Here at Independence Homestead we try to reuse as many materials as possible, so I had the idea that we could make candles in containers using repurposed glass food jars. We have quite the collection of baby food jars, salsa jars, pasta sauce jars, and more.
When melting wax for the candles, I read that it was important not to overheat the wax, so a double boiler was recommended. I realized since low heat was best, we should use our solar oven!
Solar oven setup on deck, ready to go!
Our candles will be so environmentally friendly! The only new items in them will be the wick and tab, plus solar energy will be used to make them. Plus the beeswax is harvested from our own backyard!
Since our bees made some crooked comb, we had cut off that crooked comb, harvested what honey we could from it, and we still had a lot of comb left over.
We needed to melt down the beeswax in the comb so that we could use the wax for candles and other potential crafts. George did some research, and found that it was common to use solar ovens to do this. We had been wanting a solar oven for other reasons so it was a good opportunity to go ahead and build a solar oven!
Once the solar oven was built, we setup the wax purification system. According to George’s research, the way to get the beeswax from the comb and leave behind any impurities was to put the comb on top of a paper towel, which was held over a bowl half filled with water.
Here’s the wax melting setup, ready to go in the solar oven.
As I embark on a candle making adventure, I picked up Candle Making in a Weekend by Sue Spear to pickup some pointers.
This book was a good overview of candlemaking. It had instructions for a wide range of projects. The instructions were simple and easy to understand, plus there were helpful pictures. I feel that if I wanted to make very intricate candles, I would be able to with this book’s instructions.
This past weekend we finally got a chance to do another inspection on our hives. We were surprised at how built up the comb had gotten in the 2 weeks since we had done a full inspection. It was so built up that it became a problem in some parts as the bees had developed comb that went off sideways and into comb from neighboring top bars! This is a pretty common problem with top bar hives but we thought we were ok since our last several inspections showed them staying in line on the top bars, but over the last two weeks or so they went crazy building comb and some got a bit out of alignment. The result was as we lifted up one top bar the crooked comb would break off from the next top bar.
We decided to go ahead and cut off all the comb that was developing at a bad angle. Most of it was honey comb so we saved it to eat later. The rest had a lot of brood and larva, as well as pockets of honey and lots of nectar and pollen. So we laid the rest out on top of the hives so the bees could salvage as much as they could. After a few days it had all been picked dry so we brought in the wax to melt down for use later. We did not really know what to do to address the crooked comb development so we gave our beekeeping friend/mentor a call to see what he had to say.
Comb Left On Hives
Our friend assured us this was a common problem with top bar hives and can be resolved by putting in some top bars that are slightly wider as the bees like to make the honey comb thicker than brood comb. He also suggested we take the bars with crooked comb and place them between bars that have straight established comb. To our surprise after helping us out with these ideas our friend also made us a set of wider top bars to use for the bees’ honey comb.
Wider Top Bars For Honey Comb
We prepared these new wider top bars by using string we coated in our bees’ wax as a guide stapled to the wood. We then placed about 4 of these wider top bars in each of our hives in between established comb so the bees would have straight guides. Hopefully between the wider top bars for honey comb and placing the crooked comb in between fully developed bars of comb our problems with crooked comb should be fixed! We’ll check back in a week or two and let you know how it worked!
Last week we talked about how our Concord hive has been lagging behind the progress of the Lexington hive. It was at the point where we were concerned that we may have to put the feeder back in the hive to help them build up wax comb.
We are happy to report that Concord hive looks to be on its way to recovery! We had a really good week for bees with sunshine and heat everyday. Concord must have had a lot of new bees hatch as well. Take a look at these before and after photos. The first was last week when we were concerned, it was taken in the evening when most of the bees should have been back in the hive.
Concord Hive - 1 Week Ago - Very Weak
Compare that to the photo taken today in the middle of the day when its more likely for the bees to be out and about! They’re a lot more bees and the comb is built all the way across on several bars, and they even have a new bar they are starting wax on in the front!
It looks like Concord hive is back on track so we will be leaving it alone for another week or two before doing another full inspection. Since it looks so good we did not put in the feeder like we thought we might have to last week either.
That’s all, just wanted to let everyone know that there’s nothing to worry about with our Concord hive!
You can see more pictures from this latest inspection on our Facebook Page.
The weather has been great for the local wildflowers, we see them blossoming all over the place now. This also means our bees have been on overdrive gathering nectar and pollen. Meaning they might be filling up their comb faster than they can make it or have room to make it!
It had been a little over two weeks since our last full inspection of the hives. We didn’t feel we had to do a full inspection since there’s been lots of activity in both hives, but we did want to make sure they had ample space to expand comb if needed. Continue reading
It finally happened, we are totally caught up on our beekeeping progress with our website!
Today we did an inspection on both hives and instead of snapping a bunch of photos we decided to make a video of the experience.
We’ve split the video into two parts, the first of our Lexington hive, and the second our Concord hive. The Lexington hive is looking very strong with lots of comb filled with capped brood, larva, eggs, nectar, pollen, and even some honey! Our Concord hive is the weaker of the two but still relatively well off with a decent amount of capped brood, larva, eggs, nectar, pollen, and some honey.
Please enjoy these videos as we do talk a lot more in the video about the inspection process and more about the details of our two hives. We’d love to know what you think of our hive inspection and if you have any questions feel free to post them here!
Being new to beekeeping, the most sure fire way to get bees for our hives was to order packages of bees from a bee supplier. Some people order them through the mail, we were fortunate to have a local beekeeping supply company near us in Northern Virginia called Virginia Bee Supply. They bring packages of bees up from larger apiaries and sell them on a weekly basis during the beginning of “bee season” (typically mid-late April – May). We called in early March and while sometimes packages of bees can be in short supply, we were fortunate that this year we were able to get our packages from one of their early shipments (last week of March).
We also needed a smoker, bee brush, and veils which we also ordered from the supplier to be picked up with our bees.
Each package includes approximately three pounds of bees and a queen bee. The package includes a can of syrup that the bees feed on during transportation. Next to the feeder hangs a separate queen cage that contains the queen bee. They are kept separate because the queen was not necessarily part of the group of bees in the package so they need time to get used to her. Continue reading