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Why Every Homestead Should Have Bees

Oct 28, 2020

Honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly – these are all products you can harvest from the beehive. The possibilities of what you can do with these products are endless. From arts and crafts projects for the home, to lotions to hydrate or heal your skin, and honey infusions for consumption, you'll never be bored again. It's a crafter and foodie's dream come true.

When turning your home into a homestead, having a few beehives is a great place to start. Beehives don't take up much space, you can harvest multiple products from a beehive, and these products not only have a long shelf life, but also have so much value!

For those of you living in urban areas, beekeeping allows you to start your homestead without even needing a yard. See our article about places to keep bees other than your yard for inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite uses for honey, beeswax, propolis and pollen. Join our newsletter at the bottom of this article so you're emailed with updates on beeswax recipes and craft projects.

Uses for Honey

 

raw honeycomb from hawaii on a plate

 

Cooking with Honey

Honey is the only food that never goes bad. 2,000 year old honey was found in King Tut's tomb, and it was still edible! Honey isn't just for sweetening your tea. I use a light honey, like Mesquite, to sweeten my coffee because it has a very mild flavor. I prefer darker honeys like Macadamia Blossom to drizzle over pancakes and waffles and honeys that are not as sweet, such as clover, are great when cooking a teriyaki sauce or drizzling on cheese and crackers. 

 

Honey can be used anytime a recipe calls for sugar or corn syrup. Here's my cooking with honey cheat sheet for you below. With this sheet, you'll never have to use refined sugars ever again!

 

cooking

 

Medicinal & Topical Uses for Honey

Honey has antibacterial properties, is acidic and contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. This makes it a great go-to when you have a sore throat or burned your skin. 

Mix honey in warm water with some lemon to soothe a sore throat and alleviate coughing.

 

Pour honey over a burn to alleviate the pain. This works really well! If you severely burned your skin, seek medical help.

 

Use honey as a face wash. I learned this from the owner of a spa in Maui. Just rub the honey onto your face and let it sit for a couple of minutes. I use it in the shower. It makes for an easy clean up. I also use a crystallized or creamed honey if I want a slight exfoliation.

Honey Infusions & Mixtures

There are a ton of different kinds of honey infusions & mixtures you can make. Here's a few of my favorites. In general, I start with 1tsp for an 8oz jar of honey and continue to add more until I have the flavor I like.

  • Mix cocoa powder and a touch of sea salt to a light honey, such as mesquite or Lehua, for a delicious, chocolate sauce.
  • Add a couple sprigs of rosemary, sage or herb of your choice to a jar of liquid honey and let sit for a few weeks for an herb-infused honey.
  • Mix ground cinnamon to honey for an instant cinnamon bun. Delicious on warm toast or in oatmeal!
  • Combine a light honey & finely ground coffee for a caffeine buzz.
  • Add minced chili peppers to a less sweet honey, like the Brazilian Pepper tree honey, for a spicy honey that makes a great glaze for chicken and pork.
  • Mix vanilla bean paste to a light honey for a super yummy treat.

Beeswax

Beeswax is so underrated! There are so many uses, it's hard to know where to start. Here's a few of my top uses:

 

handmade beeswax cnadles from hawaii

 

Beeswax Candles

There are a lot of different ways you can make candles. You can purchase a mold and pour the wax into the mold (or an empty yogurt cup), you can pour the wax into an empty container (like an old candle container) or you can drip string into a can or jar of wax and make candle sticks.

Beeswax is the only wax that improves the air quality. It burns at a higher temperature and causes dust and other allergens to drop from the air.

If you're not sure what kind of wick to get, buy the 2/0. It's the most common and works for most containers and molds.

In general, if your candle will be 2-3" wide, you want a 2/0 wick. 

The Benefit of Beeswax Body Products

Add beeswax to lotions, salves and lip balms to help your skin lock in moisture and protect it from the dry air.

An easy beeswax lotion recipe is 2tbsp shea butter, 3/4 cup coconut oil (or almond oil), and 1/4 cup beeswax. Melt in a large jar in a double boiler. Once liquid, pour into the jar of your choosing.

Be careful when melting beeswax! It's flammable. Do not put it directly over the heat. Use a double boiler and keep the heat as low as possible while still melting the wax. If possible, melt outside, in an area where it cannot fall or get knocked over. (It's a pain to clean up!)

 

different colored blocks of beeswax

Photo: Different colored blocks of beeswax. Natural beeswax that has not been heavily filtered will vary in shades of white, yellow, orange and brown.

 

Using Beeswax In the Kitchen

Make beeswax wraps and ditch the cellophane. Beeswax wraps are a popular product right now but so easy to make. they also make a great holiday gift!

Beeswax Crafts

Being 100% Ukrainian, I grew up with pysanky eggs. To make these, you use beeswax to cover up areas before you dip the egg in dye. 

Batik is when you use beeswax to prevent dye from coloring areas of fabric. These are both fun crafts you can try at home, especially if you enjoy working with fabric or dye.

Uses for Beeswax Around the House

  • Naturally preserve wooden furniture with a beeswax finish.
  • Rub beeswax on drawers so they slide better.
  • Rub your needle through a thin piece of beeswax, so it slides through fabric better.

Propolis

The lesser known product from the hive is propolis. It's plant sap and the bees gather it to plug up holes in the hive and because it is high in antibacterial properties, the bees also use it to disinfect the hive. They do this by lining the hive and the cells of honeycomb for the baby bees with propolis.

Most beekeepers will make a tincture from propolis by soaking pieces of propolis in alcohol for a few weeks, making sure they shake the jar at least once a day. Then this tincture is used in body products or as a throat spray. 

To harvest propolis, you can buy a trap or just scrape it off your boxes, making sure to not get paint in with it. Then freeze it and smash the frozen propolis with a hammer over a hard surface, making sure to keep the propolis in a plastic bag while smashing.

I have also used propolis to stain wood. It will stain everything it comes in contact with.

Occasionally, I will meet a beekeeper who is chewing on a piece of propolis because they swear a piece of it on an aching tooth alleviates the pain.

In Conclusion

Not only are there a ton of things you can make from the products from a beehive, but they're so useful! I never run out of things to do with my honey and beeswax and I love having something to share with friends and family that they enjoy receiving. The fact that honey never goes bad, if harvested and stored properly, and beeswax and propolis also have an almost indefinite shelf life, beekeeping is a great first step into a life of self-sufficiency. 

My Favorite Homesteading Resources

Ready to Give Beekeeping a Try?

If you haven't started keeping bees yet, but are thinking about it, I hope this article helps you realize beekeeping is more than getting a little honey for your tea. These products you can make are great Winter time projects when your bees are all huddled up and you're looking for something to make when you're missing your girls.

Don't forget to check out our free guide, The 7 Steps to Getting Started Keeping Bees. It's the technical steps you need to take, a break down of the equipment to buy, what to expect and my advice for beginner beekeepers.

 

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