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Beeswax and its Uses

Beeswax is an underused hive product

Beeswax is a product of the hive that can have many uses, but very often it is wasted by beekeepers because they don't know what to do with it, or think they haven't got enough to do much with. Beekeepers are taught to save every scrap of wax, but those doing the teaching don't often teach what to do with it after that.

A solar wax extractor is an expensive item to buy new for the ordinary beekeeper with a few colonies, but with a bit of ingenuity one can be made from recycled or cheaply acquired items at little or no cost. There are a lot of myths about what is required for a solar wax extractor, but all that is needed is a tray to put the wax in and something to collect the molten wax in. These are put inside some sort of box with a glass lid over the top. Practical beekeepers will be able to make something simply and improve it if needed.

In Britain and Ireland a normal honey producing colony will produce around 1-1½lbs (450-700grams) of beeswax per year. This will include brace comb, old combs and cappings. This can be increased by melting down super combs and replacing each year, but it will be at the expense of honey. This when accumulated will become a larger quantity than many beekeepers think. I think it should be treated as a crop in the same way as honey is, not discarded as so many beekeepers do.

The simplest thing is to coarse strain beeswax, sell it to appliance dealers so they can turn it into foundation, exchange it for goods or what is known as "wax exchange" where you get a set number of sheets for the weight of wax that you supply. Appliance dealers have the rates for these on their websites. It is often possible to obtain higher prices by selling beeswax to non-beekeeping users, but that means it is lost to the craft and the foundation suppliers have to seek alternative supplies from abroad that may be poorer quality or contaminated.

With very little effort the beekeeper can make some very useful items with beeswax, or where beeswax is an ingredient. This can be done using simple equipment that is available in most kitchens or obtainable cheaply. Providing you are careful, beeswax is not a dangerous material to work with and it will give beekeepers another dimension to an already interesting craft. It will also give you an opportunity to make useful presents that will be appreciated.

Roger Patterson.