|Bees on honeycomb|
I'm often asked how bees make honey and wax. They don't just magically appear, after all. So: honey is made when bees collect nectar from flowers and store it in the beehive in a small hexagonal cell of the honeycomb. They fan it with their wings to dehydrate it, and when it's at the proper moisture level, they "cap" it by covering the cell with a thin layer of wax. To a beekeeper, a capped cell is proof that honey is ready to harvest. Honey is one of the few food substances in existence that will never spoil, due in large part to the level of dehydration attained by the bees. The only honey that ever goes bad is honey with too much water in it, which is harvested too early (or it might also happen if extra water got into the honey after harvesting; honey with water intentionally added, for instance, can be fermented into mead). Beeswax is secreted by bees from glands in their legs- in people proportions, imagine a big flake of wax on your thigh. They use the wax to build honeycomb, which, as mentioned, is a storage place for honey, and also for pollen, and for baby bees.
|Honey still in the comb|
|A full frame of capped honey|
|An extractor full of frames|
The honey gets strained and then stored in jars until used. One of the reasons the bees cap the cells of honey is that honey is a humectant, meaning that it attracts and absorbs moisture- which is part of the reason it's such a good ingredient to use on skin. Honey soap can be very helpful for dry skin. Honey's also antibacterial- I use it instead of Neosporin on cuts and scrapes, and they heal faster and leave less of a scar. You can read more about the healing properties of honey here.
You can make soap without honey and beeswax, and in fact, I often do. But the honey and beeswax soaps are always my favorite, because while everyone's skin is different, my skin always feels and looks better when I use honey and beeswax as my everyday shower soap. And I love going out to my bee yard and seeing the girls flying around; it's great to know that you're making something good and you know where your ingredients come from. In the summer when the sun warms up the hives, you can smell the honey and beeswax, and it just smells so good that I'm never satisfied until I take a shower with that soap :)