Beeswax is used for making lip balm, hand lotion, moisturiser, salve, wood finish, wax, leather polish, waterproofing products, dental moulds and high-quality candles. It is secreted from the worker bees through glands on the abdomen and used to "glue" together the frames in the hive. The wax typically contains honey, bee parts and other impurities, and must be melted and purified before use. In small-scale beekeeping, a common method for separating beeswax from honey is by heating it on a hob.
Things you need
- Double boiler or two saucepans
- Food-safe thermometer
- Wooden spoon
- Storage container
- Coarse-mesh and fine-mesh strainers
Crush the comb containing the honey and beeswax thoroughly.
Heat the crushed-comb mixture carefully in a double boiler (or a small saucepan placed inside a larger pan containing hot water) to 38 degrees C (100F). Test the temperature using a food-safe thermometer. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Use the wooden spoon to scoop the wax off the surface as it rises. Since beeswax is lighter than honey, it will rise to the top of the boiler while the honey sinks to the bottom.
Place the warm beeswax in a storage container that will allow for easy removal once the wax hardens. If you plan to save the honey, strain it first through a coarse mesh and then through a fine mesh, such as nylon, to remove extraneous particles. The honey can then be stored or used.
Rinse the hardened beeswax in warm water to remove any lingering honey.
Tips and warnings
- For small amounts of honey and wax, use the microwave instead of the hob. Cut the comb into small pieces and mash it up in a microwave-safe container. Heat it for a minute or two, stir it with a wooden spoon, scoop off any wax that rises to the surface and repeat. Be careful not to heat the mixture for too long, or it might burn.
- The heating method for separating beeswax from honey is time consuming. If you have more than a few combs, buy an extractor. Separating beeswax from honey through an extractor may change its taste, however, due to the increased exposure to air molecules, a process known as aeration.
- Use a double boiler and keep the temperature at 38 degrees C (100F) when heating the honey and beeswax. Wax is highly flammable and likely to burn if heated inappropriately.
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