One of the products harvested from honey bee colonies is beeswax. It is naturally produced by the honey bee’s special abdominal glands. Normally it is produced as wax droplets, which, when exposed to air, transform into flakes. The flakes are then converted into a usable material for holding the honeycombs together. The bees soften the flakes with their mouths.
Beeswax is used in many industries such as for hair and skin products and, of course, for candles.
The harvesting of beeswax is quite a complicated procedure and I wanted to share a bit of the behind-the-scenes with you.
First the wax cappings are removed from the honey using a knife. Beeswax cappings are the easiest to process, because they don’t contain a lot of stains, propolis, debris, or pollen. Some honey residue usually remains, which is removed to avoid wastage.
Once the honey is removed, the wax cappings need to be washed in cold chemical free water, like rainwater.
The wax harvesting process should be carried out away from the beehive.
Once the wax has been harvested, it’s time to filter the cappings. If the cappings still contain remains of honey the easiest way to remove it is to gently melt the cappings in some rainwater. When it’s melted turn off the heat and allow it to cool. The wax will form a block and float to the top and harden once cooled. The honey will be in the water and the block of beeswax can now be filtered. It is important to dry the beeswax before you begin the filtering process. The aim of the filtering process is to remove bee parts and other particles from the wax.
To filter the beeswax, you will need a double boiler. You will need to filter the beeswax through a cheesecloth / muslin cloth to remove any debris from the wax. Put parchment paper at the bottom of the bowl into which you’re pouring the beeswax (be sure to use stainless steel, as the wax will get burning hot), so that once cooled, it’s easy to remove.
Once the beeswax is filtered, you can store it in a cool, dry place, preferably below room temperature.
I hope this gives some insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes. If you want to know more about why we use beeswax, visit our blog here.
Have any questions about bees or beekeeping? Feel free to hit reply and ask away.