Processing Beeswax

processing beeswax

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.

Processing Beeswax

Step 1

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.

processing beeswax frozen wax caps

Step 2
Remove caps from freezer. Place caps in a fine metal sieve. Rinse and drain warm water over wax caps a few times.

processing beeswax rinsing wax caps

Step 3
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.

processing beeswax soaking caps

Step 4
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.

processing beeswax in crockpot

Step 5
Allow wax to cool. The wax will float on the top of the crock-pot. Remove from water and pat dry.

processing beeswax stage 1

Step 6
Break the wax into small chunks and stuff inside of an old stocking that doesn’t have any “runs”.

Step 7
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.

processing beeswax stage 2

Step 8
Remove the stocking from the crock pot wringing every bit of wax out, leaving debris inside the stocking.

Step 9

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.

processing beeswax final result

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.

As our business has grown, we’ve changed our methods of filtering beeswax to a grander scale. Check out this blog on growing the wax filtering operaion.

Raw Beeswax from our farm

Next: My First Bee Inspection

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About the Author

Kara

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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13 thoughts on “Processing Beeswax

  1. Hi.. that was a great article, love it 🙂

    I have a few chunk of organic beeswax, its yellow and have a very strong scent, do you have any Idea, how to remove the dye and odor naturally?

    In result I want it stay sticky, no color (white) and no scent.

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. Beeswax color and odor are impacted by pollen types, region, season and climate in the area where it was created. I personally enjoy the diversity that natural beeswax offers, as is, out-of-the-hive. In theory you could go through this process a number of times until you achieve the desired results, but each time you heat the wax up, you want to make sure that you don’t go over 140 degrees or the wax will not be useful. Another option would be to find a beekeeper that has professional equipment and have them batch process your wax with theirs. Good luck and thanks for writing.

  2. Brilliant! Processing my beeswax now! So much better than on a double boiler…do this do that ….method. Thank you.

  3. I’m very interested in using naturally yellow beeswax for encaustic painting (I’ve only used white as yet).
    Could you tell me if you combine it with damar resin and at what ratio?
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Erin, Thanks for writing me! I do combine the wax with the damar resin to make my own encaustic medium. I have written a blog on this subject at my other site that’s focused on my encaustic painting. The address is here: http://www.karabrookart.com/2011/07/making-encaustic-medium/ Let me know how you do! Best of luck to you. Kara

  4. Do you know of any products that are comprised of the raw, beeswax caps or anyone who can sell me some caps? I would like to get some.

    1. Hi Scot, I am afraid that I don’t have any resources for caps. Your best bet is to get in touch with your local beekeeping society or association and ask there. I process my caps and use the wax in my paintings. Sorry that I can’t be of more assistance. Best, kb

  5. Kara, I recently purchased some beeswax pastilles online. I tried to make a batch of lotion bars, BUT IT SMELLS HORRIBLE! Like smoky, burnt something. My daughters hate it! I read many comments regarding other beeswax products having same issue. What gives? Is there anything I can do to reverse this?

    1. Hey Sabrina, Thanks for writing. While I don’t know what you bought, or where you bought it I can tell you that the market for pharmaceutical/cosmetic grade beeswax (which is the kind you should be using for your bar project) is having a hard time keeping up with supply and demand. The folks that I was once very happily buying from doesn’t always have what I need in stock but I really love the company and trust them as a resource.

      There are so many issues with knowing where your beeswax is coming from. For instance, I would not buy beeswax that is not from the USA. I would not buy beeswax from someone that I didn’t know or at least not know their reputation.

      I am sharing this article with you because I handle beeswax quite a bit in my painting projects and this for me was a great resource for handling wax with caution. http://www.lauratyler.com/art-blog/beeswax-and-breasts-do-you-know-whats-in-yours/

      My best advice, return the wax you bought and find a cosmetic grade supplier with a solid reputation, or get to know a local beekeeper and buy directly, and do your own “cleaning” a few times to be sure to get bee parts, etc. out. Good luck with your project!

  6. Dang! That WAS a really nice crock pot! Not so much anymore! I would suggest that you purchase your crock pot from Goodwill or Salvation Army. Anything you use for this will be only be useful in the future for processing wax. I do it in the garage as well.

    1. Shannon, I agree. Once you use the crock pot it must be designated your wax cap crock pot. The issue is, I bet it will be hard to find a crock pot that has a thermostat control with a digital display that can be incrementally set at goodwill quite yet. In fact, I have found that good will crockpots don’t have a very reliable heating element and I don’t know that it’s the best way to obtain a crock pot for wax processing. Thanks for your note!

  7. My dad was a beekeeper and rendered his own wax. Upon cleaning out his old store room I found several blocks of beeswax (approx. 50 lbs.). It is probably about 20 – 30 years old. Are there any uses for it? Is there any thing I can do with it (I don’t know how it was processed).

    1. John, If it looks good and clean, then you are likely ready to make candles! We have equipment over here that helps us in the melting process, and you have to be careful not to get it too hot, or it will be useless, or worse, it can be a fire-hazzard if it reaches the flash-point. I predict a candle-making class in your future! ;0) Thanks for writing us! It’s great to hear from you and I bet the memories are wonderful.

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