Saturday, April 29, 2017

Wax Moth Caterpillars saving us from plastic

This short video is very interesting.  A beekeeper and scientist happened to notice how wax moths chew plastic very effectively and now they're exploring the possibility of using them to solve our plastic problems.  More info at the link below

Wax Moth Caterpillars

I have seen how these caterpillars not only chew the wax but also the wood of the frames.  They've got quite the strong mouth parts to be able to do that.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

How to make Salves with beeswax

 I've done a couple postings on making body products with oils and beeswax.  Generally the recipes are very similar.  The bottom line is that the amount of wax added to the oil will determine how hard the lip balm, lotion bar or salve or ointment will be.

Generally salves should be softer so you can dip your finger in to scoop a glob.  So there is less wax used in these recipes.

The ingredients can vary widely as far as what oils you use and also if you use a scent or fragrance or essential oils.

This recipe is how to make a salve which is great to put on those aching muscles or arthritic joints.  I have bad knees and I was surprised to find how much this salve helps.

You could actually make your own "Tiger Balm" which is quite effective - but that requires product from a supplier.  This recipe uses spices from your own kitchen that are warming or hot.  It's not as strong as Tiger Balm but I find it's better for daily application and less smelly.

Warming Spice Salve:

Containers - small jar or two 2 oz tins
6 tbsp Infused Olive Oil (see how to below)
2 tbsp Cayenne Pepper Powder
2 tbsp Black Pepper
2 tbsp Ginger Powder
2 tbsp Beeswax
25 drops Essential Oils (see below)

If you have a fine sieve then the spices can go into the oil loose.  If not, use a piece of cloth to knot and hold the spices.

An Oil Infusion:  In a double boiler heat the oil and spices over a medium heat for 45 mins.  Let cool and then strain the spices, keeping the oil.

Reheat the oil over a medium heat and add the beeswax.  Have containers ready.  Once the wax is melted, add the Essential Oils, stir well and then pour into containers.  Let cool.

There are essential oils that will not only give scent to the salve, they are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties which will aid the area it's applied to.  These oils are Ginger, Rosemary, Peppermint, Black Pepper, Clove, and Lavender.  Don't use all of them but one or two would be lovely.  An oil like Lavender can also help to relax and de-stress as well.  There will be a spicy smell to this salve which you'll always smell as well but I don't find it unpleasant.

The red colour comes form the spices.  It goes on the skin red but does not stain the skin.

Now that I've shared my recipe, I'd love to hear how you like it if you've tried it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How to Make a Body Lotion Bar


If you've made lip balm then you can make a lotion bar. The process is the same - you make a semi solid cake with moisturizing oils and beeswax.

The finished lotion bar melts on contact with your warm skin.  This bar is lovely to rub on your dewy skin after a shower.

With the lip balm recipe a couple posts back, I used simple oils that are readily available in the kitchen.

For this recipe it uses a variety of nourishing and moisturizing oils which are quite luxurious for the skin.

The beeswax helps to create an emollient barrier on the skin which holds the moisture against the skin.


Essential oils give your bar glorious scents and if you explore some aromatherapy oils you can create blends that can be for stress, relaxation, etc.  These give your bar an added dimension and are value added which takes your product up a notch.

The molds used for the shapes are soap molds (Milky Way brand of molds - "Guest Soap") which are sold at the suppliers listed previously on the Lip Balm recipe and re-posted at the bottom.

A small kitchen scales will help tremendously since most recipes are not by tbsp or cups, but instead by grams.

Some of the oils are semi-solid at room temperature and some are liquid oils.

Recipe yields 6 bars

18 g Virgin Coconut Oil
36 g Apricot Kernel Oil
36 g Jojoba Oil
30 g Shea Butter
36 g Cocoa Butter (deodorized or it smells like chocolate - which isn't a bad thing)
 15 g Mango Butter
8 gel capsules Vitamin E Oil
3 g Essential Oil Blend
81 g Beeswax

Slowly melt the beeswax, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oils and cocoa butter on a low heat until melted.  Then add in the Shea and Mango Butters.  Finally add the more delicate Vitamin E Oil and your Essential Oil blend.  Stir and make sure everything is melted.

Have your molds ready and pour your warm mixture into the molds.  Leave 30 minutes to cool.  I find it's best to put in the freezer for 5 minutes prior to unmolding so that pieces don't stick in the mold.

