You’ve heard the news. Honeybees are in decline. Yet the price of beeswax has remained relatively stable these last few years. Is there a secret behind the stability? How long will artists who work with beeswax continue to enjoy feel-good prices on their materials?
Beekeepers harvest beeswax from two different areas of the hive. There’s cappings wax that’s culled as part of the honey harvest. And brood comb that beekeepers pull and recycle on a rotating basis from deeper in the hive. While cappings wax is sensitive to fluctuations in the honey harvest, brood comb becomes more available as bees die off and beekeepers reduce the numbers of colonies in their apiaries. So a bad honey year or a high mortality year doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in for a bad wax year, at least not immediately, although enough bad years in a row will disrupt supply.
So what’s the beeswax forecast for 2013?
I was at a talk in Denver last Saturday presented by USDA bee researcher Jeff Pettis, and while the numbers are still coming in, it’s his hunch that the winter of 2012 – 2013 will go down as the most devastating year to date for bee mortality with some commercial beekeepers reporting losses of 75% or higher. The official numbers will look better than that once they’re in due to how beehives are counted. Regardless of counting methods, this has been a tough winter for the bees.
Interestingly, according to the USDA’s National Honey Report, many beeswax sellers are holding steady on their prices even though stock is low.
Current wholesale prices quoted exclusively for white, cleaned beeswax are steady and for 1lb block units at $5.50 to $5.75 mostly $5.50 and for 50lb block units at $4.50 to $5.00 mostly $4.75. Price quotes taken for bulk orders above 50lbs are $2.20 to $3.50 mostly $3.50 for white/light, cleaned beeswax. Retail white and cleaned beeswax prices reported are $16.00 to $20.00 per pound mostly $18.00. Many beeswax sellers have held their prices however, are showing very low supply inventories.
In other words: Stock up.