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In October, I sent pictures of my two surviving colonies to my mentor, and he replied by telling me that although he is an optimist at heart, my hives would not survive the winter. To overwinter successfully, a colony needs to have at least 4-5 frames (about four pounds) of bees. My hives each had just a couple frames of bees.

bees Nov 2015

In December, I opened my hives to find nobody home. I had known this moment would arrive, but the somber emptiness made my heart sink. My bees were gone. What was left: beeswax and honey.

After doing some research, I found that both honey and beeswax are incredibly beneficial when added to soap. Honey is hygroscopic and therefore has the ability to attract and retain water molecules from its surroundings. For this reason, it acts as a moisturizer or conditioner. Beeswax is hydrophobic and creates a protective barrier that water cannot pass through, effectively sealing moisture in.  Both honey and beeswax have antibacterial properties as well.

So… I bought 100% lye from the hardware store, collected several different types of oil, and headed to my friend Rick’s (he’s a chemist, probably saved my skin, and most definitely saved my kitchenware). In glass beakers and ceramic bowls, we combined the water and lye, melted and stirred the oils, honey, and beeswax, and ended up with an orange-ish (from unrefined palm oil), oily,unscented pudding that produced no suds.

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After it hardened and cured for about 24 hours, I carefully cut the first bee. The soap was still soft and malleable but retained its shape. When I washed the sticky residue off my hands, there were suds! It’ll take at least thirty days for the soap to fully cure. The longer you let it dry, the gentler and longer-lasting the soap will be. So the countdown begins!

Since this is my first batch, I’d love to have friends tell me what they think of the recipe I used. Does it suds enough? Is it gentle enough? Is it too oily? Does it fall apart in the shower? Let me know if you’d like to use one and provide feedback. I’m willing to ship if you’re willing to pay the shipping!

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