Besides the honey left behind by Beatrix there is the wax of the combs to process. A typical response would be to improvise, construct, or buy a solar wax melter. As Linda’s video shows it is far too easy to improvise one to justify a surprisingly expensive purchase. Eventually we may try the middle route and build one but other woodworking projects take priority for now.

In any case, solar wax melters of any kind do not work in Michigan winters. Even a sunny day will not raise the interior temperature to the melting point of beeswax, 144-147°F(62-64°C). A few of our local beeks have cobbled together melters by taking an insulated box such as a cheap styrofoam cooler or dead refrigerator and rigging a simple electric light inside. It takes some experimentation to find the correct wattage to use and some care not to melt the container or raise the temperature too high. Above 185°F(85°C) the wax will discolor.

MeltingBroodCombWe opted to use our electric oven, which goes as low as 170°F. Higher than we would like but not too high. The container to receive the filtered wax is a high sided roaster which we retired because of a badly scratched bottom. We filled that with water to a depth of about an inch and a half. The container holding the dirty wax is an accessory for cooking vegetables on the outdoor grill. The filter is a mere sheet of paper towel. And finally the thing suspending our dirty wax holder above the receiving container is a thin scrap of wood left over from making top bars.

Eager to see what gets left behind in a dirty filter we first loaded our melter with some dark brood comb that was nevertheless clean of honey. Hours later we had perplexingly rendered no wax. We got a thermometer to verify the oven temperature and researched to confirm the melting point. Then we found some beekeepers online mention that they never got much wax at all from brood comb, consisting more of shed pupa husks than wax.

MeltingHoneyCombRefilling the tray with some white honeycomb clean of honey we tried again. This time we saw the wax begin to soften almost at once and in mere minutes it had melted through the filter leaving just some clean wax that could not escape the capillary action of the paper. No dirty slumgum to see. Nor very much wax either.

WaxDroppingsWe knew that a great slab of empty comb is after all a lot of empty space surrounded by thin walls and that the resulting volume of wax would be much smaller. But it is still somewhat disappointing to see just these drabs of rendered wax. How much comb must beekeepers process to make a decent sized brick or just one candle? And the conventional ones are only using cappings.

The rest of the comb is in tiny fragments left over from being crushed during honey extraction. Traces of honey remain on them and should be removed before melting. Some beeks leave such fragments out for the bees to clean but (Michigan winter, remember?) we followed Linda’s method of simply rinsing in a colander and drying between towels for the next batch. Tedious. We may omit drying as we continue. After all the wax is dropping into water already. Then once we have processed it all, we can collect our drabs for a remelt with some smaller improvised apparatus.

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