Bee’s Wax

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.

About bluestempond

Hobby farmer living at Bluestem Pond in Michigan.
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9 Responses to Bee’s Wax

  1. charltonestatetrust says:

    nice post!

  2. Emily Heath says:

    I like to change my frames each year using a ‘shook-swarm’ technique to change all the frames at once – you shake the bees onto new frames of foundation in spring and burn up the old frames.

    There are lots of good reasons to do this – organisms like AFB, EFB and nosema spores can survive on comb for years. Putting the bees onto new frames by doing a shook-swarm is also a good anti-varroa technique, as all the varroa mites in the old brood frame cells get destroyed. It does set the colony back a couple of weeks while they draw out new comb, but as long as you feed them whilst they’re getting going they soon bounce back.

  3. Kate H. says:

    My folks just shared your blog. The updates are great! Love your pond! What have you been doing with your salvaged wax? Do you reuse it or sell it? I’m trying to start up a new hobby, soap making… And beeswax can be used in homemade lye soaps… Would you be interested in selling or trading?

    • bluestempond says:

      I’m flattered you like my blog, thanks! I don’t have a plan for my wax, and if you would like to trade it for some of your hand made soap, I would be happy to send it to you.

  4. I love that you keep bees!! I am really considering this but need to do my research to better understand the process and the amount of time it would require. Fantastic!!!

  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hi Nancy, (Aren’t I just a pest?; ) The advice I’ve gotten from Guelph (that’s where our Provincial Beekeeper’s located) is to swap out 2-3 frames per season to cut down the likelihood of mould spores and disease build-up. So it sounds like you’re already on the right track: ) and I’m really liking Emily’s idea of sanitising the frames as well.
    You could get wax foundation – like what’s used for making the rolled sort of beeswax candles – to give the girls a head start (and “keep them in line” too; ). Just bee sure it’s not the sort for drone comb. Here’s a link you may find helpful (the W. Park Company has been around bees for a VERY long time: )

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      That should have read “University of Guelph”
      BTW, how are your Girls doing, so far, this year?

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