52 Homesteading Skills in One Year Project 30 and 31: Rendering honeycomb into beeswax and making hand salve
I bought a gym for my bees. Yes, you read that right.
But no, they’re not exercising their little bee biceps or working out their legs on a mini bee treadmill.
They are fighting off vampires (Varroa Mites) – tick sized parasites that feed on their blood.
The bees can scrape the mites off their backs and stomachs using the Bee Gym’s clever wires and flippers. It sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is, but some beekeepers have already had success with the new tool so I thought I’d test it out.
Now the package said you could place the Bee Gym on top of your bottom board (basically the bottom of your hive) or in a spacer on top of your brood box (this is the lowest box in your hive where the Queen bee lays her eggs).
Well, I chose to use a spacer and what a BIG mistake that was. My spacer was too deep and the bees decided to teach me a lesson I will never forget. They filled that space with burr comb and then I had the heart crushing job of removing it.
What is burr comb? Every time you visit your hive, you will find bits of comb built in places that make perfect sense to the bees but not to humans. For example, on the underside of your cover.
When this happens, you simply scrape it away and bring it with you inside with dreams of candles, lip balm and lotions dancing around in your head.
Eventually, you will end up with a pile of comb. Of course, mine shouldn’t be this large. This is due to the Bee Gym beekeeping mistake I just described.
Did you know bees have to visit millions of flowers, fly around the world about 13 times and use roughly 6 lb of honey just to produce 1 lb of wax.? This is precious stuff that should never go to waste. So I set out to make myself some skin saving, honey hand salve.
But first, I had to turn my honeycomb into clean and pure beeswax.
How to make beeswax from honeycomb
You’re cool. That’s what my 8-year-old daughter told me as she watched me render bits of honeycomb into beeswax. I am writing this down so I can remind her of this fact when she becomes a know-it-all teenager who is embarrassed of her homesteading mama.
But I have to admit, she was right. Okay, maybe I’m not cool, but what I was doing certainly was. There is something Harry Potterish about experimenting with rendering beeswax and mixing together different combinations of butters, oils and fragrances. It felt like a Hogwart’s activity and I’m convinced the resulting hand salve will work magic on your dry hands.
Wrap your bits of honeycomb in a piece of cheesecloth such as this and clip it tightly closed.
Find an old pot. I can not stress the word “old” enough. Your pot will be almost impossible to clean afterwards.
Place your honeycomb bundle in the OLD pot on medium/low heat. As the water heats, the beeswax will melt and seep out of the cheesecloth leaving any debris trapped inside the cloth.
Once it seems like all the wax has melted, you can remove the cheesecloth from the pot giving it one last squeeze to get any remaining wax out.
In just a couple hours, the beeswax will have formed a solid layer on top of the water. Press down gently to remove it and voila….
You are now ready to turn beeswax into hand salve or whatever else you can dream up – mustache cream, surgical bone wax, fashioning your dreadlocks – or maybe just making hand salve.
The BEEest DIY – Honey Hand Salve
How can I say this is THE best hand salve. Because you are going to make it with YOUR favourite ingredients in a combination that best suits YOUR skin. Here’s how…
I used a consistency of 1 part beeswax to 4 parts oil. Check out this post from HumbleBeeAndMe to determine which consistency will work best for your skin.
If you don’t have your own hive to harvest beeswax from, you can purchase beeswax from your local beekeeper or online such as this organic beeswax.
I know coconut oil seems to be the latest darling of the beauty world, but I’m a big fan of extra-virgin olive oil. It works wonders on dry skin and is easily absorbed. It’s also chock full of vitamin E and skin healing powers.
A mixture of olive oil, honey and beeswax appears to help all kinds of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis and diaper rash, according to howstuffworks.com and the UC Davis Olive Centre.
I also used another rich, skin strengthening oil in combination with the olive oil – jojoba. It is known to reduce the appearance of scars, stretch marks and speed the healing of wounds, according to Wellness Today.
But wait. Maybe you don’t like olive oil or jojoba oils? No problem. Substitute for coconut, sweet almond, avocado or whatever your favourite oil may be.
Not only do they make your salve smell great, but each one has unique properties that could improve your skin. I love the scent of lavender and since I’m prone to getting cuts and scrapes from working with my hands, I benefit from its healing properties.
But maybe you’d prefer a different oil. No problem. Check out this post from Hello Glow on the 12 best essential oils for gorgeous skin.
I added a dash of honey to my salve for its healing and antimicrobial properties.
The spell, er, I mean Instructions
To make the hand salve, melt the wax and oil on low heat while continuously mixing your brew. Remove from heat and add honey and essential oils. Pour into your containers to set.
Now it is your turn to experiment with making your own secret, skin saving hand salve recipe. Or not. It might be too much work. Maybe you’d rather just purchase a container from me. Stay tuned for My Little BeesNess.
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