Science Questions

What's the difference between earwax and bee's wax?

Mon, 5th Sep 2016

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chuck zierdt asked:

Hay Chris,


Would you please compare ear wax and beeswax???




Andrew buzzed in with an answer to this waxy question...Individual silicone earplug

Kat:: I love this.

Andrew:: So, the main difference is, donít eat earwax. Wax is generally made of long hydrocarbon molecules, oils and fats. The main one in beeswax is a combination of the product of a fatty acid and an alcohol so thatís what gives most of its waxiness. Actually, itís not too dissimilar with whatís in the ear. I was trying to work out what the best defining feature is why you wouldnít want to eat one and eat the other because the smells are really just due to what impurities make it up. The main difference I could come down to was that beeswax, what makes these lovely honeycomb structures and they then put honey in them, the bees secrete to make it. Your ears make earwax to pick up dead cells, bacteria and hair. That really is the difference. So, you get quite disgusting thing out your ear where you get honey from the beehive.

Kat:: Lovely!

Andrew:: But the wax is fairly similar.

Kat:: But then the wax, there's two types of earwax as well, isn't it? Thereís like wet wax and dry earwax. So you couldnít make a candle out of either of them.

Andrew:: I think you can. I'm sure you can. It - just donítÖ

Kat:: Christmas present ideas!

Andrew:: That difference in melting temperatures, depending what ratio of a different wax chemicals used to make it but effectively, a wax is just an oil that has a melting point above room temperature so it solidifies.


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Among the differences is that earwax is largely made from fatty acids and beeswax is mainly composed of esters. Bored chemist, Sat, 3rd Sep 2016

Bee's wax makes nicer candles Colin2B, Sat, 3rd Sep 2016

I speculate that beeswax probably tastes nicer too... chris, Sat, 3rd Sep 2016

I am hoping you don't wish to test the hypothesis. jeffreyH, Sat, 3rd Sep 2016

I have a didgeridoo, the mouthpiece is formed by a layer of beeswax. I wouldn't want to use earwax! Colin2B, Sun, 4th Sep 2016

I recall that earwax is one of the qualities that give the character "Shrek" his initial "Yuck" reaction. evan_au, Sun, 4th Sep 2016

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