Tag Archive | beeswax

Wax Moths…Eww!

September 9, 2015

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I just had my first, and hopefully last encounter with wax moths. My fault…most wax moth encounters are due to the beekeeper’s negligence. I uncovered several stacked boxes of frames with drawn comb in which I had forgotten to add moth crystals. The frames had been stored there since mid-July. I could smell the stench upon lifting the cover – the frames were infested with wax moths, wormy larvae, webs and droppings – like a creepy, disgusting Halloween prop, only this was real.  Blah!

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Wax Moths and Bees

A wax moth infestation can destroy a hive. They like dark, warm areas with minimal air flow; and because they’re highly attracted to beeswax, the combination of dark, closed up boxes with frame upon frame of drawn comb is irresistible to wax moths who prey on and infest weak hives.

I’m grateful they only infested two boxes of frames and not four or six.  I’m even more grateful that they weren’t in my hives. What a horrible demise for bees, and a shameful mess for the beekeeper.

 

Preventing Wax Moth Infestations

There are several ways to store frames to prevent wax moth infestation.

  • Store frames in an airy location with plenty of light. Moths do not like light, nor do they appreciate steady air flow. I’ve heard of beekeepers openly hanging frames across the inside of well-lit buildings or barns, for example.
  • Use a fan to blow a steady flow of air through the frames. The downside would be the 24×7 operation of a fan (or two) over several months.
  • Store frames in a truly airtight container. I know beekeepers who store their drawn frames in airtight rubbermade containers – like the kind you keep clothes in under the bed – and store them in their basements. However, you need to be 300% certain it is truly air tight. Wax moths can access the tiniest of openings.
  • Store boxes and frames outdoors in freezing temperatures. All stages of wax moth will die within 24 hours in freezing temperatures (36 degrees F or lower).
  • Store frames with PDB moth crystals. This is my method (so much for chemical free beekeeping). Only use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB). These will kill all stages of wax moth, except the eggs. The crystals will dissolve gradually over several weeks/months time, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees.

 

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Cleaning Up the Mess

So what steps did I take to clean up this mess and ensure it doesn’t happen again?

  • Freeze the boxes and frames. Wax moths, eggs and larvae will all die if frozen for 24 hours. I have a freezer in the garage for freezing frames and boxes. This luxury has been put to great use over the last 2 years. It’s always a good idea to freeze boxes and frames before moving them to the hives, or even before extracting honey; or for saving honey frames until you’re ready to extract. I can easily fit two 8-frame boxes with frames into our upright freezer.

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  • Clean the frames. I placed a tarp on the ground in the driveway and grabbed my trusty pallet knife and scraped off the webs, droppings and debris, and cut out the areas that were severely damaged.

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  • Store the frames and boxes. I use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB) to store frames with drawn comb. No longer will I boast of chemical free beekeeping – this is my one vice. For me, it’s the easiest, most worry free way to ensure that your comb and boxes are moth free. I simply add a spoonful of crystals on a piece of cardboard that’s placed on top of the frames, then I add another box of frames and another piece of cardboard with another spoonful of crystals. When all boxes are stacked, air tight, then place a top cover on top with a heavy brick or object on top of that to weigh it down.

 

The crystals will dissolve gradually, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees. Preferably in an open, well lit, well ventilated location. And if that location happens to bee below 36 degrees F, then even better!

Just keep in mind that not all will bee lost. Wax can always bee rendered down in the spring and replaced with new wax, and frames that are salvageable can go back into the hives and will bee cleaned further by the bees. Bees are workers and cleaners. They’re programmed to build comb in the spring, so they’ll fill in the gaps and put the frames to good use. Waste not, want not…you’ve gotta love’em.

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2014 Frederick County Fair – Popular Bees!

September 20, 2014

One thing I look forward to each year is working the fair with the Frederick County Beekeeping Association.  In addition to selling hoards of honey and educating our locals about beekeeping, colony collapse disorder, the benefits of honey, and so much more, we also teach them how to make hand rolled beeswax candles!

People make a bee-line to come visit us and see the bees!  It’s really a wonderful event.

Here are some fun photos highlighting the FCBA at the fair…

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Soap Making Obsession

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Lavender Milk Mash (left) made with milk, lavender essential oil and crushed spent grains; Forest Glen Yogurt Soap (right) made with whole milk yogurt.

My latest craze…soap! I am learning all kinds of wonderful ways to make soap. Soaps in the crockpot, cold process soaps, soaps made with milk and yogurt, soaps made with beer and spent grains, and of course soaps made with beeswax and honey!  It’s surprisingly easy to make, and based on the number of recipes, sites and tutorials out there, everyone is doing it!

For beginners, I recommend the hot process method, for two main reasons:

1. You don’t have to be precise, and
2. It’s ready to use straightaway.

The crockpot cooks the soap, pushing it through the gel process and allowing it to soaponify within an hour’s time, so you can start using it immediately.

