Prominent in many great archival collections, wax seals are undergoing deterioration, in the form of white blooms which obscure the surface of the seal. Plain wax seems to form blooms more readily that pigmented wax. While this does have a physico-chemical basis, is there a role for biology, given the biocidal properties of many of the pigments?
As well as preserving legal transactions, wax seals and other wax objects have the potential to be a dated biomolecular archive of the bee and hive microbiomes. The information gained through this project (types and abundance of pathogens and commensals) can be cross referenced against modern bee microbiome data. This will provide a valuable insight as to why bees today are in decline, putting food production and therefore people at risk. Monocultures, fewer fallow crops and artificial fertilisers have resulted in reduced floral diversity and increased foraging distances for bees. Other stressors are pesticides, (notably neonicotinoids) and pests and pathogens such as the Varroa mite have increased levels of mortality. The decline in bees - which today are trucked from crop to crop on articulated lorries as peripatetic pollinators - has heightened our awareness of their value to ecosystems. In 2005, bees worldwide were estimated to yield a €153 billion in ecosystem services, pollinating 30% of food crops in Western Europe. Knowledge regarding the metagenomes of ancient hives may prove useful in the management and salvation of Apis mellifera.
In addition, there is a curious obsession with the idea that we should recover the genomes of famous people. Many sculptors worked in beeswax and it has previously been demonstrated that it is possible to source the beeswax and therefore provide some degree of authentication by examining the distribution of pollen as it relates to time and place.