Updated: Mar 3
Why beeswax and honey can never be sustainable?
Do you remember the time when everyone hated cling film plastic wraps? Zero Waste movement steadily picked up in our town where we lived in Canada around 2016. I was also very excited to see cute reusable containers, straws of all kinds and innovative to-go coffee mugs in the market. This wasn’t a common sight in India back then. But our steel tiffin dabbas were the bomb! One such “ecofriendly” product that launched was beeswax wraps. In almost all health food stores and zero waste shops, you’ll see them in various patterns and sizes. Even the youtubers figured out how to DIY food wraps. Believe me, it was infuriating!
One thing I always had to deal with was beeswax in almost all skin care products irrespective of its value. I used to think it’s impossible to get a lip balm without beeswax. No kidding! Being an ethical vegan and for sustainability reasons, I was on a constant quest until I founded Sea & Me India in 2018! It was a great learning process for me, because I discovered the plethora of plant waxes, oils and butters that we can use to make natural beauty products without beeswax - a great example is our Chocolate lip balm that everyone loves!
So what’s wrong with honey and beeswax? Isn’t saving the honey bees equal to saving the planet from destruction?
Everyone feels like a superhero for sharing cute honey bee emojis on their Instagram stories (I don’t understand the trend, is it because we messed up already?), forgetting that there are over 30,000 indigenous bee species in the world and only a miniscule 11 of them are actual honey bees. Not so Fun Fact: Not all bees are honey bees!
The genus Apis is commonly exploited by humans for honey production- Apiculture. Often introduced into other regions as like farm animals, honey bees are livestock products maintained in artificial hives for extracting honey and beeswax. It's an agricultural animal, in the same way that cattle and chicken are. Originally imported from Europe, commercial honey bees were introduced to India in the 1990s and managed by beekeepers in order to make money (oops! Honey!), beeswax or to pollinate crops.
"The way we're managing honeybees, in these hives, has nothing to do with nature conservation," Jonas Geldmann, University of Cambridge.
Native bees are estimated to pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants around the world. So cool, eh? Farmed honey bees compete with indigenous bees for food, making it harder for the native species to survive. There are thousands of indigenous bee species, hiding away in the ground or in odd cavities. Many are in peril; some species have disappeared. If a species of bees is wiped out, the plant exclusively dependent on it for pollination may die away too. Now, whose fault was that?
The intervention of feral honey bees threatens the native bees. These honeybees are no different from the notoriously invasive Seemai Karuvelam maram (Prosopis juliflora) in South India.
It’s very fancy for business to put wild honey in glass jars and sell them in a gourmet shop with all the flower names on the label. Aren’t they sooo cuteeee?! I wanna save the bees, so I buy them all the time! Oh my gwaad, I feel so proud of myself!
‘Wild Honey’ may sound very promising in helping the forest and honey hunters but trust me it’s the most dangerous form of honey extraction. These strayed invasive honey bees build colonies in the forest competing with the native bees and pollinators for nectar and nesting space. Traditionally honey hunters plunder (Yes, plunder! No different from a mean robber looting your life saving) these nests wholey for honey and wax chasing away the honeybees in the process, further encouraging feral bee populations. This cycle entirely creates an imbalance in the native bee populations in each biodiversity.
Don’t let the deceiving name fool you, the native bees are the real superheroes of maintaining our biodiversity!
A true conservation effort will be to stop farming or hunting these honey bees for our greed and help wild bee populations by growing more weed! What! Yeah weeds like wildflowers, what did you think? Their effective pollination in their native forest types will ensure biodiversity is intact. It’s time we understand that not all bees are honey bees. And using honey and beeswax cannot help our ecosystem, but you can! With this Climate Crisis, it’s clear that animal domestication in any form has only rendered deep destruction and compromised the health of our planet.
Be Free, Bee-free!
References that I used to research:
Conserving honey bees does not help wildlife
Authors: Jonas Geldmann, Juan P. González-Varo
Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.
Science 26 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6374, pp. 392-393
Fundamentals, Applications and Strategies
2017, Pages 443-455
Chapter 22 - Waxes
Authors: W.F.Tinto, T.O.Elufioye, J.Roach
Encyclopedia of Insects
2009, Pages 71-75
Chapter 20 - Bee Products
International Bee Research Association
Bees Gone Wild
January 16, 2018
Author: Daniel Rubinoff