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Start off with a few basic recipes using inexpensive kitchen oils (like crisco, soy oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, rendered fats like beef tallow – and don’t forget beeswax), some hardware store lye (like Red Devil – I get my from Ace Hardware), and distilled, bottled or rain water.   Don’t use water from the tap since it has different chemical make-ups and can cause inconsistent results.  You can substitute other liquids for the water, like beer, tea, and milk.  These liquids need to be treated differently because they react differently with the lye.  But the options are endless.

You can use the hot process method on virtually any cold process soap recipe.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be designing all kinds of different soaps, and family members will become your test subjects.  Ha!  No more store bought Coast soap for you dear husband!

Soap making resources are everywhere on the internet, so instead of adding yet another tutorial, I will refer  you to some of my favorite soaping resources so you can begin your own soap making obsession…

GoodEarthSpa Hot Process Soap Step-by-Step (my favorite tutorial for hot process soap)

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More of my favorite tutorials and resources…

GoodEarthSpa Channel on YouTube – Full of detailed tutorials and recipes for all types of soaps, cold, hot, solid, liquid, laundry, and more. Plus, she’s a beekeeper!

SoapQueenTV Channel on YouTube – Tons of wonderful soap making video tutorials and more!

Chickens in the Road – Hot Process Soap Tutorial

Chickens in the Road – How to Make Soap Tutorial

From Nature with Love – My favorite Soapulator (for calculating soap recipes)

The Chemistry Store – favorite supply resource

Amazon – my other favorite supply resource

Smart Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson (99 cent kindle book on Amazon.com – a great starter book and she has other books to help you advance into other areas of soap and lotion making, all 99 cents)

Pinterest – for soap recipes galore!!!

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Happy Soaping!!!

 

DIY Solar Wax Melter

When it comes to products of the hive, honey is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s true, I get lots and lots of requests for honey. But for me, it’s the wax. Wax for lip balms, face creams, hand lotions, soaps, furniture polish…so many things can be made with beeswax. So after extracting a good 30 lbs of sugar syrup, I’d harvested lots of wax cappings – the beautiful creamy yellow wax that covers and protects the honey filled comb. Wax capping is the purest, best quality wax.  Particularly good for face creams and skin sensitive products since it moisturizes and protects dry skin.

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Wax cappings are shaved from the surface to release honey from the comb.

Wax can be harvested several ways. The indoor method requires melting the wax down in a pot of water, then straining.  This can be a messy process.  The other option is to let the sun do all the work for you.  Using a basic, inexpensive setup, I built my own solar wax melter, and it works like a charm.

DIY Solar Wax Melter

Supplies

  • 1 styrofoam or insulated cooler with flat edge.
  • 1 piece clear plexiglass or glass, fit to cover the top of the cooler
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum tape
  • Container to fit bottom of cooler
  • Window screened frame
  • Water
  • Objects to hold down the top cover
  • Thermometer, optional

Instructions

1. Wash your beeswax ahead of time by soaking (for several hours) and rinsing it thoroughly (several times) in lukewarm water. The water should be slightly warm to help melt the honey and grime from the wax, but not warm enough to soften or melt the wax.  This process may require several rounds of soaking, rinsing and draining.

Clean beeswax cappings, ready for melting.

Cleaned wax cappings ready to melt.

2. Gather supplies and prepare to assemble the wax melter.

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Supplies ready to go!
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We built a wooden frame sized to fit inside the cooler (above the container), then stapled window screen on the top. This is our filter.

3. Line the inside of your cooler with aluminum foil (see below).

4. Use the aluminum tape to bind the seams of the foil and adhere the foil to the inside of the cooler (see below).

5. Place the container on the bottom of the cooler (see below).

6. Fill the container 1/3 to 1/2 way with water.  The water prevents the wax from sticking to the container.

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Cooler is lined with aluminum foil, taped with aluminum tape, and a partially filled container of water is place at the bottom of the cooler.

7.  Place the framed window screen over top of the container of water.  It doesn’t have to set directly on top of the container, and in fact, is better if it sets about 3-4 inches above the water.

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Framed screen sets above the container to filter the wax.

8. Place a pile of wax, several hands full, across the top of the screen.

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The wax is piled across the screen ready to melt down into the water.

9. Place the clear lid on top of the cooler and fit it snuggly into place so it stays on and so the heat remains inside.  Then set the cooler out in the sun.  The warmer the temperatures, the faster it will melt.  Some people place a thermometer inside the cooler to track the temperature throughout the day.

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Clear lid is in place, secured by two small pieces of wood on each side that are held in place by the plastic lid clamps that came with the cooler.

 

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Waiting for the morning sun to come up. Let the melting begin!

Depending on the amount of wax and the temperatures outside, melting the wax can take anywhere from several hours to several days. As long as you’re not in a hurry, this method is maintenance free. As it melts, keep adding more hands full of wax into the melter and allow it to accumulate into one piece.

Note: Ants do like the smell of beeswax and honey, so bee careful where you set the cooler or your solar wax melter may become an ant farm. This can be prevented by setting the cooler into a container that’s surrounded by water or cooking oil, creating a moat. The ants will drown trying to get to the melter.

