Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

August 20, 2013

Melting Bees Wax

When working or, for that matter, storing bees wax, you must remember that wax is very flammable. It has a very low melting point 62 to 64 °C (144 to 147 °F). The flash point is 204.4 °C (399.9 °F). Keep the wax away from heaters, flames, or electrical wiring and sockets. When melting wax to clean and get it ready to pour into blocks, you need to be very careful of where and how you proceed.

1. If you use open flame, you need to be sure that the wax will not bubble over so the flames can get to it.

2. Either use a double boiler, or use water in the pan with the wax to keep the wax off the bottom of the container so it will not be in direct contact with the hottest point.

3. Make sure you are in a ventilated area to reduce the chance of breathing an overload of vapors.

4. Have a plan in case you have an emergency, like a FIRE, HOT SPILL, etc.

5. Use common sense.

There are several ways to melt wax. It really depends on how much wax you have to work with. If you have just a little wax, then you can use a double boiler usually a quart pan. Sometimes you can use a gallon pot with about an inch or two of water. Do not get the wax hot enough to come to a rolling boil. That is too hot and you will run the risk of ruining the wax. Put your wax on top of the water to melt. Keep adding wax until you either use up the wax you have on hand or until the container is about 2″ from the top. Remove from the heating source or turn off the heat.

At this point, you can let it cool to the solid state. Wax is lighter then most trash so the trash and debris sill sink to the bottom side of the wax. After it cools,  turn the pan over and dump out a solid block of wax. At this time you can scrape and wash the crud off the block. If it seems to still have some undesirable stuff adhered to the block then you can remelt it again using the same technique and clean the bottom again.

Another way is to strain the wax through terry cloth or screen wire while still in the liquid state. This is a better way of getting the wax cleaner, however it is a little messier. It really depends on what you are going to do with the wax as to how you clean it or how much to clean it in preparation of the end product.

One beekeeper I know uses a number 12 hardware cloth. This is 12 squares to a square inch screen. He uses a rectangle deep pan with about 4″-6″ of water and has the screen mounted to a rebar frame. The weight of the rebar will keep the screen and debris on the bottom of the pan away from the wax. When it cools all he has to do is turn it over and the, now top of the cake, is clear of debris. All he has to do is clean the screen for the next pan of wax.

Usually each cake of wax is about 25 Lbs to be shipped to the Bee supply companies to be banked (accredited) to his account and when he wants some supplies, they will subtract that amount from the banked credit and no money has to be exchanged.

You ask where this wax comes from—-Wellll, let me tell you. When you have frames of wax, sometimes you have to cut the wax out of the frames for various reasons.  Wax moths web the wax sorta like spider webs. Sometimes the bees will eat the foundation up for various reasons. Sometimes when you are extracting honey, the comb separates from the frames. Sometimes the foundation gets dry when you have it stored and it somehow gets bumped and out comes chunks of comb.

Then there is the main reason, when you use a knife and cut the caps and part of the wax cells, you have an abundance of wax cutoffs. Your wax will start piling up. I have about seven 5 gallon buckets of wax cappings that I accumulated when I used a scratcher to decap my honey for extraction.

I have more information on wax processing for various reasons. That will come at a later date, soon, I hope.  Until then, watch your honey and pollen and feed when needed. You are in a dearth along a parallel line level with the panhandle of Florida from east to west. Save your bees. I will personally have to start over this next Spring as I have no bees at this time.

Talk to you soon.

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