In popular conception, the true pay dirt for beekeepers is honey. While honey is indeed a valuable commodity, busy honey bees also create another treasure: beeswax. Here, we’ll explore the most effective, easiest ways to separate beeswax from the honeycomb.
The bees produce wax in their glands. It serves multiple functions, primarily as the essential building block of the beehive – analogous to the bricks in a brick house.
Beekeepers might be interested in harvesting beeswax because it is useful for a variety of functions, including as a cosmetic ingredient, for candle making (try our Dadant and Sons candle-making supplies), as a folk medicine, or as a lubricant, among others.
So, how do you separate beeswax from honeycomb? Let’s get into it, step by step.
How to Melt and Render Beeswax
To extract (render) the beeswax from the honeycomb, first you will boil the honeycomb.
Here’s what you’ll need for the melting process:
- Double boiler
- Oven mitts
- Wooden spoon
- Newspaper (optional; to allow the beeswax to cool)
Double boilers (a pan of hot water with a smaller container inside) are ideal for rendering because they allow the slow, controlled melting of beeswax while avoiding burning it and ruining your work.
Keep in mind that you might not be able to use your chosen double boiler for conventional cooking afterward because beeswax aggressively sticks to everything it comes into contact with.
- In the double boiler you have selected, bring the water in the lower pan to a light simmer (at about a “medium” setting; the melting point for beeswax is 144 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Then place your second pain into the boiling water with the honeycomb chunk inside, wrapped in cheesecloth. Note: avoid at all costs letting the simmering water mix with the wax as this can negatively impact the finished product’s texture.
- The wax melting process will generally take around 15 minutes. Remove from heat once the wax is totally extracted.
- If you need to clean the beeswax – such as to make medicine or for human consumption or for other reasons – move ahead to the next section on how to clean beeswax.
How to Clean Beeswax
You may or may not, depending on your intentions, want to clean the beeswax after it’s rendered.
To clean it, pour melted beeswax onto a cheesecloth that you have strapped over the lid of a storage container (using a rubber band for example) where you plan to store your purified wax.
Over the course of several minutes, the wax will filter into the container through the cheesecloth and the impurities will remain on top of the cheesecloth. Discard the remnants once the wax has completely filtered into the container.
*Note: To prevent unfiltered wax from prematurely hardening while it works its way through the cheesecloth filter, you might want to consider breaking large honeycombs into smaller, more manageable batches.
Contact Dadant and Sons For More Tips on Honeycomb Care and Beeswax Harvesting
If you’ve still got questions about separating beeswax from the honeycomb, or any other concerns regarding the wide-ranging topics of honeybees and beekeeping, please reach out to us.
We love discussing all things beekeeping with our customers and sharing hard-earned insights based on our multi-generation family experience dating back to the 19th century!