This year I began a beehive, but didn’t get to harvest any honey for myself. The bee population outgrew their home and I lost half my bees. Beekeeping is not an endeavor to enter lightly for many reasons. The remaining ones only produced enough honey for themselves, so I will have to wait until next year. I was looking forward to having my own raw organic honey, honeycomb, and wax products from my own hive. What a bitter disappointment! In the meantime, I’ll take steps to improve the bee-friendliness of my habitat. But, a fellow beekeeper offered me his honeycomb after he took the honey from it. Of course, I accepted.
My husband picked up the big box of honeycomb on his way home from work. Inside the box was a large plastic bag, filled with a gooey, sticky mess. Just pulling it out of the bag was enough to coat me in honey up to my elbows. It was also kind of dirty-looking. Then I noticed bugs, like ants, moths, and dead bees in it. I always thought honeycomb was all a pretty yellow or gold color, but it’s not. This had some yellow comb, but also had brown, orangey, and even some black streaks running through it. I was a bit skeptical at this point, unsure if this was even usable material.
I decided to make a go of it despite my concerns. I really didn’t want to tell the beekeeper I threw his honeycomb out. I’d feel guilty. So, I cleaned my deep kitchen sink really well and filled it with warm water, and added the honeycomb, piece by piece. I washed, rewashed, and rinsed it several times to just get rid of the honey residue. Then I put a pot with an inch or so of water on the stove on low and added the comb. I watched it start melting and kept adding more until the pile in my sink was all in the pot.
It was funny to compare how much space it took up in the box and my sink with the melted wax that fit into an average size pot. Honeycomb has a lot of volume, but it condenses down into a much smaller amount of actual wax.
As the honeycomb melted, it “released” the dead bugs, impurities, and strange colors I had seen earlier. The debris went to the bottom of the pot and the wax floated to the top.
Next, I cooled it until the wax became solid. (I put it in my refrigerator to speed up the process) I couldn’t drain the water until I broke the wax block up a bit, but thee was already a crack across the top from the cooling process. I drained the pot, rinsed the pot and the block of wax, and put an inch of clean water back in the pot. The bottom of the wax had to be scraped off in a few areas with embedded debris. It took several rounds of doing this until I judged it “clean” enough.
When it was time to pour it into a clean container, I used an old Cool Whip tub. If I melted it or damaged it, who cares? I found a funnel, washed and dried it, then stretched clean knee-high pantyhose over the funnel. That would keep any floaters that still remained, out of the wax. I made a small indentation, a little “well”, in the middle of the pantyhose so the wax wouldn’t run off the sides. I held my funnel in one hand and poured the wax with the other. The wax did cool a bit and plugged up the nylon, but I just moved it over a little bit each time it happened. I’m very glad I had the nylon there, especially at the end, because it caught quite a bit of “sediment” from the bottom of the pan.
Because I wanted small cubes of wax, I hunted around for some containers to use as a mold. Fortunately, I had some one-ounce containers with lids that I bought from a garage sale. They were leftover from a bridal or baby shower. I thought I could put them to use one day. They were perfect, and only .25 for all 10 containers! Silicone ice cube trays are another great option for this. I don’t know about you, but I have a stack of them in different shapes.
I rewarmed the wax in the microwave, although I probably should have used a double boiler method for safety reasons. I filled all ten containers with beautiful pure yellow beeswax. Now I have to decide if I am going to keep them or give some to friends.
It is tempting to keep them all for myself because I want to learn to use wax for candles, to make homemade deodorant, and as a base for medicinal ointments. Here is one of the recipes I’ve made, but feel free to try different Essential Oils for different conditions.
Tea Tree Oil Antiseptic Cream
1/4 cup Beeswax. Shavings or pieces are easier to melt.
2 TB Coconut Oil
2 TB Almond Oil
10 drops Tea Tree Oil
10 drops Lavender Oil
Melt the beeswax and coconut oil over a low burner, Crockpot(TM), or double boiler. (This particular double boiler is silicone and folds flat for storage.) Once melted, remove from heat. Add all the other ingredients. I like to pour mine into Altoids tins. I ask everyone to save their tins of any type for me. You can also make lip balm in empty tubes you can buy online.
There are recipes for deodorant, too. I made a large batch some time ago but haven’t finished it yet. I just don’t want to put the aluminum found in most antiperspirants on my skin. It’s not good for you. I also found a great link for my next project – learning to make your own Beeswax candles. It’s exciting to learn how to become self-sustaining by using the things around you in your environment! Here are 17 things you may not know about honey.
I am glad I tried rendering down the raw honeycomb into pure beeswax. It wasn’t hard, just time consuming, but the benefits outweighed any inconvenience I went through. I can improve upon it each time I try it again. So, if anyone ever offers you some raw honeycomb, take it, and turn it into a DIY project of your own.