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honeycomb image by Andrzej Solnica from Fotolia.com

How to Harvest, Process, and Use Beeswax

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Worker bees are equipped with a special gland that allows them produce wax from ingested honey. For every 6 to 8 pounds of honey they eat, they secrete 1 pound of wax to build honeycombs for their hive. People have known about the unique properties of beeswax for a long time: ancient Egyptians applied it to the surface of tomb paintings to protect them, Romans made death masks out of it, and today beeswax is often an ingredient in skin ointments.

Remove the honeycomb from the beehive and scrape as much of the honey off of it as you can.

Soak the honeycomb in warm water to soften it. The water also will wash off leftover honey and pollen on the honeycomb. Repeat this process a few times to clean it thoroughly.

Break the comb into small pieces and put them in a pan of water. The water level should be just above the pieces.

Heat the honeycomb and water over low heat until the wax is completely melted. Stir constantly and be careful not to spill, as beeswax is flammable. The bigger the honeycomb, the longer this will take.

Pour the melted beeswax and water mixture in a heavy-duty cloth bag with fine mesh. Use sacking, nylon, jute or woven rush. Leave enough room at the top to tie the bag.

Hold the bag over a bowl and squeeze it from top to bottom, pushing the wax through the mesh. This process refines your beeswax by leaving any large debris that had been attached to the honeycombs inside the bag.

Let the wax-water mixture cool. Put the bowl in a place protected from dust to keep your beeswax clean. As the wax cools and hardens, it will become separated from the water. Some wax might stick to the bowl. Scrape it off the bottom and discard it, as it will be mixed with any small debris that settled.

Smear a bowl with soapy water and set it aside.

Remove the hardened wax from the bowl and repeat steps 3 to 6 to trap any leftover small debris. This time, squeeze the wax through the mesh over the bowl that has a film of soapy water. Use unscented soap if you want to preserve the natural beeswax fragrance. The soap will make it easier to remove the wax from the bowl in one piece.

Allow the wax to cool and cure for 12 hours undisturbed. Put your bowl in a clean area free of dust.

Use your beeswax to make skin ointments; candles; shoe, furniture and car polish; crayons; lubricants and more. See Resource 1 for a few recipes.

Tip

Store beeswax in a clean, cool place.

Warning

Do not remove a honeycomb from a beehive unless you're an experienced beekeeper. Bee stings can cause severe allergic reactions.

About the Author

Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.

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