Monday, March 17, 2014
Survival Bee Keeping - Bees Wax
Bees are not just for honey. There are in fact about four or five useful things that can come out of bee hives besides the honey. There is the wax, which is what this post is about, propolis, gathered pollen, royal jelly and the actual venom the bees inject when they sting. I will cover all of them eventually but today I am going to ramble on a bit about the wax.
If you have bees you are going to collect wax. There is no way around it and it is so useful you certainly do not want to waste it or throw it away. Bees will build comb in places you don't want them to inside the hive. A swarm will build a good sized comb (like the one pictured) in a very short period and a dead out hive for all the sorrow of lost bees also offers up a chance to clean up some unwanted comb before you re-use the frames.
Clean comb like you see above is the best for melting down as it doesn't need washing and requires very little filtering. Comb you get when harvesting honey (Called cappings) and old brood comb that has turned dark needs a bit more preparation and washing/rinsing/drying sometimes before it is melted.
I use a solar wax melter I made myself, a strainer with cheesecloth and a crock half filled with water in the bottom to melt my unfiltered wax whenever I have a sunny day with temps above 85 degrees or so. I also have a little crockpot I keep filtered and clean wax in to melt whenever I need some liquid wax around the Small-Hold.
The type of wax you get after it is melted, filtered and reformed (floating on the water in the crock) is called yellow wax because it is a nice mellow yellow color. You can bleach the wax to make white wax sometimes used in candles and other things and you can also mix melted wax with alcohol (I believe) and make what is called bees wax absolute.
And no you can't drink it Bubba!!!
The uses of bees wax are almost infinite really and no way I can cover all of them. You can use it in reloading to make a bullet lube or to seal the ends on shotgun shells. It is used as a flux when melting some metals to remove impurities. You can use it in sewing and leather working as a waterproof thread coating or to help the thread go through tough leather. There is the obvious candle use of course. Flavoring can be added to make a gum etc. etc. etc.
Bees wax also has some alleged medicinal uses. I say alleged because nothing is proven just old recipes and lore but it is said to help lower cholesterol, relieve pain, swelling, ulcers and help stop diarrhea. Most of the recipes I have seen for internal use have it mixed with olive oil and chickweed extract then taken as a medicine. This is when you see the absolute version used most.
Please note I am not recommending anyone mix these remedies nor am I medical professional of any type.
One important health benefit of bees wax that anyone can stand behind however is it's use as a lip balm or other moisturizer/blocker when mixed with natural oils. Do you all remember how desperate for lip balm the shop keeper was in "The Book of Eli"?
For bee keepers the wax is also useful in getting the bees to build comb where you want them too. Those who use foundation-less frames or top bars will often paint a line of bees wax where they want the girls to start building the comb. It doesn't always work because you are trying to get a large group of females to do what ya want, and all us men know how hard that us. If you use plastic frames it is helpful to coat the plastic in a thick layer of wax so the bees will just start building it up. The girls are not always enthusiastic about bare plastic let me tell ya.
Needless to say I spend a good amount of time producing yellow wax and saving all the extra wax I can get out of my hives. In a grid down situation it will be in great demand I assure you. Why even in the slow collapse we have now I get many phone calls and contacts asking about it.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!