Beeswax is a mystery to most people. Most have heard of honey and they know that honey bees are important pollinators, but do you know what can be done with beeswax? The fact is that wax is as important a product of the bees work as honey is. So what is it?
Beeswax is a waxy secretion from glands in a young bee’s abdomen. The bees collect and process this into a very useful building material with which they make both brood comb and honeycomb. The comb is white when first made and darkens with age and use. When the comb gets very dark and dingy looking the bees are not too keen to use it and beekeepers switch it for a frame with foundation, which is a sheet of wax stamped with the hexagonal pattern that bees use when building comb. An alert beekeeper will switch it out before it gets to the state where the bees will not use it. Once removed from the hive the beekeeper can melt it down for use in all sorts of products from cosmetics to candles to even furniture polish or even shoe polish, furniture polish, modelling mold, cutler’s resin, Easter egg decorating.
One of its most popular uses today is as a base in cosmetics such as lip balms and moisturisers. This involves mixing it with Shea butter and coconut oil and maybe essential oils. Beeswax can also be used to make hair pomade and moustache wax. If you see these products for sale, check the label to ensure that they contain beeswax. Not all of them do.
A beeswax lip balm will usually contain natural products and not have any harmful chemicals and additives. But always check.
If you want to make your own balms you can do so without becoming a beekeeper. Just buy the wax from a supplier or even better from your local beekeeper.
Beeswax can be bought in blocks or granules/pearls. Just pick the one that is easiest for you to manage. It is a flammable product so you have to melt it in a bain-marie. That is basically a pot for the wax put into another pot filled with water, which will be in contact with the heat source. This prevents the wax from touching something that will darken it by overheating or even setting fire to it. Remember that when you are heating anything in a pot on a cooker, the top of the contents can be cold while the contents at the bottom of the pot can be almost boiling.
Beeswax softens at 32° C and melts between 62°-64° C. The flashpoint (the temperature at which beeswax flares up and burns) is 204° C. But, in between there is a point where the wax will darken 85° C. This may suit what you are doing if, for example, you want darker candles etc., but is generally to be avoided.
Beeswax makes a very high quality candle and if you see them priced higher than other candles in the shops, there is a reason for it. If you are familiar with the Catholic religious practices, you surely know about the tradition of the Easter candle being lit in the church at the ceremony. This candle is traditionally all beeswax.
There are many websites that explain how to make candles so I am not going to go into detail here. To make your own candles for home use or sale simply purchase the beeswax and the correct size and type of wick from your nearest craft store. You can melt the wax, mix with your favourite fragrance oils (beeswax has a lovely scent of its own so you may decide not to use a fragrance) and add the wick, pour into a mold and soon you will have your own homemade candle. They make great gifts or just use them yourself. Fragrance oils can usually be purchased from wholesalers, just be sure to look for concentrated oils. Sometimes, fragrance oils are sold in a diluted form. Diluted fragrance oils don’t work very well for candle making, because they will produce a weak scent when mixed with your wax. At the same time, understand that concentrated fragrance oils are super strong, so use them sparingly.
Above all when dealing with hot or melted beeswax, as with any dangerous produce, be careful. It will give you a nasty burn if spilled on any part of your body. If this happens, get immediate medical attention from a qualified professional.