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wax, substance secreted by glands on the abdomen of the bee and known commonly as beeswax; also various substances resembling beeswax. Waxes are mixtures comprising chiefly esters of monohydroxy alcohols, besides other esters and free fatty acids, free alcohols, and higher hydrocarbons. They differ from fats in that fats contain chiefly esters of glycerol. Waxes are generally harder and less greasy than fats, but like fats they are less dense than water and are soluble in alcohol and ether but not in water. Among the waxes derived from plants are carnauba wax, obtained from the leaves of a palm grown in Brazil, and candelilla wax, produced by a Mexican plant (Euphorbia antisyphilitica). Those of animal origin include wool wax, or lanolin, obtained from the surface of wool fibers and used in making certain creams, ointments, and soaps, in the processes of finishing and softening leather, and as an ingredient of some paints and varnishes; spermaceti, obtained from the sperm whale, and Chinese wax, which is deposited on certain trees in parts of Asia (especially China and India) by a species of scale insect. Mineral waxes include ozocerite and paraffin, both composed of hydrocarbons. Japan wax and bayberry (or myrtle) wax are composed chiefly of fats.


See L. Roth and J. Weiner, Waxes, Waxing and Wax Modifiers (1961); H. Bennett, Industrial Waxes (2 vol., 1963); P. E. Kolattukudy, ed., Chemistry and Biochemistry of Natural Waxes (1976).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a lipoid granular substance secreted by special glands on honeybees and several other insects. It consists of a mixture of esters (up to 75 percent), free fatty acids, and saturated hydrocarbons. It is rich in vitamin A (100 g of honeycomb beeswax contains 4,096 international units of vitamin A). The density is 0.956-0.969. Beeswax melts at a temperature of 62°-72°C. It is insoluble in water. It dissolves easily in ether, chloroform, benzene, gasoline, and turpentine oil.

Bees build honeycombs out of beeswax. Pure beeswax is used in the manufacture of artificial honeycomb; the less pure wax is used in technology. Beeswax is an ingredient of many medicinal ointments, plasters, and cosmetic creams.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Yellow to grayish-brown solid wax obtained from bee honeycombs by boiling and straining; used in floor waxes, waxed paper, and textile finishes and in pharmacy. Also known as yellow wax.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a. a yellowish or dark brown wax secreted by honeybees for constructing honeycombs
b. this wax after refining, purifying, etc., used in polishes, ointments, and for modelling
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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