The key difference between beeswax and propolis is that beeswax is an oily solution secreted from bees that is useful in building honeycombs, whereas propolis is a mixture of beeswax and some other oils and resins that are collected by the bees and is useful in making the bee hive and to preserve the honey.
The terms beeswax and propolis are closely related because these two materials can be found in bee hives.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a naturally occurring waxy product made by honey bees of the genus Apis. This wax is formed into scales by eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of the worker bees. This wax is then discarded in or at the hive. There are hive workers among these bees who use it to form cells to store honey and to protect larval and pupal within the beehive. Generally, beeswax contains esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols.
Beeswax is an edible material. It has negligible toxicity, similar to plant waxes. It is approved to be used in Europe with the E number E901.
Worker bees have glands that make beeswax in the inner sides of the sternites. These are the ventral shields or plates of each segment of the body that occur on the abdominal segments 4 to 7. Typically, the size of each of these glands depends on the age of the worker bee.
Beeswax that is made initially appears as a glass-clear and colorless substance. It becomes opaque after chewing and being contaminated with pollen that comes with the hive worker bees. This progressively becomes more yellowish or brownish by the incorporation of pollen oils and propolis.
What is Propolis?
Propolis is a resinous mixture made by honey bees by mixing saliva and beeswax with the exudate that is gathered from tree buds, sap flowers, etc. It is also known as bee glue. It is useful as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the beehive. This substance is important for small gaps that are in the range of 6 mm or less. The large gaps that are larger than bee spaces, which are around 9 mm, are usually filled with burr comb. However, the color of propolis can vary depending on the botanical source, though the dark brown color is the most common appearance. Moreover, propolis is sticky at around 20 degrees Celsius. At low temperatures, it becomes hard and brittle.
There are different functions of propolis. It is important to reinforce the structure and reduce vibration. It also provides improved thermal insulation to the hive and reduces water loss. Furthermore, propolis provides protection from pathogens while making the hive more defensible against parasites and predators. In addition, propolis mitigate putrefaction within the hive.
Typically, the composition of propolis varies depending on the hive. In other words, the composition of propolis differs from hive to hive. Sometimes, it can vary from district to district or from season to season. This substance generally appears in dark brown, but sometimes it can be found in green, red, black, and white hues. This color depends on the sources of resin that can be found in the particular hive area.
What is the Difference Between Beeswax and Propolis?
Beeswax and propolis are two different substances that can be found in bee hives. The key difference between beeswax and propolis is that beeswax is an oily solution secreted from bees and is useful in building the honeycomb, whereas propolis is a mixture of beeswax and some other oils and resins that are collected by bees and is useful in making the bee hive and to preserve honey.
The below infographic presents the differences between beeswax and propolis in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Beeswax vs Propolis
The key difference between beeswax and propolis is that beeswax is an oily solution secreted from bees and is useful in building the honeycomb, whereas propolis is a mixture of beeswax and some other oils and resins that are collected by bees and is useful in making the bee hive and to preserve the honey.
1. “Beeswax.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.