Beeswax Candles: Why I no longer make them

Bee-on-New-England-Aster

Many people visit this website by searching for “beeswax candles” on Google, or because you used to buy beeswax candles from me. I originally made and sold only two products: beeswax candles and three kinds of soap. Then I began making other things and added them to my shop.

It’s life…things change

One of the most profound changes for me was becoming a vegan rather than only vegetarian. Learning more about the dairy, chicken egg and bee product industries was the impetus. Isn’t it interesting that when one searches for information rather than accepting what you grew up with, one’s thinking often changes?

Aside from no longer eating dairy cheese, my biggest challenge came after learning more about bees and the production of honey. Beeswax candles were my biggest shop revenue source. Most vegans do not use beeswax or honey. My perspective changed after learning more about bees: they make their hives, combs and honey for their own ‘families,’ not for humans to take; rather obvious when you think about it. Therefore I choose not to use beeswax any more, and to use plant alternatives to honey.

Some information sources about bees and beeswax

Native Bees of North America “The honey bee, remarkable as it is, doesn’t know how to pollinate a tomato or an eggplant flower, while some native bees are masters at this. The same thing happens with a number of native plants, such as pumpkins and watermelons, blueberries and cranberries, which are more efficiently pollinated by native bees than by honey bees.”

The Vegan Society: Why honey isn’t vegan

Pros and cons: From slate.com

The Kind Life: Alicia Silverstone

Ethical bee keeping: Dylan Kendall

Alternatives

Beeswax alternatives include candelilla wax (this is what I use in the skin creams and lip balms I make), sustainably-harvested carnauba wax, non-GMO soy wax and bayberry wax. Alternatives to honey include maple syrup, organic agave nectar, pure organic cane sugar and coconut nectar.

About cheese

Cheese has addictive qualities, which is why it’s so difficult for many to become truly vegan. After about three weeks, the addiction disappears and it tastes mostly like pure fat. That was my experience. I also tried some commercial vegan cheese alternatives. Although I understand that there are some good ones available elsewhere, in my area there are very few and I don’t like them. However…I found some interesting alternatives I can make myself. More about that in a future blog post.

Native bee on squash flower
Only native bees pollinate squash & some other vegs

17 Replies to “Beeswax Candles: Why I no longer make them”

  1. Er… no offense to vegans, but it’s not actually true that if we all became vegan and stopped animal farming, we could feed the world. We could probably feed the world right now, since the US burns or destroys about 40 percent of their crops and throws away vast quantities of uneaten food. So one issue is distribution of resources.
    The other enormous issue is soil quality. Conventional farming methods that involve tilling, slash-and-burn, heavy machinery, chemicals, and tight concentrations of animals on limited land destroy the soil by releasing carbon into the atmosphere, compacting the ground, and reducing or eliminating the billions of organisms that keep soil healthy and productive. This means that agricultural land, particularly in Third World countries, becomes increasingly less productive.
    If we changed our farming methods, we could easily feed everyone, whether or not they all wanted to be vegan, AND reduce carbon emissions very significantly.
    Just a thought.

    1. Karen, I totally agree that there are many, many changes needed in the whole agriculture system. The corporate control over modern agriculture and government agriculture policies have proved to be disastrous to the environment, hence to humanity. The enormity of the problem is overwhelming. “According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation…Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes.” (http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html)

      However, there is one thing that each person can do to mitigate some of the problems. This is one of the many reasons that I became a vegan.

      “The scientists reached the conclusion that if all food crops were fed directly to humans instead of animals, around 70% more food would be added to the world’s supply, which would be enough to feed 4 billion additional people. That sudden surplus alone would be enough food to feed over half the humans on earth, let alone the 925 million who face hunger every day.” (http://gentleworld.org/could-veganism-end-world-hunger/)

  2. Louise McGannon says: Reply

    It is pretty obvious from reading everyone’s comments that you are all much more knowledgeable about bees than I am. What I do know is that they are self sufficient to take care of themselves.
    Thank you Jane for your article, everyone has the responsibility to see the world, not from our eyes, but to see the world as to how every species fit into the puzzle.

