Making honey is no small feat for a bee. Foraging bees must first visit many flowers to collect nectar. Then, it is brought to the hive where a worker bee takes the nectar and places it in one of the openings in the specially prepared comb. Bees then fan the nectar with their wings to remove as much liquid as possible. Somehow they know when the honey is ready and then secrete a substance which covers the honey. This substance will harden and become beeswax.
To harvest honey, the beeswax must be removed
which opens the chambers and allows the honey to flow out.
These beeswax cappings are placed on a screen, in a tub, and strained for the honey it contains. What’s left is this
At this point, these cappings can be given back to the bees for food (which I usually do)or heated and strained (rendered) to make the pretty, yellow beeswax used in candles and cosmetics.
This year I decided to try my hand at rendering wax. Instead of buying an expensive melter, I opted for a home-made version after I found this large styrofoam container and glass window at my local recycling center.
I dug through my cabinet and found some old, plastic bowls. I placed an inch of water in the bottom, rubber banded a paper towel over the top, and placed the cappings on top.
I placed the containers in the cooler and covered it with the glass window and left for work. The outdoor temps need to be at least eighty degrees for this to work which is no problem this time of year in Arkansas.
When I got home, my pile of cappings had melted down to this.
As you can see, the paper towel acts as a filter as the wax melts down (you can use cheesecloth, too but I didn’t have any) and the water in the bowl helps separate the wax from residual honey and other impurities. When the process is complete, rendered beeswax will be floating on top.
As you can imagine, these containers were super hot when I removed them from the cooler and everything inside was liquid. I left the bowls on the counter overnight to completely cool off. The next morning, the wax had hardened on top and I was able to loosen the plastic bowl and remove it.
There still seemed to be some debris in the wax, so I repeated the entire process again and am much happier with the second rendering.
I’m not sure what will become of this beautiful wax, but the process was simple enough to do and only required a few items rescued from the trash. Just goes to show that one man’s trash is another woman’s wax melter!