In my own personal search for a lesser impact on the environment and the oceans, it came to my attention that surf wax is typically made using the oil based paraffin.
Wax manufacturers are encouragingly looking for alternatives in an effort to stamp a green sticker on the packaging and lesson their dependance on oil. It looks like beeswax is increasingly taking paraffin’s place, with its naturally sticky consistency, and hydrophobic qualities.
Bees are frequently hitting the headlines with their declining numbers throughout the world, so I was curious to know how an increased demand in beeswax might affect the species.
Well, it turns out there is a lot of confusing information out there.
Lets start with the bees in question. There are quite a few different species of bees, but it’s the honey bee that is farmed by beekeepers to produce honey and beeswax. Honey bees are efficient pollinators and efficient producers of honey, and so they are the preferred and more valuable type for industry. The population of honey bees was declining until 2017, and colonies under the care of beekeepers were dying and/or deserting the hive in unusual numbers – this was bad for business. After intervention from beekeepers by adding greater numbers of bees back into hives, and improving the hive living conditions, honey bee numbers are now recovering.
As it turns out, honey bees were never likely to go extinct anyway. They are farmed and traded in a similar way to livestock, so solutions were worked on to reverse the population decline, just as it would be for more typically farmed animals.
Now, this is where it gets confusing. If it’s not honey bees we need to worry about, then who is it?
Well, it turns out it’s the native bees, some 3000+ of them in the USA. The not-so-good-at-honey-making-no-money-making native bee. It turns out these quiet and often solitary creatures are running out of flowers, and are having to survive in an increasingly competitive garden full of those efficient money making, non-native honey bees that the beeswax industry depends on. Bees of all kind help to pollinate the fruit trees we consume, like apple and avocado, but we also have a responsibility to not let our consumption destroy the existing species that also depend on our shared environment.
Using beeswax in surf wax makes sense; like we said above it’s naturally sticky, hydrophobic, easy to acquire, and certainly cleaner than oil. But lets not forget the humble bee who is facing an uphill battle for survival, perhaps at the hand of our honey loving selves.
So, when buying your next bar of the finest oil-free surf wax, lets also buy some tasty, pollen rich flowers to help our declining friend. Recommended are early or late season bloomers, as this is the time bees tend to be short.