  3. I’m vegan and the bottom line with veganism is that one doesn’t exploit or use any other animal species. Just as we believe that humans should not be exploited by others and any of our products stolen, the same applies to all other animal species. Anything less is speciesism.
    While I care about animal welfare (and most of this discussion has been about good animal welfare) and, of course, would much rather that animals bred for human consumption or for their products were treated nicely, that is not an overall concern of ethical veganism. If we left off animal products altogether we wouldn’t have to be concerned about how well or badly they are treated while we use them. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as “ethical” use of animals.
    It’s also true that if we stopped eating animals we would vastly reduce our land use for growing crops such as soy, at the same time being able to feed the whole world and eliminate human starvation. The majority of the soy currently grown goes to feed animals, not humans. Large-scale veganism promises more planetary benefits than any other current global movement. In fact, it is probably imperative to preserve the planet. However, the emphasis in ethical veganism is on the non-exploitation of animals. The other benefits – to the planet and human health – are serendipitous.

    1. Thank-you, Christine; well put. Most of us grew up eating what was put in front of us without thinking about it. Life on this earth is never stagnant and as it evolves we must adapt. The human animal is marvellous in its ability to do just that. What’s best for non-human animals (and insects) is what’s best for humans and the planet as well.

  4. Interesting thread. Many perspectives. For me personally, i’m vegan for 1 reason, and it’s not my health. My mental, emotional and spiritual health is as important as my physical health. My love of critters, and ‘their’ right to live without fulfilling humans insatiable appetite stands at the core of my every action. ‘If’ humanity is as many like to say, an advanced species, a spiritually aware species, or as some say, a species of higher consciousness, isn’t it our sacred duty to live with love and compassion, not only for others of the same species, yet for all sentient life. The days of Jainism are gone in this material world, though that doesn’t mean we cannot use our consciousness to better the lives of other beings.
    My faith in humanity is extremely limited. What strengthens me though, is how i see the next generation embracing veganism in a manner i would never had once thought possible. I have much more faith in the next generation than i do in my own. (if our generation doesn’t destroy everything first)
    Adjusting my diet took many years of trial and error. Now days, there are soooo many options, yet it seems that for me simplicity is always the key. I craved cheese badly for a long time. By accident i found that when i ate cashews, those cravings went away. Maple syrup for sweetener in my oatmeal solves any craving i may have had for honey. I have always tended to be a grazer and on job sites, mixtures of dates and walnuts fuelled me much more, and with less waste than the workers who slowed down after they ate their red meat as their bodies had to spend so much energy on digestion. To have men 20 years younger than me ask me how i could do it, it opened the door to discussion. I don’t push anything on anyone. Being militant about my veganism never worked. Anger will always breed anger. Seeing meat eating men who have been working construction for years and years come in one morning with bags of dates, nuts and fresh fruit warmed my heart like nothing else could.
    In this day and age, with so many options at our disposal, being vegan just takes awareness. I do not and will never believe that critters are here for humans to exploit. I do believe that the progression of human consciousness lay in the aid of raising the consciousness of all sentient beings.
    People are becoming vegan for many reasons. I just thought i would add my perspective as one of those reasons. We’re growing… and that gives me faith.

