BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Cosmetic Grade Beeswax

The Bucket - I have been learning to perfect the processing of my beeswax after years of trial and error and collecting. It is such a pleasure to take a big whiff of my scrap bucket from hives past still smelling of fresh honey. That's good beeswax!

I think one of the primary reasons I can't bring myself to treat my hives with miticides or feed my bees with essential oil recipes is the fear it will end up in the wax & other precious products of the hive... and it can.

Before & After processing - silicone bar mold is well worth the investment
Cosmetic Grade Beeswax - But, not all wax is considered "cosmetic grade" and if your neighbor calls with a request for beeswax for homemade lotions, cosmetic grade is what you will want to offer.

Cosmetic grade come from the little caps our girls excrete from their bellies to seal up honey in the comb. Other pieces of wax should be kept separate from this "cappings wax" - a valuable resource of the hive.

Candle Grade - Honey comb in chunks from crush and strain methods of harvesting honey, from old lost hives, or rotated out brood frames contain organic matter. This beeswax is best suited for candles.

Candle Grade or Furniture Grade - If you have scraps of beeswax foundation or brittle, recycled foundation sheets it is possible some chemicals have found their way in to the mix as well, from the maker or brought in from the environment. I keep these collections separate just in case.

Someday I hope to use my cappings wax stash to roll my own foundation to insure a chem-free hive and there is a great video on some UK beekeepers who have perfected that here. 

My Farmers' Market bars & bears
A Safe Sell - So, I believe we beekeepers, no matter our management practices, can reasonably insure that "cappings wax" is pure and worthy of use in making creams, salves, lip gloss, and lotions. It demands a premium price for all your great efforts in raising healthy bees. I have assessed that my own 2017 cosmetic grade wax is worth $2 an ounce; my own "candle grade" wax $1.25 an ounce.

The $1 Crock Pot - I gave up on my solar melter - just doesn't get hot enough here for dependable results - and now use a crock pot from a second hand store, covered with cheesecloth that is rubber-banded on to hold a paper towel that acts as a very good sieve.

This sits all day while I periodically place handfuls of cappings wax on top. Once it melts down, I turn off the pot, let it cool, and there is my beautiful naturally golden disk of cosmetic grade beeswax. YouTube Example Here

I am not a candle maker - maybe I would be if those silicone molds were not so expensive! I did invest, however in one that makes one ounce bars. This allows me to sell by the ounce as most cosmetic makers only need an ounce or three. Do not use a mold release on your cosmetic grade beeswax. The silicone mold if kept clean should not stick. Sometimes when in a hurry for candle grade I will use Vaseline, but exposing your cappings wax to a mold release of any kind is not appropriate.

Before I pour the bars they go through one more strain in a nylon stocking, rubber-banded onto a double boiler, also for cheap at a local second hand store - but I love these tools and would have bought them new if I had to for the ease they have afforded my beeswax processing routine.

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