Or a better way is to place the freshly poured molds into the freezer for 15 minutes, then remove and unmold so that your mold is freed up to do another batch.

The bars do fit nicely into metal tins sold at the suppliers which keep them from being crushed.

I'd love to hear from you if you try this.  Good luck!


Candian suppliers:
New Directions - Canada
Voyageur Soap & Candle

USA suppliers:
New Directions - USA
Brambleberry

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Excellent free How To videos for beekeepers from Guelph University

Dr Ernesto Gusman and Paul Kelly are the excellent instructors for the beekeeping course held at the University of Guelph's Apiculture Centre.

Below is a link to a series of about 30 free instructional beekeeping videos.  They are very professional and Paul's teaching technique is very straightforward and easy to understand.  I can't believe these are free!

This is a beekeeper's goldmine of info.  Enjoy!

http://www.uoguelph.ca/honeybee/videos.shtml

An example is Swarm Control posted below.  When hives swarm we lose productivity in the hive so it's best to try to prevent it.


Monday, December 12, 2016

How to Make Lip Balm

One of the easiest things to make with beeswax and regular cooking oils in your kitchen is lip balm.

There are lots of very fancy an expensive oils (Almond Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Mango Butter, Coconut Butter, Shea Butter, Jojoba oil, etc).

I have all these oils and I have used them all.  As an esthetician I did plenty of manicures and pedicures using Almond Oil.  I have to be honest, the very best oil I found to moisturize is Olive Oil.  And it's so cheap and easy to find.  You probably already have some in your home for cooking.  Sunflower Oil is really nice to moisturize as well.

So start with these simple oils that you can get at the grocery store.  Let's use up some beeswax to moisturize the lips during the cold winter, make some presents for Christmas and maybe even sell some to pay some beekeeping bills.

First up, below is a list of suppliers where it's easy to get a few things you might purchase to make the lip balm - those plastic screw-up tubes and/or metal tins with screw on or slide out lids.

None of these containers are necessary to make lip balm as you can use your own.  Mint tins, cold cream containers, etc., there are many containers you can save when you empty them to use.  Save this list of suppliers for future recipes that I'll be sharing, for example to buy those lovely oils listed above.

Candian suppliers:
New Directions - Canada
Voyageur Soap & Candle

USA suppliers:
New Directions - USA
Brambleberry

Great instructional videos:
This video is from Soap Queen at the USA supplier Brambleberry.  They have tons of videos which are excellent instruction for visual learners (like me).



You only need a small quantity of wax to make lip balm.  Basically you heat wax and a kitchen oil together and pour it into a container where it cools.  The amount of wax determines the hardness of the balm - the less wax you use makes an ointment or salve (recipes on those soon).

A balm should melt on contact with the lips but if in a roll-up tube it shouldn't be so soft as to melt in your pocket.

Flavours aren't necessary but do add a dimension of interest and most clients expect some type of flavour smell.  Essential oils such as spearmint, peppermint and licorice are good to use and are inexpensive to buy.  You can purchase a food grade Vanilla fragrance at the suppliers above.  Don't use vanilla extract because it's water soluble and won't mix with the wax.

For a touch of sweetness, unfortunately honey can't be used because it doesn't stay suspended in the wax because it's water soluble.  Instead, sugar-free natural Stevia is a good choice.  There are many artificial flavours available but they won't have any sweetness to them.

Soft colour powders called mica can be added to make the balm like a lipstick.

Here's a recipe to make about 22 lip balm tubes.

3 tbsp Beeswax
6 tbsp Olive Oil
4 tbsp Sunflower Oil
2 tbsp Avocado Oil

5 capsules Vitamin E Oil (from vitamin section in drug store)
20 drops Spearmint Essential Oil
1 tbsp Stevia (or more to taste)

Add all the oils (except Vitamin E and Essential Oils) to a double boiler or heat safe glass container for microwave.  Heat them slowly until melted.
Have your containers ready for when it's time to pour
Add the essential oils, stevia and vitamin E oil to the hot mixture & stir.
If you chill a spoon in the freezer, you can dip it in your warm wax mixture.  It will harden immediately.  You can then test it on your lips to see if the consistency is what you like.
Once you're happy with it, pour into your waiting containers and let cool

I'd love to hear if you've made lip balm and how it turned out.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

How to process and filter beeswax

As mentioned in the last post, when I used a simple oven method to melt beeswax cappings I discovered the wax was a lovely yellow colour and that lead to the question - why is it yellow and not brown?