    1. Thank-you, Phil. Your remarks speak to my heart.

  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

    Hello again Jane, To deconstruct and examine just one excerpt from the Vegan article:
    a) “Honey bees are specifically bred to increase productivity.” Untrue! Productivity and cleanliness are innate in Apis mellifera. In a wild setting, hives which manage themselves well survive the winter; those which do not, die. “Tame” bees are no different: “Survival of the fittest” is not a new concept.
    b) “Already endangered, this selective breeding narrows the population gene pool and increases susceptibility to disease and large-scale die-offs.” To which I say, before the advent of NeoNics, honey bees (and other pollinators) were never “endangered”. Insecticides kill insects. It’s what they’re created to do. Why is anyone surprised that insect pollinators are being killed by insecticides?
    c) “These diseases are then spread to the thousand of other pollinators we and other animals rely on, disputing the common myth that honey production is good for our environment.”: OMG, SO much misinformation and half-truths! Where are they getting this information? Who and where are the sources quoted? Honey bees are not a native species and, like many other useful things, have been moved around the globe, from one home to another, by Man’s migration for millennia… There are no “new” diseases of Apis mellifera and as social, hive-dwelling insects honey bee diseases are very much species specific, so have NEVER been transmitted to any other species of pollinator.
    But now I reiterate that what IS new and HAS been affecting Pollinator health – and by which I mean ALL Pollinators’ health – be they insectae or mammalian (you’ve heard about the new fungal disease killing off bats in massive numbers?) – are the effects (both immediate and cumulative) of neuro-toxic NeoNictinoid insecticides. Contrary to manufacturer’s claims, these insecticides are not breaking down, but instead lie dormant under the snow cover and are indeed showing up years later in subsequent generations of (non target) species growing in soil contaminated from previous crop applications.
    And again I stress that, because they are systemic, by extension we humans, as the end-users must also be inadvertently ingesting/ absorbing these neuro-toxins through the variety of methods these poisons are applied… Be it through seeds coated before planting, or sprays applied to nursery plants in greenhouses or treatments on our animals to repel and kill parasites; these Systemic neuro-toxins work by being absorbed and spread throughout the organism to which it is applied: be it plant or animal and THIS is what “increases susceptibility to disease and (creates) large-scale die-offs” in Pollinators… And to us, who knows?

    1. Well said!
      However before neonic it was DDT that almost wiped out beekeepers in the south !
      Man-made chemicals and habitat destruction are to be considered in the beeswax ‘problem’. I am an treatment free beekeeper. We leave honey stores in place for winter. We do not cut Forest to make room for bees instead we utilize the local habitat. Soy, palm,and petroleum are detrimental to the environment hands down. In the long run any vegan using these does more harm to the planet than my beautiful bees are harmed by my handling.
      If you read the Bible or the Qur’an you will find the bees and our relationship well established.
      Again, all points by Deb, well said and thanks.

      1. Thanks for your comment, Susan. I’m very glad that you treat your bees ethically. However, my bottom line is as I said above: “My perspective changed after learning more about bees: they make their hives, combs and honey for their own ‘families,’ not for humans to take; rather obvious when you think about it.”

        I agree that candles made from soy, palm and petroleum oils are terrible. I have olive oil lamps that I use when we have power outages. I used to have a few articles here about the good qualities of beeswax candles and comparisons with those others. But…we can live just fine without candles.

  6. Thanks for all your comments, Deb. I agree with most of what you say, but not all. My biggest disagreement is that “no harm is done to the animals who produce extra milk for human consumption.” This will be part of a future blog post. What I most definitely agree with is that we all need to learn all we can about our natural world and all its creatures.

    (BTW, The Vegan Society doesn’t say that “ethical” beekeepers feed sweeteners; they’re referring to “unethical practices.”)

    1. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

      A blanket statement harms those of us who DO believe in ethical treatment of living beings. The Agri-Business model is a far cry from what I consider to be farming; a fair and ethical way of life for every living being in that eco-system. We all need to learn how the living world functions; and like it or not, the life cycle and food chains are a part of that understanding and we are a part of The Whole.
      To paraphrase Dusty Springfield: “… (Going ever) round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
      Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel…”

  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

    And lastly, for the latest information on NeoNics, their effects on pollinators and the most up-to-date information on what’s going on here currently; as well as info on the swarm collecting, pollinating, honey-producing, bee-health promoting beekeepers here in Ontario, from the OBA/ Ontario Beekeepers Association: http://www.ontariobee.com
    PS, (It’s not just for Beekeepers, anyone can sign up for the monthly newsletter)

  8. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

    Wow, I totally resent this assertion on the Vegan website. Ethical Beekeepers DO NOT remove honey from the brood nest and replace it with sugar. Sugar syrup is to be used only in the emergency situation of the hive having used up all of its honey stores before plants are available to forage from in the spring. Just as with people, well-fed bees are heathy bees and only an idiot would feed their hives industrially produced sweeteners.

