Honey isn’t the only great product you can gather from a beehive. Many beekeepers, hobbyists, and health enthusiasts use beeswax for various reasons.
Of course, you can buy beeswax from specialty stores or health food markets. However, like honey, store-bought beeswax will never give you the same satisfaction you can get from rendering your own wax straight from the comb.
If you keep honey bees or know a beekeeper, you can gather your own beeswax for your various projects. Learn the process of how to separate beeswax from honeycomb with this guide.
Methods of Extracting Honey
You can separate honey from combs in two initial steps. One common method is to reinforce the combs with a mesh, wire, or plastic sheet, after which you uncap the harvested reinforced combs.
After removing the capping layer from the honey, it’s time to place the comb in a honey extractor, which spins the combs for the honey to spin out.
You can now replace the nearly empty combs on a hive so the bees can refill them again. Whether you extract the combs or replace them in the hive, it’s up to you.
Crushing the Combs
Separating the honey takes a different approach for combs that are not reinforced. For instance, some beekeepers keep their bees in top bar hives, the oldest and most widely known hive system in the world. Bees in these hives naturally build their comb around these bars without depending on a four-sided frame.
In such cases, you can use the simple crush-and-strain method. You crush the entire comb using your hands or a tool in a bowl. Once the cells are broken, you can separate the honey and wax by straining them.
Depending on the technology you’re using, you can strain, settle, or filter the honey extracted from the combs.
Settling honey is the simplest method, especially if you’re cleaning honey in small quantities. All you need to do is to pour the honey into a bucket and wait for it to settle.
Grit and other heavy particles will sink to the bottom. On the other hand, the wax will float on the surface as it is lighter than honey. You can scoop off the top wax layer and start the next step.
Both methods above will leave you with wax mixed with leftover honey from the capping wax and strained combs. Now, the next step is separating the wax from these mixtures.
One method is to leave the capping or crushed comb in a bucket and let the wax float to the top and the honey settle to the base. This should give you around 60% to 70% of wax. Most beekeepers render this wax to separate it from physical impurities, like larval molts, moldy pollen, or propolis.
Melt and Render the Wax
To render beeswax from the honeycomb, you must melt the comb in simmering water. The first step is to wrap your pieces of honeycomb in cheesecloth. This will filter out any solids in the comb, such as pieces of honey bees.
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer, and carefully place your bundle of honeycomb inside. As the comb heats up, this will melt the wax and allow it to seep out of the cheesecloth. Use a pair of tongs to squeeze the cheesecloth and ensure you get as much beeswax out as possible.
Once your bundle is empty, remove it, and set the water aside to cool. As it does, the beeswax will float to the top of the pot and harden.
Cleaning the Beeswax
After harvesting the beeswax, you’ll likely see a lot of dirt, dead bees, food waste, or cocoons in the wax. You might have to clean the wax depending on what you want to use the beeswax for.
To do this, you can melt the wax and remove any debris by scooping them out. Once the water and beeswax are completely cool, you can remove the top layer of wax from the pan.
Another way to do this is to wrap the wax in a fresh cheesecloth and repeat the melting process. You can also use a coffee filter to catch even more debris and create a cleaner batch of wax.
You can opt to do additional cleanings using a double boiler. A word of warning, though, beeswax is flammable. Make sure to stay in the kitchen during the cleanings and inspect your wax for smoke or burning.
Uses for Beeswax
Once the beeswax is to your satisfaction, you can pour it into containers or molds and use it however you want. You can use the wax in many different ways. Some people choose to make home products, such as candles or furniture polish, out of their beeswax. Others create luxurious health and beauty products. The natural moisturizing properties of beeswax make it a fantastic ingredient for body butter and lip balm.
The most common uses include the following:
Instead of throwing out the wax after harvesting your honey, make it into something useful like handmade candles! Beeswax is a great alternative to candle wax, which contains chemicals that produce toxic byproducts when they burn. Instead, the naturally sweet aroma coming from the wax effectively deodorizes any space without artificial fragrances.
Beeswax is a great wood cleaner, nourishing bare wood and protecting it from harsh environmental elements, such as sunlight, dust, water damage, and airborne pollutants.
Since beeswax is a clear wax containing no synthetic components, wiping it on wood will not alter its color or appearance. Its rich, beautiful finish instantly provides a natural shine.
Beeswax polish also compliments any other wood finish, like wood stain, oils, or varnish. After staining wooden furniture, you can coat it with wax to enhance the stain’s color even further. It’s also perfect for altering the finish into satin or gloss.
Beauty and Skincare Products
Beeswax is a common raw material used in cosmetics, such as lip creams, lip balms, and lipsticks. The wax is responsible for making the mixture solid, keeping these makeup items in good shape. Besides that, beeswax is known for its hydrating and moisturizing properties, keeping the lips smooth, supple, and nourished.
Beeswax contains dozens of good skincare properties, making it safe for anyone older than the age of 1. Some of these skin benefits are as follows:
- Helps repel germs from the skin
- Soothes irritated skin
- Moisturizes dry skin
- Helps in cell formation
- Treats scar tissue
Because of these astounding effects, this natural wax is often used to create soaps, deodorants, lotions, and moisturizing creams.
Home Remedy for Acne
Beeswax is a known home remedy for acne because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, the wax is also rich in vitamin A, which speeds up healing and prevents breakout, giving the skin a natural, healthy glow.
This wax is also a natural skin softener and emollient, keeping the skin smooth and supple after acne elimination. However, users should remember that the best way to control and prevent acne is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise on top of skincare applications and prescription acne medication.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s also best to consult your dermatologist before adding beeswax products to your skincare regimen.
Wax from the honeycomb is known to decrease cholesterol levels, prevent infections, and protect the stomach from ulcers caused by certain medications. Some research shows that wax esters found in unrefined cereal grains and beeswax helped reduce LDL cholesterol by 21%. They also raised HDL cholesterol by 8% to 15%.
Another 2014 study shows beeswax helped relieve pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, where patients experienced reduced pain and joint stiffness.
Salve for Skin Infections
Because of its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties, beeswax is known to relieve jock itch and other fungal skin infections. It’s a great home remedy for itchiness and inflammation caused by such conditions.
In such cases, you can create a mixture of wax, honey, and olive oil and apply it to the affected area. Do so three times a day for four weeks to see significant improvement.
Now that you know how to separate beeswax from the honeycomb, you can make these and many other products at your leisure.
Experience the Benefits of Beeswax
Beeswax is just one of the many great reasons to become a beekeeper! Whether you’re after the wax, the honey, or the sheer joy of taking care of an important part of our ecosystem, you can pick up one of Mann Lake’s bee boxes for sale and start your beekeeping career today.