Honey is sweet – well that’s not news is it?! But exactly HOW sweet is honey? And is it a “better” sweet than other sweet things? We’re all very health conscious and we want to reduce the sugar in our diets, so is honey ok to just munch away at?!
Honey contains around 82g of sugars per 100g. This is made up of between 28% and 41% fructose and between 22% and 35% glucose along with smaller amounts of other sugars although the exact makeup depends on a variety of factors. It could be thought that if honey only contains 82g of sugar per 100g of honey that it is therefore less sweet than sugar. However this isn’t true because some sugars are sweeter than others.
White sugar that you might have in your cup of tea is almost 100% pure sucrose…. So that’s confusing – honey is fructose / glucose, and “sugar” is sucrose… and just to confuse you even more, sucrose is actually both fructose and glucose…!!??!!
Well, sugars are categorised as either monosaccharides or disaccharides. As the term suggests, monosaccharides are made up of a single unit of sugar and disaccharides are made from two (which are broken down by the body in to the separate sugars on digestion). White sugar is a disaccharides made from one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose. Of those 3 sugars, fructose has the sweetest taste. Therefore because sucrose is made from 50% fructose and 50% glucose, it is less sweet that fructose but more sweet than glucose. So because honey has a higher percentage of fructose than glucose then it tastes sweeter than sugar.
We are just developing a candle to add to our range of Bees Wax products, but we were just wondering what other types of wax can be used in candles… can you use any wax?
First of all, what exactly is wax? Well, wax is a term to describe secretions from plants and animals which contain fatty acids and fatty alcohols. There is obviously more to this, however as we’re not chemists we can’t go in to it further! Many animals produce wax, most famously Bees, however other animals do too, including whales and cows. Also Lanolin is a wax which comes from wool. As we said before, wax also comes from plants, in particular the Palm (carnauba wax) but also soybean, jojoba and candelilla plants.
You can derive waxes from Petroleum, such a paraffin, montan and polythene. However at Finlay Bee we are uncomfortable with the use of fossil fuels, and whenever we can choose an alternative to use of fossil fuels we will do.
So now we understand a little of what wax is, can you use any wax in candles? Well, let’s look back in time a little and the development of candles and how different waxes were used.
Candles were originally formed from animals fats such as cow and sheep fats, although the Chinese were using beeswax during the Tang Dynasty from 618-907AD. The issue with using raw animal fats was the smell and the soot (they burn inefficiently) – Beeswax burns much more efficiently and the smell produced is very pleasant indeed. The whaling industry allowed the use of spermaceti wax to develop in the 18th Century, however this became replaced by Stearin wax (from beef) and paraffin wax.
In the late 20th Century two plant waxes in particular were developed – soy and palm. These burn cleaner and cooler than paraffin wax and many people believe that these vegan waxes produce high quality candles, without the reliance on fossil fuels. At Finlay Bee we agree that we should not be using fossil fuels where we can avoid it. However we also believe there is something magical about beeswax. Beeswax candles are special. And we believe our beeswax candles will be particularly special!
So, to answer the initial question, anything flammable can be used in candle making, from vegetable oil to petrol, however a few different materials have risen to prominence over the years because of their cost, their environmental credentials, their burning qualities and their smells.
The keeping of bees in man-made hives can be traced back to the 5th Dynasty of aincent Egypt, dated earlier than 2422 BC. However the modern vertical hive can be traced back to the mid 19th Century.
The Langstroth Hive was patented in 1852 and was named after its inventor Lorenzo Langstroth. There are 3 parts to the Langstroth Hive – the Top Board providing cover, the Boxes which contain frames for honeycomb, and the Bottom board providing a base and an entrance for the bees. Frames are suspended parallel to each other and the honeycomb is formed in these frames. Sometimes these frames are strengthened with wire which allows honey to be harvested with a centrifuge before reusing in the hive, hence increasing production and also reducing the need to bees to invest time and energy in remaking honeycomb.