  9. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

    After reading the article under ethical beekeeping I have a little more to add/ clear up… Neonicotinoid Insecticides (NeoNics) are neurotoxic to insects and are applied to corn and soy seed as a coating which then grows within the plant and ALL parts of these crops grown with systemic pesticides contain these neuro toxins: from root to stem, leaf to flower, pollen, nectar and seed… These neurotoxins are the cause of “Colony Collapse Syndrome”
    By the way, neonics are also what people apply to their pets’ necks to repel fleas, ticks and other parasites. They’re also being used by some in the (plant) nursery business.
    Please, be aware. Look at the big picture, ask questions, think about what is truly important. Do unto other life forms that which is best for all. Walk softly upon this good earth and leave only footprints behind… Bee well, Deb.

    1. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

      Oh dear, me again; ) I’m assuming the “rescue hives” mentioned in the article are swarms that she’s collecting… Swarming is a natural process for bees. As one location becomes too crowded, the hive as a whole decides it’s time to swarm(move out) and, after some major preparations will go looking for a new location; but normally – unless actually forced out of their home en masse – they leave queen cells, young bees and most of their honey stores behind to carry on. Sadly, sometimes the locations they choose are not amenable to their new host. Calling your local beekeeper will usually result in finding someone who is only too happy to gather up the errant bees and take them home. : )

  10. Deb Weyrich-Cody says: Reply

    Hello Jane, Please pardon the essay I’m about to submit…
    I’m sorry Jane, but just as certain plants are pollinated at night by moths and earwigs, honey bees are physically adapted to gather nectar and pollen from certain types of plants while bumble bees gather from others (like, and as you mentioned, red clover & the nightshade family); Wild, Solitary, Squash Bees, Mason Bees, Sweat Bees and Wasps; Bats, Orioles & Hummingbirds all specialise in others. While there is some overlap between species, it just wouldn’t work very well if they all gathered the exact same things…
    “Wild” species of bees produce only enough honey to supply their larvae as dictated by nature, as needed (as they grow and enough to over-winter for the next year’s progeny). Honey bees, on the other hand, have been living in concert with man for millennia – just as dogs, cattle and horses have – and been selected by man for specific traits – and are DRIVEN (by their nature) to produce as much honey (naturally contained in wax comb structures) as they possibly can…
    While most of these other things you mention: candelilla wax is from Mexico and requires nasty solvents to manufacture;
    carnauba wax comes from Brazil and uses ethyl acetate to manufacture; Soy “wax” is fully-hydrogenated soya oil so has a low melting point and can mean that candles will melt in hot weather (like right now): and must be contained.
    Bee’s wax is 100% natural, sustainable and its removal does no harm to the bees which produce it nor does harvesting the honey it contains. If honey bees were not a managed species, we would still be unaware of the horrendous side-effects of NeoNicotinoid insecticides have on (ALL of) the pollinators which come into contact.
    The “alternative” sweeteners you mention: Agave comes from the same cactus as Tequila and is grown in Mexico or South Africa – tropical climates.
    Cane sugar from China, India & Indonesia: (again, from the tropics) Maple syrup and honey are the only locally available, infinitely sustainable, natural sweeteners – unless you can find a source from local sugar beets.
    And finally, cheese… We humans are driven to crave that creamy “mouth-feel” in food because the body requires oils to produce nerve cells. It is biologically imperative that we eat fats and oils and, as with harvesting honey, with ETHICAL, sustainable agricultural practices – no harm is done to the animals who produce extra milk for human consumption.

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