In the last post I mentioned my wake up moment on how I dicovered I was mistreating my beeswax cappings by overheating the wax.

That's what caused it to look brown.

As per the oven technique in the last post, pictured is the frame I use with window screening stapled to it.  I lay paper towels on top of the screen and then pile on the cappings.

I then set the frame over a foil lasagna tray from the grocery store with a bit of water in it.

Over hours at the lowest oven setting, the cappings melt and the wax drips through the paper towel into the tray below.

The "slum gum" stays on top and can be discarded.

This yellow wax on top can look very clean but it will still have some fine debris in it.

If making candles, any debris like propolis, etc., that's still in the wax will act like creosote in the wick and prevent the candle from burning properly.

The next most important part of wax processing is to filter it really well to remove the fine debris.

There are a few methods for fine filtering and you might want to experiment with some or all of them.

The ultimate is to let the wax warm settle over a few days.  This allows time for the particles to sink to the bottom, naturally purifying the wax.

(I agree with this method but don't yet have a system that I feel I can safely leave on for days, especially if I leave the house.  Wax melters run about $1500.00 to import to Canada/customs/duty/exchange which is beyond my pocket book at this time.

Because I don't do a longer settling time, I do more fine filtering.

I use silk as the top layer that sifts and catches most of the debris.  Cheesecloth isn't fine enough.  In
reading some mentioned using J-Cloths.

Under the silk goes a piece of fabric (red in the photo).

What's important to help with filtering is to have a polyester/cotton blend where the polyester content is at least 40%.

That makes it fine enough to catch tiny debris but not such a tight weave that the wax won't go through it.

I then do a final filter through a paper cow's milk filter which I believe is the only filter used by those that do the multi day settling period.

The polyester can be purchased in a fabric store or at a second hand clothing store.

Photo - a 6" unused milk filter.

Below a used filter - note the slight brown debris that it collected.

I hope you find this information useful for when you venture into candlemaking or to help improve your current techniques.









Sunday, December 4, 2016

How to properly melt beeswax cappings

My first year beekeeping I had a bit of wax and I melted it to make candles using a crock pot.

I did that for the first few years and then found I got so busy I started stockpiling the cappings to deal with "later".

You know, when I get a round-to-it.

I wanted to bump up our sales to help pay the beekeeping bills.

Ultimately I don't care if I make money since it's a hobby, but I'd like it to at least pay for itself.

I'm going through the bags and pails of saved cappings wax.  Some are bee licked dry and others are sticky.

I started researching the best ways to process beeswax and that lead me to some interesting information.  Take a look at my candles in the photo below.
Notice the colour difference between left and right?  The left side is the colour I was most familiar with.  But then I learned that the wax was actually camel coloured because it had been overheated when melting.

I had followed the directions on some U-Tube videos where beeswax was put in either a double boiler or into water in a pot and was then boiled on high heat.  Much too hot for the delicate wax I learned.

Overheating cappings wax not only destroys its colour but it greatly lessens the beautiful aroma as well.  Here's an excellent video on a one step slow melt oven process.  I like this for the safety as it's enclosed while melting for long periods of time in an oven.
When I slowly melted cappings in the oven on the lowest setting and leaving it for
hours and hours the wax that melted was bright yellow and also very clean and smelled amazing.

I wanted to know why the wax was bright yellow.  And that's what lead to further research where I learned I had been overheating my wax.

[Oven melt pan with wax, honey and a bit of water.  I use the darkened honey in mead making or baking.  I prefer to have the bees lick the wet cappings but don't always get that done.]

I now melt cappings either in the oven or a double boiler, but always with very low temperature over many hours.  And the wax is gorgeous and the colour is usually yellow/orange.

But here's what's happening now when it comes to selling. Customers are so used to the camel coloured beeswax that they think the yellow/orange wax isn't right or has been altered in some way and many seemed to prefer the camel coloured wax.

[My double boiler - water in the bottom and wax in the top]

A customer at the craft sale changed her mind on the lighter colour after she smelled the candles.  The camel colour had only some smell and the yellow/orange had a lot.  I can see some customer education is in order.  Maybe some beekeeper education too.

What are your experiences with melting wax?

Another important thing to do is to filter the wax.  I'll provide more info on how to do that soon.