Beeswax is produced by bees in the form of tiny scales which are "sweated" from the segments on the underside of the abdomen. To stimulate the production of beeswax the bees gorge themselves with honey or sugar syrup and huddle together to raise the temperature of the cluster. To produce one pound of wax requires the bees to consume about ten pounds of honey.
At normal hive temperature of 37C (100F), wax can support a considerable weight and yet still be molded by the bee's jaws. Beeswax melts at 64C (147F).
Beeswax has a high resistance to the passage of heat but if cooled quickly will become pale in color, more brittle and liable to develop cracks due to rapid contraction. For this reason wax for exhibition is cooled as slowly as possible to preserve the texture and color. To preserve the aroma of fresh wax it should never be raised more than a few degrees above melting point and then only for a short period.
IMPORTANT: When melting beeswax always use a water bath by placing the container of wax - probably a small saucepan - inside a larger pan of water. Never place a pan of wax directly on a hot plate or gas ring. Beeswax can easily become damaged by localized overheating and if it ignites can burn more ferociously than any chip pan fire. Beeswax does not boil - it just gets hotter and hotter until it ignites.
Wax should only be melted in stainless steel, plastic, or tin plated containers. Iron rust and containers of galvanized iron, brass or copper all impart a color to beeswax and aluminum is said to make the wax dull and mud colored. The next time you see a very orange wax in may have been melted in a copper pan.
The uses for beeswax are many but these days the most common are for better quality Candles, soap, skin care products, hair care, fly fishing, the coatings of sweets and pills, furniture polish, batik art, putting on drawer runners to make them slide smoothly and in quilting and heavy sewing as it's put on the thread to ease its passing through tough materials. We also have industrial companies buying beeswax to help lubricate their machines.