Now you’ve extracted that delicious golden honey from your hives, what do you do with all the wax cappings and honeycomb?
Believe it or not, you can easily clean it yourself and use it for all sorts of projects!
Beeswax has been used since antiquity. The ancients used it for embalming the dead and the sealing of tombs, as a form of currency and for trade, for candle making, waterproofing, painting, health and wellness, and even lost wax casting of metals and glass.
Well, not actually. Beeswax is made by the worker bees who have eight wax producing glands on their abdomen, not their knees (bee humor). They use the wax to construct the hexagonal cells called, “honeycomb”. This is where they store honey, pollen and brood (baby bees).
Beeswax is the bees knees!
We use beeswax to make candles, reusable food wraps, and because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral benefits we use it in many of our soaps and skin care products where it protects the skin while allowing it to breath.
For those of you who aren’t yet beekeepers, wax cappings are produced by worker bees for the purpose of capping their cells of honey. In order to harvest that honey, a Beekeeper must carefully remove these cappings. While honey is very precious, the cappings are even more so!
According to the university of Arkansas division of Agriculture, it takes many bees working together to produce and form the honeycomb and those bees must consume at least eight pounds of honey in order to metabolize one pound of wax!
Beeswax, fresh from the hive, usually has a lot of detritus consisting of honey, pollen, propolis, bee parts and even a few bees and depending on its age, it’s often dark in color.
With a little work you can render your beeswax down and remove the detritus which will leave you with clean beeswax for all your projects.
Below are some of our favorite beekeeping tools and supplies
Its important to note that beeswax is a very sticky substance. It’s residue will remain on the items you use to render it. For this reason, we suggest you use clean “old” items you don’t mind being ruined for any other purpose other than rendering beeswax.
- Cardboard, newspaper or painters cloth
- An old clean t-shirt or similar fabric
- A large, old metal pot
- A 2.5 – 5 gallon bucket
- Old wooden stick
- Wax Cappings and/or empty Honeycomb
- Mineral Oil (for clean up later)
Beeswax is highly flammable with a low melting point of m144-147ºF (62-64ºC) and a flash point of 400ºF (204.4ºC). Beeswax will begin to discolor at around 185ºF (85ºC).
NEVER LEAVE IT UNATTENDED!!
- Since beeswax is very sticky and can be difficult to remove from most surfaces and the process of rendering it can be quite messy. Be sure to lay down cardboard, newspaper, painters cloth or something to protect your work area.
- Cover your bucket with a large t-shirt or other suitable fabric. You can secure it with a rope, large rubber band or ratchet straps, like we do.
- Place your beeswax in the old pot and fill the pot with enough water to just cover the beeswax. Depending on how much water and wax you use, that pot is going to get heavy, so keep that in mind when filling it or have another set for hands ready to assist you.
- Beeswax is highly flammable, so turn your heat to low/medium. You want the beeswax to melt but you do not want the water to boil. Remember, never leave your melting beeswax unattended.
- You may need to stir the pot to encourage the larger pieces of was to melt. As the wax begins to melt, it will begin to rise to the top of the pot and any honey and detritus will sink to the bottom.
- When the beeswax has melted, remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contents into the previously prepared bucket, being careful not to splash any hot beeswax on person or things. Seriously… it’s HOT!
- The beeswax and liquid will filter through the t-shirt leaving the detritus behind.
- Allow the beeswax to cool for several hours before removing it from the bucket. You will notice that not only has it formed a layer on top of the liquid, it has also changed color, closer resembling the lovely yellow beeswax most of us are familiar with.
- Once cooled you can gently remove the hard disk of beeswax from the bucket. Rinse it well to remove any remaining honey or sticky water that has accumulated on the bottom side and set it out to dry.
- Discard the liquid. While there may be honey in it, cooked honey can be toxic to bees.
- Mineral oil may help break down some of the wax you accidentally splattered.
Once cooled, the beeswax can be used for any number of things: candles, furniture polish, waterproofing boots and clothing, lip balms, salves, reusable food wraps, coating cheeses, waxing threads, painting… so many projects!
If you find your rendered beeswax is not as clean as you would like, break it up, remelt and pour it through a new clean old t-shirt.
For our soaps and skin care products, we like to go a step further with our rendering process and re-render small batch in the oven. This provides us with a professional, premium grade of beeswax suitable for skin care products.
This is also the grade you get when you purchase beeswax from us or through our etsy shop.
Do you use beeswax? What is your favorite way to use it?
Content and Photos by Misty Meadows Homestead © All Rights Reserved
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