Processing beeswax is as natural as following just a few simple steps. 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 from my second harvest and stored them in my freezer. If you are wondering why I stored the caps in my freezer, it was to prevent the caps from fermenting. Honey contains about 18% water. If left out in the open without being cleaned, filtered, and dried, the caps will ferment. This makes quite the mess, so make sure you prepare your caps before you do anything else.
This is all 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 a step-by-step approach to processing my wax in small batches.
Use only wax caps when processing your beeswax. Brood wax is the wax that comes from the bottom portion of managed beehives. The brood is where the family is made: collecting this wax is destructive to the hive, and requires too much work to remove impurities. I’ve done this once before, and it’s not a process I’m looking to repeat.
Our Tips on Processing Beeswax
Step 1: How to clean beeswax
Remove caps and drain honey from the hive frame. Place caps in a fine metal sieve. Rinse and drain warm water over wax caps a few times. Next, shake as much water as possible from the caps before allowing to air dry. Like I mentioned before, if you skip out on rinsing and drying your caps, they’ll be a big fermented mess.
Step 2: Freezing wax before processing
After the caps have dried, place them into bags and store them in the freezer. It’s important to keep the air out of your caps, just to prevent any humidity build-up. When you fill your bags with caps, remove as much air as possible before freezing.
Step 3: Melting the beeswax
Place your frozen caps into a crockpot, and fill the vessel to top with water. You are about to “slow cook” your wax until some of the impurities separate from the wax.
Step 4: Heating the beeswax
If you have a crockpot that allows you to set the temperature, put it to 155 degrees F. If yours doesn’t have that feature, set manually on “keep warm”. Let cook for 4-12 hours (depending on your crockpot). Note: if you overheat the wax it will be useless for painting, check on progress periodically.
Step 5: Cooling, part one
Turn off the heat and allow the wax to cool. The wax will float on the top of the crockpot. Once it is solid, remove this from the water, and pour off the dirty water.
Step 6: Processing Beeswax by filtering
Break the wax into small chunks and stuff inside of a new stocking. This will act as a filter, allowing the wax to escape once you continue to the next step.
Drop the stocking into the crockpot and fill it to the top with water. Set the temperature back to 155 degrees, and allow the wax to re-melt.
Step 8: Processing Beeswax by hand
Once the wax has been melting, carefully remove the stocking from the crockpot. Allow it to cool a little, and then wring out the wax, leaving impurities in the stocking.
Step 9: Rinse and repeat
Repeat Steps 4 through 8, processing beeswax until it 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 for home projects
Beeswax has a light, pollen-like smell and is a beautiful and vibrant shade of yellow. I prefer the natural color for making a medium for my encaustic paintings. It gives the paintings a natural warm yellow glow.
Please note, the raw beeswax that results from this process is wonderful for beeswax candles. I do not recommend using this beeswax for cosmetic preparations, as there can be invisible impurities in it. You are far better off using cosmetic-grade beeswax for bath and body products. That beeswax has been through a charcoal filtering process that makes it safe to use in body products.
The whole reason why I wanted to become a beekeeper was to collect beeswax for my encaustic painting. 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. As time goes on and beekeeping operations get larger, processing beeswax looks entirely different.