Mine Your Own Beeswax

Build your own solar wax melter to obtain a bounty of beeswax from your hives.

| July/August 2020

Photo by Adobe Stock/darezare

If you’re into bees, whether you keep one hive or a thousand, you know that the wish list of equipment can seem endless — and expensive. Some items are an absolute must, such as hive bodies, frames, a hive tool, and, most would argue, a smoker and a veil. On the other hand, items for extracting that luscious liquid gold — honey — tend to be more on the wish list of expensive “wants” for many of us. But there’s good news: They don’t have to be. With a bit of ingenuity, and maybe a few dollars, you can start building your extraction equipment one item at a time, starting with a simple solar wax melter. Many variations are possible, so let the following methods be a starting point.

Keep It Simple

Before we get into the methods, I must say one thing first: A lot of new beekeepers tend to “rinse” their wax before beginning the melting process. Rinsing is never necessary. Allow the bees to clean that wax of every last trace of honey as soon as you’ve extracted all that you can get. I assure you, your bees will appreciate it, as it takes a literal lifetime for a single worker bee to make 1⁄12 teaspoon of honey. Allowing the girls to reclaim those drops of honey will be time well-spent for both you and the bees.

Photo by Kristi Cook

If you live in the country, set your wax outside in a wide-bottomed pan at least 50 to 100 feet from the apiary, and watch the bees do their work. You may see a bit of ­fighting around the wax pile, but robbing of hives shouldn’t be an issue if you’re far enough away from the apiary. If you’re in town and have to consider neighbors, place an empty hive body on top of each hive (remove the lid, of course), lay a small piece of wax paper or newspaper on top of a few of the frames, then place the honey-coated wax on top. Replace the lid, close all upper entrances tightly, and walk away. By morning, every drop of honey will be gone, and the wax will be ready for melting. You’ll not only save yourself time and water, but you’ll also feed the bees.

Swap the Stove for the Sun

Melting beeswax doesn’t have to be complicated. A double boiler heated on the stove does a ­fine job for small quantities of beeswax, but there’s a catch. Not only is the wax messy in the kitchen, but it’s a ­ fire hazard as well. Beeswax melts at about 145 degrees Fahrenheit and has a flashpoint of 400 degrees. This means that the melting wax must be closely monitored at all times — time that could be better spent doing other beekeeping tasks.

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