When harvesting honey, the first step involves removing the wax caps from the frames to allow access to the honey. When processing beeswax, the wax caps first drop into a straining system and the honey separates (somewhat) from the wax caps. I joyfully saved a large freezer bag of wax caps. I laughed to myself that this was the whole reason why I wanted to become a beekeeper. In the bigger picture of beekeeping, beeswax is the smallest gift from the hive. Maintaining the integrity of the drawn comb is tantamount, the less the bees have to focus on drawing comb, the more they can focus on making honey.
Processing beeswax is a labor of love.
I’m writing this to save you lots of wasted effort when you process on your own. I’ve tried quite a few different “recipes” that I’ve found on web searches. Some have been a disaster. Following is my step-by-step, proven approach to processing wax caps.
Use only wax caps for this recipe. Brood wax is the wax that comes from the bottom portion of managed beehives. The brood is where the family is made. I have processed brood wax and will not do that in the future. I find that it takes far too much time to remove the impurities from brood wax.
Remove caps and drain honey from hive frame. Place caps in a freezer bag in the freezer until you are ready to process. If you don’t freeze the caps, rinse them well and allow them to fully dry. Store in a cool dry place. If you don’t rinse the caps off the honey and wax will ferment in a short amount of time.
Remove caps from freezer. Place caps in a fine metal sieve. Rinse and drain warm water over wax caps a few times.
Place rinsed caps into a crock-pot. Fill pot to top with water. You are about to “slow cook” your wax until some of the impurities separate from the wax.
If you have a crock-pot that allows you to set the temperature to 155 degrees do that. If your crock-pot doesn’t have that feature, set manually on “keep warm”. Let cook for 4-12 hours (depending on your crock-pot). Note: if you overheat the wax it will be useless for painting, check on progress periodically.
Allow wax to cool. The wax will float on the top of the crock-pot. Remove from water and pat dry.
Break the wax into small chunks and stuff inside of an old stocking that doesn’t have any “runs”.
Fill stocking and tie end. Drop stocking into crock-pot and fill to the top with water. Set the crock-pot to 155 degrees or “keep warm” based on the model you own. The first time you do this, you will get to know your crock-pot.
Remove the stocking from the crock pot wringing every bit of wax out, leaving debris inside the stocking.
Repeat Steps 4 through 8 until the wax is free from any visible impurities. In my experience, it will take at least 3 cycles through this process before the impurities are removed.
Beeswax smells like honey and is a beautiful and vibrant shade of yellow. I prefer the natural color for making medium for my encaustic paintings, it gives the paintings a natural warm yellow glow.
Next: My First Bee Inspection