The Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment has published a new study report – Reybroeck 2018 (.PDF) about the impact of the addition of stearic and palmitic acid to beeswax on the development of the worker bee brood. In 2017, a field trial (HTML) had already showed that adding 15 % of stearin or more causes the partial dying-off of the bee brood. Data on the effects of adding lower concentrations to the beeswax were lacking. Therefore, the FPS Health asked the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) in Melle to carry out a new study to examine the effects of concentrations from 2.5 up to 10 % of two different types of stearin (of animal and of vegetal origin).

The results have shown that beeswax with 7.5 % or higher percentages of stearin clearly has a negative impact on the brood development so that it is not suitable for use in apiculture. Limited negative effects have been observed with the addition of 2.5 and 5 % of stearin (based on average results).

Belgium will now ask the European commission to lay down purity standards for beeswax intended for apiculture.

In 2016 several beekeepers (in Belgium and abroad) reported problems relating to the poor development and mortality of the bee brood after the insertion of new wax foundations which had been produced on industrial scale. After analysis, it appeared that the beeswax used contained increased levels of stearic and palmitic acid, which pointed out the addition of stearin. The contaminated wax essentially came from China. However, literature data on the effects of stearin on the development of bee brood were limited.

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