Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Bees'-wax
BEES'-WAX, a solid concrete, obtained from the honey-combs, after the sweet and liquid parts are extracted, by heating and pressing them between iron plates. The best sort should be hard, compact, of a clear yellow colour, and an agreeable odour, similar to that of honey. Pure bees'-wax, when new, is tough, yet easily broken: by long keeping, it becomes harder and more brittle, loses its fine colour, and partly also its fragrance.
The purposes to which bees'-wax is applied, are various: great quantities of it are aunually bleached, and converted into candles. On account of its softening and healing nature, it is much used in cerates, plasters and ointments.
Artificial wax may be extracted from many vegetable substances, especially from the flowers of the lime-tree, by a chemical process; but we doubt whether the expence attending this experiment would, in this country, be equivalent to the advantages. It is, however, certain, that wax is contained in a much greater number of vegetables than has hitherto been supposed; and it may easily be extracted from the leaves of most plants and trees, as is manifest from their shining cover, or varnish, which generally consists of waxy matter. This concrete also forms an ingredient of several resins; and may be separated from gummy, mucilaginous, and saccharine matters, by simple water; from saponaceous substances, by water or spirit of wine; and from resinous bodies, by means of vitriolic æther.
Bee-Bread is a species of crude wax, collected by the working-bee from the farina of flower-cups, conveyed to the hive in the hollows of its hind-legs, and deposited in the cells with the egg, to serve as food for the young maggot.—This substance often varies in colour, according to the different flowers from which it is separated; and though generally white at first, it is afterwards changed, by the impurities arising from the steam, &c. of the bees. In some hives, this crude wax is said to amount to one hundred weight in a season, if the total consumption of these voracious young maggots be calculated in proportion to the incessant labour of their supporters; though the real wax in the whole hive may perhaps not exceed two pounds weight.
Bee-Glue, formerly called Virgin-wax (Propolis), is another balsamic production of the bee, which deserves to be noticed: it is a kind of natural mastich, of a reddish colour, and very agreeable smell. Small pieces of it are frequently found in the holes and crevices of the hives, where it is employed by those little artists, as a cement for excluding gold, rain, and noxious insects.
In the immense forests of Poland and Russia, where bees select their own habitations in the hollow trunks of trees, the bee-glue is deposited in much larger pieces, and of a superior flavour, to what is obtained in countries where these insects are reared by the aid of art. The inhabitants of the former, generally use it as a vulnerary application, to promote the healing of fresh wounds. Dr. James, in his "Medicinal Dictionary," praises the bee-glue as being gently heating, abstergent, and attracting: it softens indurated parts, alleviates pains, and induces cicatrices on ulcers."