There are so many uses for beeswax that go beyond beeswax candles and salves – those are fun but so are lotions, growing mushrooms and wood polish. Let’s explore what beeswax is, where to get beeswax, and how to use it in your home and for your body.
We have beeswax…and a lot of it. Gabriel has been doing quite a few bee removals and when he removes the bees he also removes all the comb. He brings it all home and we help him process it. Since feral bees don’t build their comb in convenient wood frames, processing this comb is labor intensive.
We’ve developed a little system that seems to work pretty good. And in the end we have jars of honey, blocks of wax and, occasionally, a new hive in our bee yard.
What is beeswax?
This might seem a silly question to some but many people don’t really know what beeswax is. Beeswax is what bees make and use build their home. Beeswax is also called comb or honeycomb, especially when it’s got honey in it. The bees will build cells with the beeswax to store honey and different cells for the queen to lay eggs in. They are quite tidy and efficient in their comb building.
“By the time a worker (bee) is about twelve days old, her wax glands have matured. These four pairs of glands are on the underside of her abdomen. Wax is squeezed out of the glands as a clear liquid. It cools rapidly and turns white. The worker uses her legs to remove the wax, and then manipulates it with her mandibles to build the hive’s architecture. Pure bees wax is used to cap filled honey cells or to build new comb for storage. New beeswax is mixed with old beeswax and a bit of propolis, for strength, when covering brood cells and for use in building bridge comb.” The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum
Where to buy beeswax
What if you don’t have a beekeeper in your family and need to buy beeswax? I suggest starting your search by calling your local county extension agent and asking if there are any beekeepers in your area. This is a great way to support local beekeepers who might have a hard time finding a market for their beeswax.
The beeswax from a local beekeeper will probably not be super light unless he keeps the capping wax separate from the other wax. It also will probably not come in pastilles but will come in beeswax bars. I have an extra cheese grater that I use just for grating beeswax. It’s not difficult and since I don’t use it for anything else I don’t have to worry about washing all the beeswax off when I use it.
If you can’t find a local beekeeper, try Uncommon Bees. I’ve met them and they raise their bees very similarly to how we raise ours – they just have 100x the hives we have. Their products are very high quality.
Beeswax comes in a variety of colors based on how old it is, where it was used in the hives, what the bees are foraging when they made their propolis and many other variables. To get pure white beeswax (similar in color to soy wax) it has to be bleached in some way.
Most beeswax will have a yellow hue. We process ours in small batches and everyone is a different color. If we use the our solar melter to process it, the color is more consistent between batches.
Benefits of beeswax
Beeswax has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties (if it’s not heated above 250°F during processing), it’s food safe and smells wonderful. It can be used in toiletries, and in home and garden projects.
Probably my favorite benefit of beeswax is it’s ability to protect the skin and lock in moisture. The older I get the more I struggle with dry skin. And there is nothing that will work better on dry skin that some coconut oil with beeswax melted into it. Or you can make a whipped body butter if you want something a little more fancy.
Is beeswax edible?
Why, yes, it is. Back in the olden days you could find comb honey pretty easily. This is just slices of honeycomb with the honey still in it. When we harvest from our top bar hive, this is how we keep the honey.
You cut off a small chunk and chew it to release the honey. You can keep chewing the wax, kind of like gum. Once you’re done you can spit it out or swallow it. The beeswax will pass through your body undigested.
As far as I know there aren’t any internal beeswax uses (at least none that have been substantiated) so there’s no need to eat large amounts of beeswax. But if you like chewing on honeycomb there’s no need to worry about swallowing it.
Tips for using beeswax
- Never heat beeswax directly over an open flame. Beeswax is flammable so use a solar melter or a double boiler
- Never heat beeswax above 180°F if you want to retain it’s anti-microbial benefits.
- Set aside certain pots, cans, utensils, etc to use just for your beeswax projects. Beeswax is edible so there’s no danger of getting sick or anything like that, but your mother in law might not appreciate you using a “dirty” cheese grater to grate cheese for her fajitas. Trust me, just use keep a designated one. Also, beeswax will begin to smoke at 185°F so any pan that still has beeswax on it when you put it in the oven is going to smoke – a LOT.
You’ll notice that some of the posts are similar but none of them are exactly the same. What works for one person may not work for another and that is ok. It’s good to have choices in life, isn’t it?
One thing I do want to mention is that I’ve seen several articles that say beeswax is good to use to oil your baking sheets. I’m guessing the people who are saying this have done it and have not had any problems. However, know that beeswax will start to smoke once it reaches 250°F …and smoke a lot. Also, once you have it on your pan, it’s staying. I do have a pan with beeswax all over it – it’s the pan I use to make the wax covered cloth. Once one of my kids used it to bake cookies and we thought the oven was on fire because of the smoke. Just be warned.
If you want to learn how to make even more products for your home, garden and body I would suggest getting The Beeswax Workshop by Christine Dalziel. There are over 100 recipes in this book, so there really is something for everyone. Christine writes with the heart of a teacher and is very thorough in her explanations which makes this a great book for a beginning crafter. She also has a wealth of experience which she freely shares which makes this a great book for an experienced crafter. This has become my go-to book on beeswax.
So, tell me what are your favorite uses for beeswax?