Minding My Own Beeswax

One thing that top bar hives excel at is providing the beekeeper with beeswax.

In Langstroth hives, the honey can be spun out of the combs with a centrifuge and the empty comb placed back in the hive.  With top bar hives, you use the simple “crush & strain” method.  You cut the comb off the top bar, mash it up (potato mashers work great) and then strain the resulting honey/wax mush with a fine cloth or strainer.

Here’s the comb. Mash it up!

photo 2        photo 1
You know the saying, “Slow as molasses in January”? I think honey in February gives it a run for its money. Part of the issue was that this comb had been stored in the fridge for awhile, so it was very cold. In fact, after I mashed things up, I decided to place it by the fire to warm up a bit and get things flowing. That’s a two-gallon container with a strainer cloth over the top and the lid to hold things in place; honey-filled wax is heavy.

photo 4        photo 3
Watching the honey drip is, apparently, grand fun for my kids. Like watching grass grow, I’d imagine. But a lot prettier.

After the honey drains overnight–what’s left? A cantaloupe-sized ball of wax that’s ready to be melted down. And that’s what I’ve been doing this morning. photo 5 Unlike honey, the wax has lots of leftover comb and bee parts in it, so you have to melt and strain it a number of times. Once it’s melted, you let it cool and the wax floats to the top (there’s still all the gunk underneath).
photo 1        photo (19)
But then you scrape off the gunk, remelt the wax and strain it through a screen or some layers of cheesecloth–or both! Pour into molds, let cool again, and pop out pretty blocks of beeswax!photo 2 It’s a bunch of work for a couple of ounces of wax–this is about 10 oz.. I’d buy wax if I were going to make something that uses a lot–like candles–but I love using my own natural, untreated/unmedicated wax for making things like creams and salves!

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