Beeswax – Why You Want to Render Your Own & How to Do it!

What Is Beeswax?

Beeswax provides the foundation for the hive as the primary building block of their home construction.  Beeswax is a foundational element of the honey bee colony that has a multitude of uses and benefits to the bees, and is VERY valuable. Honey bees expend much of their energy getting the resources from nectar foraging through converting that floral reward into honey, to support their development of the glands that will produce wax. Just to put that into perspective, it takes about 6-8x more energy for the bee to produce wax than to make honey. Between the ages of 12-17 days after they hatch, honey bee workers are most active in their wax gland production, but they can use this function throughout the rest of their lives, if needed. Even more incredible, they seem to produce wax based on external cues. For example, honey bees are able to increase their energy output for wax secretion as the environment and social structure demands – basically in preparation for swarming so they can build a new home more quickly, and to rapidly respond to comb needs when brooding and storing pollen.

What’s In Your Environment Is In Your Beeswax

In many ways, wax acts like a sponge for the environment. Any chemicals used on your hives will be stored in the wax.  Chemicals used on the plants that your bees forage, particularly nectar plants, also have the potential to be stored in the wax.  Another element to this sponge-like behavior is that the hexagonal wax cells are re-used and re-purposed by the colony to fit their needs as the seasons and conditions change, making them layers of new wax added to old.  So, while any chemical pollutant trapped in the wax may be sealed off from impacting the bees when they add additional layers, melting the wax will release these pollutants. This is why it is important that you know the beekeeper and their practices, so you can feel safe that the wax will be free of chemical pollutants. If you intend to use your wax for skin or lip products, this is an important factor to consider when sourcing your wax.

Clean and Render Beeswax with a Heat Gun

Cleaning & rendering wax can take time & it gets messy! We have tried a few methods – double boiling, crock pot version, and now the heat gun method. The heat gun method seems the fastest, least messy, and overall easiest. Rendering your own wax may be a messy and time consuming labor of love, but the benefits of rendering your own wax are many.

  1. You know the quality of the wax – sustainable beekeeping practices use few chemicals!
  2. You save $$$ – anywhere from $10-$20 per pound for filtered wax!

Be prepared to spend a day…or two to do it right. You will want to scrape the wax off the frames and process it within a few days. You will also need to keep this scraped wax in a closed container away from any insects that might want to take over – like wax moths!

IMPORTANT CAUTION! Beeswax is HIGHLY flammable, so take proper safety precautions as you clean, render & store it throughout this process.

Supplies

https://smile.amazon.com/ZESPROKA-ZP129-Stainless-Strainers-Kitchen/dp/B07FFSCBDZ/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=strainer&qid=1608744402&sr=8-5
  • Wooden spatula -one you dedicate to wax only
  • Mini-muffin tins (like this one
https://smile.amazon.com/Wilton-Recipe-Non-Stick-Mini-Muffin-12-Cup/dp/B07327V4VH/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=mini+muffin+tin&qid=1608746306&sr=8-7

7 Steps to Render Wax – From the Hive to Storing the Disks

Step 1: Start with a cleaned* frame of wax.

*The fastest way to get a clean frame is to let your bees clean up the frames for you before you try to render wax from a newly harvested honey super. Let’s say you just harvested your summer honey. You will have frames of wax that are coated in honey after you spin the frames. By placing the empty frames out for the bees, they will harvest the remaining honey and in turn make for fast clean up for you when you render the wax.

Cleaned frame of wax after the honey was extracted and the frame was returned to the bees to clean up all additional honey, leaving only the wax behind.

Step 2: Scrape the cleaned frames of wax into a clean and dry 5 gallon bucket using the putty knife. If you are dealing with frames that have not only been used for honey stores (the pale yellow to almost white frames of wax), then you will want another bucket for each type or quality of wax. The most pristine wax is the pale colored and is only used for nectar and honey stores, while the older wax is the darker re-used & re-purposed ones that have held pollen and/or brood. Separate them by color before melting them will optimize your most pristine wax for use in skincare related products.

Step 3: Place parchment paper down under your workspace to prevent wax drippings from getting on your bench top.  Scoop the scraped off wax into the stainless steel measuring cup. Pack the loose scrapings slightly. Set the cup on the top of the heat resistant coaster. Hold the handle with your hot mittens.

Step 4: Turn on the heat gun to the lowest setting. Aim the gun across the top of the metal cup, moving it back and forth to prevent burning the wax. Holding the cup handle with the hot mitten, use a circular motion to swirl the wax as it melts while you simultaneously wave the heat gun across the top surface. This will take approximately 2-3min to completely melt 2-3 cups of lightly packed wax scrapings. Use the spoon, as needed, to stir after the melting process.

Step 5: Once the wax is melted, turn off the heat gun and place the gun aside. Using the stainless steel strainer, pour the melted wax into the mini cupcake tin molds. Let them sit undisturbed 5-10 minutes until they solidify.

Step 6: Once they are no longer liquid, you can place them into the freezer to quickly cool them thoroughly. After 15 minutes, you can pop the wax disks out of the tins.

You might notice a layer on the bottom of the wax disk that appears speckled or darker. If this is the case, these are some of the impurities that made it through the strainer, like pollen grains, bee bread, etc. You can attempt to cut that off the bottom of the disk, or you can render it again to filter out those impurities.

Step 7: Store the disks in a sealed bag or container and out of the light.

Rendered beeswax disks, muffin and mini-muffin sizes. Mini sized disks weigh about 0.5 oz, and the full sized muffin disks weigh 1.75-2.0 oz.
1 Comment
  • Pam
    Posted at 16:10h, 23 December Reply

    Never tried using a heat gun for this. Thanks for the suggestion!

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