The Chemical Free Aussie Beekeeper Who Won’t Use Beeswax Candles
Aussie Beekeeper, Chris Blamire, has added fuel to the debate on whether beeswax candles are better, healthier and more sustainable than other natural wax candles. Mr Blamire said, “Natural and organic product lovers might be shocked if they knew the truth about beeswax. I won’t use it for candles, even when the wax comes from my own chemical free organic hives.”
So what could be wrong with such an incredible wax made by the honey bee, one of the most amazing creatures on planet earth? Is this beekeeper a vegan, animal loving eco warrior who won’t use or consume anything produced from or by an animal out of principle? We asked him, this is what he said, “No, I’m not vegan but I do think there’s a lot to be said for a plant based diet. And I’m not an animal activist… But I love bees and they’re in trouble. And when the bees are in trouble, we are in trouble”.
What makes this story even more interesting is that Chris is not just an organic beekeeper… he is also owner of the renowned bespoke aromatherapy candle maker Lemon Canary, based on the Gold Coast. “It would be easier to go with public perception and add beeswax to our candles, everyone seems to love beeswax and I produce it from my hives. But I won’t do it, its not good for the bees and there are hidden health concerns natural product lovers aren’t aware of.”
With plenty of passion and urgency Chris went on to explain the three aspects he believes we must consider in the wax debate… 1. Whats best for us? 2. Whats best for the bees? and 3. What’s best for the bees is what’s best for us!
At first, the thought of beeswax causing health concerns seemed to be more than far fetched. What could be a more natural and healthy candle than beeswax?
The discussion that followed was eye opening to say the least. We discussed the use of chemicals inside of beehives, in particular the way most beekeepers use fipronil traps to control a very common beehive pest called the hive beetle. Fipronil is a broad based insecticide used on most household pests, from cockroaches to termites. In a beehive, this chemical is transferred to the wax by the feet of the beetle after passing through the trap.
Being a bit of a smart Alec, I proposed the solution of getting beeswax from chemical free beehives like his. Chris quickly shot that down, “chemical free beekeeping is much more difficult and you still don’t have 100% control”. Bees are visiting places that are getting sprayed. Spraying is happening on a small and large scale and can enter bee hives on the breeze too. Pesticides and toxins can also be transferred via what beekeepers call foundation. Foundation are thin beeswax sheets beekeepers use in the beehive frames to help give wax back to the bees and make their life easier. Wax foundation also guides the bees within a hive as to where it’s best to build comb. But the problem is… wax foundation is made by melting down the beeswax sold by large numbers of beekeepers so getting a 100% pure chemical free wax foundation is almost impossible.
For bees, wax production in the beehive is hard work. It takes 7 times the effort and resources to produce wax compared to honey. So when wax is taken it needs to be replaced. Sounds fine, that’s what bees do right? The problem is a hive that has to continually create lots of wax comb for its population is under stress which puts it at a higher risk of disease and colony collapse.
High quality beeswax is in very short supply in Australia which has lead to a new twist in the beeswax dilemma. People want beeswax and this growing demand has opened the door to imported beeswax from overseas and in particular China. There are calls to ban imported wax as it’s often laced with chemicals overseas beekeepers use to fight diseases not here in Australia yet like the Varroa Destructor Virus. Not only are there chemical and purity concerns, there are also serious integrity issues around wax supply too.
Earlier this year, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council reported on their concerns about adulterated beeswax in their January 2018 newsletter, “AHBIC obtained some beeswax blocks, originating from Malaysia, being sold by a major hardware chain and arranged to have it analysed. It came back as 100% paraffin wax. AHBIC has advised the chain concerned and also passed the information onto the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.”
Unfortunately their investigation didn’t end there. The newsletter went on to say, “There was also some beeswax foundation which originated from China. Analysis of this showed it to be 84.9% paraffin. The suppliers from China had been claiming that it was 100% beeswax but upon further enquiry and
being fronted with the results admitted they do add paraffin, they say at 1 or 2%. The same batch was also analysed for chemical residues by a different person and the results came back with residues of chemicals that are used for varroa treatments.”
Mr Blamire insists that if you are not buying your beeswax directly from a reputable beekeeper you know and trust, you may not be getting what you pay for.
Getting back to beeswax in candles. Most beeswax is taken from the beehive as part of the honey extraction process. Mr Blamire believes we need to give it back. He explained, “Taking beeswax for commercial use, given the trouble bees are in, is just not sustainable. For me, it just doesn’t feel right. The bees need our help, they give us so much and for that to continue we need to think more about how we can help them and think less about how we can take from them.”
My perception of beeswax candles is now very different. What seemed like a good natural choice of candle for my health and home is now not so clear cut. The question and challenge remains… What’s best for the bees? Because what’s best for the bees is best for you, me and the generations to come. Something to think about.