Beeswax - What Is It, Really? (And How Do Bees Feel About It)?

Two bees pollinate separate yellow flowers.

Over the last few weeks and months we have been getting to know a bunch of the lovely sustainable superheroes in our circles . During such chats, one of the regular questions we’d gotten was: “Are your beeswax wraps vegan-friendly?” The answer then was not yet. The answer now? They launch on Thursday.

Finding a like-for-like vegan replacement for beeswax wraps had been no easy task but we finally found a fabulous supplier who not only is vegan themselves but whose focus aligns with our goals on sustainability too with super eco packaging around a compostable product 😊😊 So as we wait in anticipation for launch day Thursday, we thought it was about time that we delved deep into the conjecture surrounding beeswax as a natural material, from the importance of our flying friends, how they feel about beeswax farming and how we can help repopulate their species. Let’s get into it...

Why are bees important?

First thing’s first - for anyone who isn’t already aware, bees are pretty cool 😎 As much as many of us are scared of their sting - they are a vital component to maintaining a healthy environment that are taken massively for granted. Their role in pollinating our plants, by taking the pollen from the male part of a plant and transferring it to the female part of another (don’t worry I didn’t know plants had genders either) enables fertilisation and the production of seeds. Honey bees, wild and domestic, are responsible for about 80% of pollination worldwide and a single bee colony can help pollinate up to 300 million flowers per day! But why does that matter? Well, without our pollinators crucial role in the fertilisation process, it wouldn’t just mean less pretty flowers blooming every year - it would have a knock on effect right up the food chain whereby animals have less plants to eat, consequently resulting in less meat for carnists to eat.

But if bees didn’t exist at all, it wouldn’t just affect meat-eaters. It wouldn’t just result in no stings or honey either. Up to 85% of plants wouldn’t exist 🤯 The £30 billion a year crop industry would be decimated as 70 of the 100 top human food crops would have no pollination 🤯 Farms would produce half or less of the fruit and veg they are able to today 🤯 It would be chaos - and all from these small flying insects whose populations we aren’t even ensuring we maintain…

What is beeswax?

Beeswax direct from the hive.

Beeswax is made from the honeycomb of bee hives 🐝 It is a byproduct of bees consumption of pollen and honey 🍯 (yep they eat their own honey), converted by female worker bees by combining tree resin with wax flakes and pollen to create beeswax. It is made when bees huddle together to increase the temperature in their hive to around 33°C. In doing so, the wax glands in their abdomen convert the sugar from honey into beeswax which then oozes through small pores to form scales on their abdomen. They then chew these small scales to turn them into beeswax of the right consistency to build the comb 🐝This byproduct is utilised by the bees to fix and strengthen their hives. It is an antibacterial, antifungal, waterproof product of nature, with an endless array of uses from lip balms, to air purifying candles and as a plastic wrap alternative.

What are wax wraps?

3 of the 5 vegan wax wrap patterns we offer.

You can think of wax wraps as the reusable, compostable alternative to traditional plastic wrap (i.e. cling film). And our brand new Bee-Free Vegan Wax Wraps, launching Thursday, are the perfect solution for our vegan friends to experience cruelty-free, plastic-free bliss! Wax wraps are perfect for repeat use with sandwiches 🥪, fruits 🍉, veg 🍅, unsealed foods 🧀 and leftovers 🍽️! In fact, unlike their single-use; disposable; plastic; polluting (rant over) predecessors, one wax wrap provides 120 to 150 uses - and even after that, you can just pop them in the oven at a very low heat on some greaseproof paper, or your reusable silicone baking mat, for a minute or two. Be super CAREFUL because they'll get hot 🥵 Doing this will help reaffirm their moldability!

Also unlike their plastic predecessors (which derive from crude oil - surely the most unsustainable resource on the planet), our range of wax wraps derive from all organic ingredients: cotton fabric, soy wax and a food-grade pine resin coating. When it comes to disposal, there’s no contest either - while plastic wrap is incinerated or goes to landfill after just one use, releasing a highly toxic chemical called dioxin and devolving into dangerous microplastics, our bee-free vegan wax wraps biodegrade into feed for your plants when composted 🌻 The eco wins of choosing wax wraps are truly second to none.

How do bees feel about humans using their beeswax?

A beekeeper farming bees.

It would be overlooking the obvious to say that bees don’t mind that humans use their beeswax. As with every natural substance, beeswax isn’t made for us, it’s made by female worker honeybees who work hard to produce the beeswax required to strengthen their hives. However, for non-vegans, so long as beeswax is farmed properly, beekeepers can avoid an overzealous impact of the lives of their bees by only using what they don’t need.

Before we discovered the fabulous soy wax alternative to beeswax, that made every product on our store vegan-friendly, we used to offer beeswax wraps. And while we strictly only worked with farmers who demonstrated a significant level of care about the bees they're keeping 🐝 we realised from our beautiful, growing vegan community that even though our use of their excess beeswax wasn't harming the bees, these incredible insects deserve the freedom to roam freely, and do with their produce as they please. We realised just how unnecessary it was for us to utilise their beeswax when there was an equally useful, plastic-free alternative that is ALSO plant-based!

How else can we help the bees?

Human nonchalance of the impact our pesticides and pollutants are having on the lives of bees is without a doubt what has led to significantly declining bee populations across the UK, and indeed the world ☹️ But our intervention now is vital to their survival, and by association that of humanity (as we outlined to start this thought piece). In addition to purchasing vegan alternatives, or if you are not vegan - supporting sustainably farmed hives, there’s a whole lot more we have the power to do too…

We can support Greenpeace’s charge to reduce the pesticides farmers use and have rusty patched bumble bees listed as an endangered species, providing them vital environmental protections (you can take action here). We can work hard to reduce our impact from other air pollutants affecting their populations by choosing reusable and renewable where possible ⚡ We can approach our local councils, and ask that they consider the evidence of the explosion in bee populations in the early months of COVID last year as roadside verges remained uncut, which in combination with reduced air pollution, allowed bees to make shorter and more profitable ‘shopping trips’, resulting in increased rearing of their young 🐝 We, can stand together, and ensure bees aren’t just saved, but re-established to population levels of years gone by. We have the power to help - we just have to choose to act.

🐝 Buzz on over to discover our range of zero-waste vegan wax wraps here, this coming Thursday!!

When we started investigating the sustainability of beeswax for this article - we weren’t sure what we’d find. Having just watched Seaspiricy, we had just reached a new level of disgust with the way that animals are treated, and began writing with the sad expectation that we may uncover uncomforting truths about the sustainability of beeswax. From our research, and buoyed on from our strong vegan community on Instagram, we discovered just how important a role bees play in society, and how our reliance on their produce is completely unnecessary when there are cruelty-free, vegan alternatives that do the same job. If you're reading this as a vegan from our Instagram community, know that you played a huge role in pushing us to discover an amazing plant-based alternative for plastic-wrap that also didn't rely on bees. Thank you.

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