2 Nov 2020

Making the most of Beeswax

Martin Davies

Throughout the season as we carry out our hive inspections we always carry a handy pot to collect any wax scrapings or brace comb. Now that we have taken off our honey boxes, the frames have been cleaned and any damaged or old frames will have the wax removed and replaced. The boxes need to be scraped of any excess wax on the sides and this will also be collected as beeswax is a valuable commodity that we can put to good use. The honey boxes are then scorched to sterilise them and stacked outside to store them overwinter.

There are many methods for cleaning wax: –

Solar Wax extractor – usually used during the summer months. This is an insulated box with chambers to melt the dirty wax and collect the clean wax, using gravity. This takes small amounts of wax which can be useful if used regularly and if you have enough sunshine to melt the wax, it can be a very slow process, but environmentally friendly.

Warming cabinet – this has a temperature-controlled heat source that is easier to control than the solar wax extractor as you don’t have to rely on the weather. The wax can be melted through filter paper in a colander into a collection bowl, the filter paper can be reused as firelighters if cut into small strips after use.

Hot water method – Dirty wax can be placed in a pan of hot water and simmered until the wax melts. As the water cools the wax will rise to the top and debris remains in the water. The wax can be removed once set. This method can be messy but if you only have a small amount of wax to clean can be useful.

Steam Extractor – the dirty wax is placed in a muslin bag or mesh to catch the debris. Water is heated to create steam that melts the wax and clean wax pours out into a bucket or container to cool. Wax melted this way tends to have more propolis but can be cleaned with more filtering.

Once you have your rendered and cleaned wax there are many uses for it.

Here, at the Botanic Garden, we use the best wax for our cosmetic range ‘Gardens Gold’ products, for making candles for sale in our retail areas and small wax blocks that can be used for making beeswax wraps. Larger wax blocks can be swapped for clean foundation to use when making up frames for use in the apiary in the new season.

Our beeswax is also used in the range of courses on offer at the Garden. Making moulded, rolled or dipped candles, cosmetics courses making creams and balms and for our soap making demonstrations.

Lynda Christie
October 28, 2020