We’ve kept bees for three seasons, now. What I’ve found is that after a couple cycles of the bees raising their “brood” in the comb, it begins to turn brown, as opposed to the pretty pale yellow of freshly drawn comb. I was looking on the internet and found that the bees tend to be more productive on fresher comb, perhaps because there is a little more room to move around before the debris from breeding bees begins to collect in the wax.
Bees have a stage of their development in which they form a cocoon, did you know that? When they are ready to emerge (not “hatch”) they bite their way out of it and out of the sealed end of the cell and come out ready to work. Good, hygienic bees will clean the cells out the best they can between brood cycles, but the comb gradually turns an ugly dark brown.
So, I decided to scrape all the old wax off the frames so the bees could start over fresh. I put it into a couple of big plastic bags so no wax moths would get into it and make a mess. Then I found instructions on the internet for making a solar wax melter. It’s been a fun project for someone like me who gets warm fuzzies from recycling things. What you do is take a styrofoam cooler, paint it black inside, and attach a plate of glass to cover the top. Then you get a little plastic tub, fill the bottom with water, and cover it with cheesecloth to strain the wax. Now, you place clumps of old comb on top of the cheesecloth and close it up in the melter under the hot sun.
It took me a while to get the hang of it, but now I do one or two batches a day during the 5 hours of good sunlight on my patio and when it cools off I receive a thin layer of yellow wax floating on top of the water. It looks like the fat on a chilled vat of chicken soup. Here is a picture of my melter and one of the wax I’ve collected in the last week or two.