Balms since Day 1. So check your labels or go online and find out what ingredients are in your skincare products. And look for plant-based, vegan and gmo-free products.
- Buy local whenever possible. That includes local produce, seeds and flowering plants. If you can grow your own food, do so organically. Plant flowers that attract bees like bee balm, purple coneflower and sunflowers. And if you must enjoy honey and beeswax, buy local honey from reputable independent beekeepers. They are more fully committed to preserving the bees’ habitats and health.
- Learn more about the indigenous bee species that live in your area. Many bee species do not produce honey, but their important role as pollinators should not be ignored.
Let us strive to co-exist with these workhorses, while helping them to thrive and grow in number.
The Kind Life blog post on beeswax
Article on market demand for beeswax
Smallbones Studio article on beeswax candles
PETA article on factory-farmed bees
BBC Earth article about bees