The image below shows how well the window screen filters out the dirt and grime.

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Left over crud that’s been filtered out of the beeswax.

What you’ll have left is a blob-like mound of beautiful, clean, creamy yellow beeswax. This can be used to make candles, lotions, balms, and other fun stuff! Check out my bee recipes and body and wellness recipes, located at the top of this site to view some of my own favorite beeswax recipes, like Beeswax Lotion Bars or my Homemade Face Cream.

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Voila! Clean, filtered beeswax, ready to bee turned into something fabulous!

Beeuteeous!  Happy melting!

Hand Rolling Beeswax Candles

When I signed up to help my Beekeeping Cub demonstrate how to make beeswax candles at the county fair, I envisioned myself sitting on a stump, wick in hand, dipping tirelessly into a pot of hot wax while waving at the kiddies.

I arrived to a table piled high with beeswax foundation – the long flat sheets of wax that are inserted in the frames of the hive to help bees draw out their comb. Using a precut cardboard template and an exacto knife, I was instructed to cut out the shapes from the sheets of wax. The wick cord was then wrapped around a precut piece of cardboard and cut to length.

With everything precut and ready to go, we invited passersby to sit down and make their own candles. And I mean everyone – kids, parents, grandmas, men, women, teenagers…regardless of age or gender, everyone loved it!

Since most of us beekeepers have a few extra sheets of beeswax foundation lying around, I thought I’d share a tutorial for making hand rolled beeswax candles. It’s super easy, they make great gifts, and it’s an easy and fun project for kids. In fact, many of the kids ended up showing their parents how to make the candles. Here we go…

Beeswax Candles

1 full sheet of deep foundation makes 2 candles. 

Supplies

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Supplies needed to make beeswax candles.

1.  On a large cutting board, lay one sheet of deep size beeswax foundation in front of you horizontally (skip this step if using pre-cut sheets).

2.  Use your ruler to measure across the top edge and cut a small slit to mark the top center of the sheet.

3.  Do the same across the bottom edge and cut a small slit to mark the bottom center of the sheet.

4.  Align the ruler with the two center slits and cut the sheet in half vertically with your exacto knife.  You’ll have two sheets.

5.  Put one of the halves aside and put the other half in front of you.

6.  Measure the left edge and cut a small slit to mark the center, then measure the right edge and cut a small slit to mark the center.

7.  Align your ruler with the two center slits and cut the sheet in half horizontally.  You should have two quartered pieces, as shown below.

8.   Put one piece aside and place the other piece in front of you horizontally.

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Two quartered pieces will make one candle.

9.   On the top edge right, measure 2 inches in (left, toward the center) from the right corner.  Mark with a small slit.

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On top edge, mark 2″ from the right corner.

 

10. On the left edge, measure 1 inch up from the bottom corner.

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On left edge, mark 1″ from bottom corner.


11.  Align your ruler between the 2″ and 1″ slits and cut diagonally along the top outside edge of the ruler, removing a triangular piece of wax.  

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Cut diagonally between the top and side slits.

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Finished cut piece – this can be used to cut a cardboard template that can be used for future candle projects, and it can also be used as a template for cutting the second quartered piece of wax.


12. Lay your finished cut piece on top of your other quartered piece so that right and left edges align.

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Lay the top piece on the other sheet and cut along the edges to create two matching pieces.

13. Use the top piece as a template, cutting along to edges to produce a matching piece from the bottom sheet.  You should have two matching pieces, as shown in the photos below.

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14.  Cut a 10″ piece of #2 (medium) candle wick cord and lay it across the bottom edge of one piece of wax, leaving equal parts extending outside the wax on each side, as shown below.


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15.  Gently press the wick into the wax, about 1/8″ above the bottom edge to help it stay in place, as shown below.


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16.  Use your fingers to gently curl the bottom edge of the wax upward and roll one complete roll over the wick, then stop rolling.

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One complete roll over the wick.

17.  Place the second piece of wax on top of the first piece so that the side edges align and so the bottom edge of the second piece aligns just above the first roll.

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18.  Gently continue rolling the bottom piece while incorporating the bottom edge of the top piece into the roll.

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19.  Continue to gently and evenly roll the combined pieces.  The more you roll, the easier the rolling will become, until you can easily push the roll tightly and all the way through to finish the candle, as shown below.


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20. FINAL STEP.  Turn the candle upside down, curl the end of the wick and press it into the bottom of the candle.   

Voila!  You have a finished candle!  

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These candles look great just as they are, or you can paint or stamp your candle using alcohol inks, as shown below.

You’ll enjoy about 2-3 hours of burning time from each candle.

These candles smell wonderful when burned, and because they are made from bees wax, they will not smoke.  That’s why only beeswax candles are used in the Catholic and other churches around the world.

So buy a few extra sheets of beeswax and start rolling some candles.  They are so much fun for everyone to make, and they make fabulous, inexpensive handmade gifts that your friends and family will love!  Enjoy!

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