August 22, 2016

Make It Monday: DIY Citronella Candles

I wrote this How To post last summer as a guest blogger for bornshoes and, with Zika in the news, thought you might like to see an unbranded version of it.

Make Your Own Citronella Candles

47 days in the 90's…and counting…Summer been hot enough for you? It's been shorts and sandals season for months but what to do about those pesky mosquitos? Homemade citronella candles are a natural solution, as easy as 1-2-3. Melt-Pour-Light. OK, it's a little more complicated than that, but not much. Ready to make your own? Here's how.

8 oz. beeswax (here's the good stuff)
citronella essential oil (cedar, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon balm, or peppermint oil can also be used)
wick and wick tab
chopsticks – the take-out kind, still connected at the top
8 oz. jar or metal container
melting pitcher with spout (must be able to sit in a pot of hot water)
small pot of hot water

NOTE: You can use different sized jars, or even a metal container, for your candles. Just have one ounce of wax for every ounce your container will hold, and make sure it is no more than 3” in diameter.

1 Prepare the Wax: Melt the wax in a container that has a pouring spout, set in a pot of barely simmering water. Use low heat and caution: molten wax is highly flammable. Keep warm in the double boiler as you prepare the wick. TIP: The smaller the pieces of wax, the faster it will melt.

2 Prepare the Wick: For candles up to 3” in diameter, you’ll want to use a 2/0 square braided wick. It’s the best type for beeswax candles. Cut a piece about 1” longer than your container is high, and dip the whole length into the melted wax to “prime” it. Wipe off the excess then attach a wick tab to one end. Slip the other end of the wick between the chopsticks. Position the wick in the jar, sliding it up or down between the chopsticks so it is centered and straight.

3 Pour the Candle: Thoroughly stir 8 drops or so of the citronella oil into the hot wax. Pour just enough wax into the jar to cover the wick tab. Working quickly, use a skewer to adjust the wick’s position as necessary. Let harden to secure the position. Rewarm the pitcher of wax if necessary and pour to fill your container. Let harden undisturbed then trim the wick with scissors to about 1/4-inch.

To light the candle the first time, place a lighted match near the base of the wick. This will melt some wax that the wick can draw up for a good flame, strong enough to take on a summer breeze. A candle this size will burn for many hours. To extinguish it, you simply close the lid to snuff out the flame.

Make sure to use tempered glass or metal containers for your candles, for fire safety. I used a vintage Le Parfait jar, available at Fante’s, a Philadelphia mecca for cooks since 1906.

Since most of my readers are beekeepers, you'll likely be using your own harvested wax. Make sure to clean your wax as clean as clean can be. Wet process first to remove honey, then process again through an extremely fine filter to remove all impurities. Don't use cheesecloth. It will contribute cotton fibers that will cause your candles to sputter and smoke. 

August 10, 2016

Vortex Bee Escape: What It Is and How To Use One

We've lent this to a fellow beekeeper two years in a row now. I'm wondering if this year he'll build one of his own. I doubt it, but now would be a good time since Labor Day is "traditionally" when we Coloradans harvest our honey.

A photo posted by (@backyardbee) on

It's an "escape board," a chemical-free way to clear a super of bees overnight. In the afternoon when most foragers are still out in the field, the escape is inserted below one or more supers, maze facing downward. In the evening when it's time to rejoin the cluster, the bees go down the hole and encounter the maze. The tunnels guide them out in a fairly organized stream, but if the super is really full of bees, it may take two evenings to clear it of bees.

After successfully navigating the maze, they generally don't try to do it backwards. However, if you leave the escape board on long enough, they will figure out how to get to their honey and you'll be greeted with stingers when you pull your supers off. And that's why my friend the procrastinator probably won't be making one of these. If you're interested in building one, here are the plans.

If you're interested in seeing how we used this on our Top Bar Hive, then this is the post for you: The Great Escape