Rendering Beeswax from a Hive

Initially, I wasn’t planning on having a lot of beekeeping posts here on Multicultured, but things like honey harvests and rendering beeswax are a) pretty cool projects that most people probably don’t get to see and b) a lot of the honey ends up in giant carboys for mead making, so, well, it just makes sense. 

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Steve and I harvested honey from one of the hives we manage. Basically, we pulled out ten frames full of capped honey, then pushed the honey-filled beeswax out, crushed it up with a potato masher, and let it strain through a screened insert into a five gallon bucket. We got around 35 pounds, and much of that was bottled to give as gifts to friends and family. 

The picture above shows what’s left after the honey has had time to drip through the screen for a week or so. That insert was quite heavy – there’s still a fair amount of honey in there, and the beeswax itself is heavier than you might think. At this stage, it’s time to improvise a set up for rendering beeswax to use in other projects, like lip balm or lotions. 

To do that, we created a double boiler by putting a large aluminum bowl on top of a one-gallon stockpot filled half way with water. Let the water boil, heat the aluminum bowl, stir a bit to help it along, and in less time than I expected, we had a big bowl of liquid wax. 

From here, we lined my Dutch oven with a couple of layers of parchment, covered it with an old t-shirt, and poured the wax through the fabric and into the parchment-lined pot to cool. That took quite a while, and the remaining honey in the wax fell out of the suspension while the wax itself congealed on top. When the wax cooled, we had this (click to embiggen):

rendering beeswax - cooled wax
Rendering beeswax – this snow white wax is cooled and ready to go.

When we lifted the parchment sheets out, we were able to pour off an appreciable amount of slightly cooked honey from underneath the wax, which tasted terrific. 

Honey from wax rendering
Salvaged honey from beeswax rendering

All in all, we harvested about one and third pounds of wax and 20 ounces or so of honey from the strainer. Not a bad haul at all, and we also put together another big batch of mead from the honey left in the bucket. More on that tomorrow. 

Now we just have to decide what to do with all this gorgeous rendered beeswax.

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