Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published October 19, 2010, 08:34 AM

ND honey business branches out into candles

LARIMORE, N.D. — Robert Larimore always wanted to be a candle maker. A dozen years ago, he got his wish.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

LARIMORE, N.D. — Robert Larimore always wanted to be a candle maker. A dozen years ago, he got his wish.

Larimore, a Larimore, N.D., beekeeper for 30 years, operates Dakota Candles with his son, Nathan, and wife, Pam. They make candles from beeswax produced in their honey operation, Dakota Honey.

“We’re not getting rich off the candles. But it ties into the honey business, and we enjoy it,” Robert Larimore says.

Most of the candles are sold around North Dakota at Pride of Dakota shows. Pride of Dakota, affiliated with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, promotes products made in the state.

The Larimores also sell some of their candle to a Japanese company which learned of Dakota Candles through the Larimore company’s website.

Bees seal the honeycomb cells containing honey with wax for storage. The wax seal must be removed before honey can be extracted.

The Larimores sell much of the beeswax they collect to a South Dakota producer, who uses it to make “foundation” for beehives. Bees build around the foundation when the hives are put out in the spring.

North Dakota leads the nation in honey production, with South Dakota second.

Candle-making process

To makes candles, beeswax first is purified. It then is heated to liquid form, and color and scent are added. Finally, it’s poured into special molds to cool.

A great deal of trial-and-error research went into developing the process in which Dakota Candles makes its candles, Larimore says.

“My wife has a lot of half-burned candles in drawers in the house,” he says.

He’s reluctant to go into specifics of the process.

“We treat that as our secret,” he says.

The candles, which cost $1 to $35 each, come in a variety of sizes, colors and scents. Cinnamon and vanilla are among the most popular scents.

Beeswax candles cost more than regular candles, but they also burn longer and cleaner, Nathan Larimore says.

“Some people really like the beeswax candles, he says.

Even so, Larimore says, “Most people today don’t know anything about beeswax.”

Beeswax has had many uses since ancient times, including roles in bow making and waterproofing.

Sales of Dakota Candles’ products typically are strongest during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season, partly because they’re given as gifts and partly because customers burn the candles themselves.

“It’s a nice little business,” Larimore says.