The winter can be a tough time—or a relaxing one—for beekeepers. It depends on your charges, your climate and how idle or active you want to be during the colder months. Some beekeepers enjoy the down time, relaxing by the fire and working on other projects around their homestead. But if the honey harvest was generous and you have wax to spare, there are wonderful indoor projects to work on while you wait the winter out.
1. Beeswax Candles
Making candles from your excess wax is one of the easiest ways to put your wax to use and burn clean wax in your home that’s free of soy and paraffin. Adding essential oils spices up the indoor aromas, and they make excellent gifts for the holidays. Wax can be melted down in a double boiler to its liquid state and poured into glass jars or other glass molds. Be sure to buy wicks with weights on the bottom so your wick is centered and even while pouring the wax. Making candles is a wonderful way to get to know how wax moves and feels (caution: hot!) as you venture on to other projects.
2. Lip Balms & Lotion Bars
Making lip balms and lotion bars begins a lot like making beeswax candles: It starts with wax in a double boiler over a medium heat (remember to choose and designate certain cookware just for wax products—once it’s used for beeswax, it probably won’t be used for anything else again). Have other moisturizers such as cocoa butter and jojoba oil on hand for balms and bars; and like candles and soaps, you can customize balms and bars you blend with your favorite essential oils. Have all of your molds ready before you begin so you can easily heat, melt, stir, mix and pour.
3. Beeswax Soaps
Making soap can be complex and precise, or it can be simple and fluid (no pun intended). Some beekeepers dabble in soap making by using a “melt and pour” method that is suitable for beginners. While beeswax is not an effective hardening agent for soap, it can add a lovely scent and a pleasant texture to your existing soap recipe. Adding a bit of honey is the key to winning with this method of soap making; while the honey is soothing to skin, the beeswax leaves a moisturizing layer on freshly washed hands.
The best part about all of these projects is that they’re family friendly, and kids love to be part of the beekeeping action. Even if the children aren’t yet old enough (or feeling brave enough) to join in the hands-on beekeeping during the spring and summer, they’ll probably be ready to play with the sweet-smelling wax, making fun products to sample and sell their wares at markets and holiday fairs, or simply to give to friends and family.