There are a number of different variations of hive designs, mainly to accommodate different strains and species, and since the mid 1960s the “horizontal top bar” design of hive has been growing in popularity due to it’s cheaper design and allows for a more modern natural ethos. Some designs of hives reduce the need to open the hive to harvest the honey. This has pros and cons though, because although it could be seen as better for the stress levels of the colony not to have to open the hive, it is also true that with less maintenance comes increased risk of infection and disease in the colony.
At Finlay Bee we produce environmentally friendly handmade beeswax food wraps which allow people an alternative to single use plastics like clingfilm, and to reduce food waste. Every year around 7 million tonnes of food waste is thrown away by UK households. We HATE unnecessary food waste at Finlay Bee however we realise there is some food waste that can’t be avoided such as egg shells, vegetable and fruit peelings, and bones from meat. So what can we do to turn these in to useable material?
Home composting is a really good way to use this sort of “waste”. Generally you can safely compost any uncooked vegetable and fruit scraps, although items like avocado stones do take a long time to decompose. Egg shells are also safe to compost at home although they may become attractive to rats so you should wash them first. We don’t want to just send other food waste such as cooked waste and bones to landfill because we don’t want it to rot and create methane which is a damaging greenhouse gas, so how can you positively use it?
Did you know that we could have the same CO2 impact as taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads if we all stopped wasting the food which could have been eaten?
Most councils now offer food waste recycling services, either by in-vessel composting which produces valuable soil improver or by anaerobic digestion which produces methane which is then collected and turned in to biogas, as well as producing valuable soil improver. Check with your local council about their arrangements.
Beeswax is made by bees to construct honeycomb. It is said to be one of the purest forms of wax and bees need to visit many millions of flowers to produce even the smallest amount of wax. We use it a lot in creams and balms because it contains over 300 natural compounds which help to keen skin supple, and it has thermal properties which can be used in massage or physiotherapy
Edible Grade Pollen or Bee Bread is a mixture of honey and pollen. When bees return to the hive they are covered in pollen and bees mix this with honey and store it in their honeycomb. Humans can use it to treat allergies to pollen
Propolis is used as a sealant for small gaps in the hive which makes is wind and water tight, as well as protecting the hive from microbes. Bees make it by mixing various botanical sources such as tree resin with saliva and beeswax. It is also a natural antibiotic and humans consume it in tea or other drinks, and also pharmaceutical companies use it in various preparations.
Royal Jelly is made by young bees and is fed to bee larvae. It is a mixture of water, proteins and sugars and if the larvae are fed exclusively on Royal Jelly they become queen bees. It is also said to be good for humans too and is used to support the treatment of a variety of conditions.
Bee Venom can be used to help people become desensitised to bee stings, either as a prophylactic or as a treatment, and it has started to be used in cosmetics as a substitute for botox.
Finlay Bee is always looking to develop its product range and although we began by offering Beeswax Food Wraps, we plan to offer Beeswax Candles in the near future.
While we are all getting ready for winter, I wonder how many of us think about what our friendly bees are doing just now….
Well, like us they are preparing for winter too. The honey bee’s plan, unlike other species of bee, is to keep awake through the colder months. They surround the Queen Bee and use movement and honey reserves to generate heat. On warmer days they can leave the hive but on the very coldest days they “shiver” and rotate round – the bees move round so no bees get too cold.
Beekeepers can help by ensuring that reserves of honey are kept stocked up, but generally honey bees are well prepared to survive the winter.
We’re so pleased by the response to our Beeswax Food Wraps. More and more people are realising that use of cling film is really damaging to the environment, and Finlay Bee Beeswax Food Wraps are an excellent way to reduce the number of times you use clingfilm. A few people have asked about our production methods – these wraps aren’t made in the UK for a number of reasons. The main reasons we didn’t want to make our own is for reasons of quality and scale. We are not beekeepers ourselves and we looked to the large beekeeping countries for suppliers who are ethical and stick to high standards of welfare for both bees and humans! We chose a wonderful supplier in China because they shared our approach to welfare and quality. We were lucky to visit China a few years back and we were struck by the difference between the stories we hear back home, and the reality of China. So we are very happy to have developed this excellent relationship between such a good supplier and ourselves.