As a beekeeper for over 20 years, I have accumulated pounds of beeswax as a welcome product of my hives. A substance formed by insects, it is simply amazing that it has been used for millennia, even found in the tombs of pharaohs, caulking the ships of Vikings. Think of it as the duct tape of the ancients! Here are some interesting facts:
- Only by consuming honey, can honeybees produce beeswax. It takes 8.5 pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax. One pound of comb beeswax will hold 22 pounds of honey
- Secreted in the form of a scale about the size of a pinhead, there are eight wax secreting glands under a bee’s abdomen. It takes 800,000 of these scales to make one pound of beeswax!
- Beeswax obtains its natural color of golden-yellow due to propolis, which is basically tree sap that bees collect and from pollen
- The distinctive aroma of honey that permeates beeswax comes from the proximity of storage of honey and pollen in the honeycomb
- Over time, beeswax will develop a whitish coating called bloom which is proof that you have 100% beeswax. This is the result of oils rising to the surface;remove with a soft cloth or hair dryer
- Of 100 volatile constituents in beeswax, only 41 have been identified
- In the 11th century there are records of huge quantities of beeswax being used by the Church, usually in the form of candles. Every monastery and abbey had an apiary
- Beeswax candles burn brighter, longer, and cleaner than any other candle. In the process of burning, the candle gives off negative ions that are known to clean the air and invigorate the body.
Honey Harvest Bonus
Collected from the hive when honey is extracted, wax “cappings” is virgin wax freshly produced by bees each year. Wax cappings seal the honey in the honeycomb, and are sliced off with an electric knife exposing the honey in the cells. Freshly sliced cappings dripping with honey are a treat to dip your fingers in to suck out the goodness of the harvested golden liquid! I set out all my cappings for the honeybees to feast off of after extracting, around the hive entrance. After a couple of days, they are mostly clean of wax and I gather them into a colander and rinse them off thoroughly.
Using an old crock pot, I place the cleaned cappings into the reservoir and set the crockpot on low for several hours. The wax melts down and I strain it through several layers of cheese cloth into a mold.
The wax still is very dirty and once it hardens, you need to rinse off the liquid that forms at the top of the mold until clean.
Filling the crock pot to the top with wax cappings, and melting them down yielded a one pound block of pure beeswax that can be used for candles, cleaning, and crafting.