Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Making Beeswax

I have been wanting to make my own body/face cream ever since Ms. Smitha Kamath spoke about it during one of our Gardening meets. I had the chance to try it (the cream that Smitha makes with Beeswax and Virgin Coconut oil) during the visit to Smitha's Sacred Farm and found it absolutely amazing - it made the skin very supple, soft and felt totally natural. Definitely a must have cream in one's list of natural cosmetics. While buying it from Smitha was an option, I also felt the urge to try making it on my own since Smitha very generously shared the recipe and the procedure to make it in her blog/talks.

One of the main components of this cream, apart from the Coconut Oil, was Beeswax. So, when I happened by a honey harvest and sales counter at my office premises, while everyone else was busy bargaining and buying the "pure" honey, I shocked the salesguy (the work is outsourced to some small vendor!) by requesting for the wax instead. BTW, I had no clue what the wax actually looked like or what is a Beeswax even - whether it is the leftover hive, or some kind of liquid other than honey that we collect from the hive or something else altogether! So I just took my chances and asked for "wax" and got the pieced up hive in return! Incidentally, the salesguy actually charged me for it saying the "wax" or the "hive" is actually more worthy and costly than the honey itself - as the Beeswax has a wide range of application including in creams, as an adhesive in industrial range ropes and also gets sold in bulk to Temples (for sticking the ornaments to the Idol - as per what the Salesguy told me!). I of course had to bite my pride and ask the Salesguy how to convert this "hive" into actual Beeswax before I remembered that I could have Googled it!

Within moments of buying the "hive" that I need to convert to "Beeswax", I was assaulted with a huge feeling of guilt and despair - so many Bees made homeless, so many killed and so many young ones and eggs destroyed even before they could see the outside world. There were still some half dead bees clinging to the hive I had got - apparently, though they can very well fly away without getting hurt (not the young ones though), the older ones kind of try to keep entering the hive (though it has been taken apart) and eventually drown in the honey that start oozing out of the hive. Either they drown or their wings get stuck in the gooey liquid rendering them flightless. A very sad sight that was - to see the helpless bees swarming around their once-beautiful home. Sigh!

Apathy to the rescue! As with all emotions, I accepted my guilt and decided to move on - as I could not now throw away the hive as the deed has already been done so to speak!

Okay, now let's get down to how we actually make the Beeswax from the "hive" that is harvested from the honeycomb. After extracting all the honey (either by simply letting the honey drain out through gravity or by squeezing the hive), you will be left with the "leftovers" of the hive ranging from white, yellow and dark yellow colors (like the picture below). The lighter colored one will yield more wax apparently so that is preferred though of course the dark one will yield wax as well along with a lot of "debris".

Image result for honey bee hive taken apart
source: manataka.org

Steps to make Beeswax from the collected hive parts:
  1. As the first step, ensure that all honey has been drained out of the hive. Though this step is not mandatory, the next few steps will make any honey that may come out unusable as we will be taking this through a heating process and honey is not supposed to be heated. You can of course opt to "sacrifice" the honey (if any left) and proceed to next step directly.
  2. Cut the hive into manageable pieces and put them into a vessel filled with water (not more than half the vessel).
  3. Bring the water to a boil - ensure you monitor this continuously as the wax is supposed to be highly inflammable. Do not leave it unattended at any cost.
  4. You will see the hive melting and the wax coming out (along with few other debris including the bodies of bees which may have been inside! Gross, I know!)
  5. Once all the hive is completely melted and there are no more solid pieces left, switch off the heat.
  6. Take another vessel with some cold water and line with a fine cotton cloth - we will use this cloth to filter out the debris.
  7. Pour the hot water + wax + debris mix through this fine cotton cloth into the cold water.
  8. Throw away the debris collected on the cloth - or simply compost them! Also, do this process a bit quickly as the wax will tend to solidify quickly and may leave a layer wherever the mixed water spills.
  9. Now, leave the wax and the water overnight to cool down.
  10. Voila, you will be gifted with a nice solid piece of Beeswax the next day - all the wax will separate out from the water and form a solid block that will be floating on top of the water. Simply take out the wax or drain the water. You might also want to check for any debris that might have accidentally got in inspite of the filtering. If there is debris, you can simpy repeat the process - bring to boil, filter out through a fine (finer) cloth into cold water, leave overnight, collect the Beeswax next day.
So, there easy peasy, isn't it? There is also another method where you put the hive into a cloth, tie the cloth and put into the vessel with boiling water - the wax will melt out of the cloth into the water leaving the debris inside the cloth. I tried this method first - but I found that this process makes the cloth unusable after this exercise as a fine layer of wax will collect around it and it is very cumbersome to try to get them all off the cloth. 

The solid block of Beeswax I collected - using the method 2 I have mentioned above. 

Heating the "hive" inside a tied cotton cloth in water - this leaves out all the wax into the water while collecting all the debris inside the cloth - filtering as you melt the wax. But then, as you will see, in spite of this "filtering as you go", there is still some debris that leaked out into the wax and solidified along with it. So now, I have to melt the wax again!

The next step is to figure out how to use this Beeswax and make that body cream! Await my next blog for the same!


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