Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Beekeepers can harvest a number of things from their hives depending on their motivation. Honey, beeswax, pollen and propolis are the four primary products.  For most beekeepers honey is their primary goal.  However, an easily obtained secondary byproduct of the honey harvest is beeswax.  The process of extracting honey whether by decapping or the crush method yields beeswax.  Beeswax can also be recovered when the beekeepers periodically replaces the foundation in frames.

From Wikipedia:

“Beeswax (cera alba) is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. The wax is formed into "scales" by eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees, who discard it in or at the hive. The hive workers collect and use it to form cells for honey-storage and larval and pupal protection within the beehive. Chemically, beeswax consists mainly of esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols.”

Beeswax can be obtained by washing the cappings or crushed comb in water to remove any residual honey.  Then the cappings and comb are melted.  This can be done in a solar melter or double boiler.  Beeswax has a melting point lower of roughly 145F.   NOTE: Beeswax is very flammable and should never be melted over an open flame.   After it is melted the wax should be poured through a cloth filter to remove any minor bits of contamination. 

Don’t think you will be getting hundreds of pounds of beeswax from your hives.  Most smalltime beekeepers will be lucky to get one or two pounds of wax per year.  However, you can easily buy clean beeswax from many sources (for example Amazon, Ebay or Walmart) for roughly $8 per pound if candle making or soap making trips your fancy.   Or ask your fellow beekeepers for their wax or cappings.  

The beeswax has a white to pale yellow color.  If you make your wax from cappings only you will get this pale yellow to white wax.  If you are adding old foundation the wax will have darker yellow coloration. 

Most hobbyists use their beeswax to make candles, soap, or lip balm. 

 Solar melter.  You can make one as a winter project or buy one.  Unless you have a lot of cappings using a double boiler may be cost effective. 
White cappings and some dark crushed comb in melter.  Note the crushed comb is darker and will yield darker wax. 
 A small double boiler is used to safely melt the beeswax. 
 A vegetable crusher/strainer and bread loaf pan.  The strainer is lined with cloth to filter the wax. 
Finished product: Blocks of wax after removal from bread pan.  Note variation is color of the blocks.  One pound honey bottle shown to give scale.

These items can usually be picked up at garage sales or flea markets for a few dollars.

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