Beeswax - Why do we use it?

Maybe we haven’t made it obvious yet, but we love bees. These little buzzing buddies are responsible for the flexibility and delectable honey scent of our sustainable beeswax wraps! Ours is locally sourced, about twenty minutes up the road from our production facility. It may seem like a no-brainer to use beeswax if you want to make a food safe, award winning wrap, but the benefits of beeswax are worth gushing about. Here are all the reasons we love using beeswax in our products, with some interesting facts about beeswax to boot, for your next Zoom happy hour. 

 

Anti-Bacterial Properties 

We really ought to credit bees with the idea of a beeswax wrap; they use beeswax to store food just like us, and just like us, they want to avoid letting microbes that might spoil or rot their food in. Honey has already been touted for its antibacterial properties and has even been proven to show more or less antibacterial activity depending on what pollen was used to produce it (cantaloupe pollen did best. Who knew?) [1]. This isn’t unique to the European Honeybee. Other wild bee species produce honey that shows antibacterial properties too. In a study of 12 stingless bees in Ecuador, every species produced honey that reduced growth of pathogenic bacteria that can make people sick, such as Staphylococcus aureus [2]. That’s the globular bacteria that can cause food poisoning, the start to many bad daysIt’s important to note that antibacterial properties are only seen in unpasteurized honey, something to keep in mind when purchasing at your next farmers market.  

That’s honey though. What about the benefits of beeswax? 

Most important to beeswax’s anti-bacterial activity is the substance propolis. Propolis is collected from plants and used by bees to cover crevices or just hold things together in the hive, earning the adorable nickname ‘bee glue’. It’s been proven to be antibacterial, breaking up the cell walls of gram positive and negative bacteria even at low concentrations, thereby discouraging bacterial growth from reaching levels high enough to cause illness [3]. Extracting propolis and using it in natural food coatings even showed antifungal activity against Aspergillus niger [4]a fungus that causes black mold growth on fruits and vegetables (picture the mushy raspberry at the bottom of the carton). Not surprisingly then, humans have been trying to isolate and use propolis for all sorts of things, including mouthwash! Just like honey, if it's heated too much, the propolis will lose its antibacterial properties - and is one of the reasons why we process our own beeswax.

Other benefits of beeswax include that it forms a water-resistant rindkeeping whatever is enclosed safe from the elements. Water is an important aspect to food preservation, as anyone who has tried putting damp greens in the fridge will know. Water vapor is critical to keeping things fresh. In high humidity environments, not only will things get soggy (gross), but produce will go soft and rot faster [5]. Not to mention molds and funguses love damp environments, and that’s not really a desirable thing to find when you reach for some strawberries. 

Keeping food safe from the elements for storage has always been a problem. Historically, beeswax was not only used to coat the rinds of cheeses, but also to seal jars. A container of food would be covered with a piece of paper or cloth tied into place, and then the top of the container would be dipped in beeswax, thereby water-proofing the opening, and maintaining stable conditions in the container to keep things fresh for longer [6]. Beeswax’s water-resistant properties are still used in the development of natural, edible food films and coatings. In one study, higher concentrations of beeswax produced edible food films with the lowest water vapor permeability and moisture content in the experiment [4]. Keeping the humidity stable and low is one way to make your food last longer, and that’s something that beeswax can offer. 

These are all reasons why we started out using beeswax in our Khala Cloths. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Buying local beeswax supports local honeybees and ecosystems, with a low carbon footprint as it doesn’t need to be transported farIt’s pliable, sticky enough to get a grip on different kinds of surfaces, but not so sticky that it leaves residue, it smells of honey... and best, beeswax can keep food fresh for longerWhats not to love? When used in concert with other ingredients, like coconut oil, the benefits can increase. Keep an eye out for our next post about the benefits of coconut oil (an important ingredient in both our beeswax and vegan wraps)! 

 

Sources 

1] Comparison of methods to determine antibacterial activity of honeys against Staphylococcus aureus - ScienceDirect 

2] Honey quality parameters, chemical composition and antimicrobial activity in twelve Ecuadorian stingless bees (Apidae: Apinae: Meliponini) tested against multiresistant human pathogens - ScienceDirect 

3A physico-chemical study of the interaction of ethanolic extracts of propolis with bacterial cells - ScienceDirect 

4Development and characterization of edible films based on native cassava starch, beeswax, and propolis - ScienceDirect 

5]  How Humidity Affects Fruit and Vegetables | Smart Fog 

6] food_preservation (raggedsoldier.com)