“Crush and strain” is a perfect method for a small scale beekeeper to extract honey. This method also yields a higher quantity of wax than standard capping and extracting methods since the entire comb is used and not just the caps. It requires little to no investment, and believe it or not, top quality honey and wax can be extracted/produced with items you already have in your kitchen. After a horrendous first year of beekeeping bloopers back in 2012, I have found some items that have helped to resolve my crush and strain woes.
Here are a few tips from someone who has learned the hard way:
- Always use cold water when rinsing beeswax before processing. Never hot. While hot water may seem like a quicker way to remove honey residue from crushed comb it only serves to compound the mess. Beeswax melts quickly and can and will ruin all of your utensils and your kitchen and your life..which brings me to my next point.
- Have a dedicated wax rendering tool set. That ugly pot in the video up there? $4 at bargain mart. Wax is it’s sole purpose. I’ve been using it to render beeswax for years now, and this thing has seen some serious abuse. Abuse I would never ever put my daily kitchen set through.
- Wax rendering is a job left best in the garage or the barn, or outside, just not in your kitchen.
- Beeswax is highly flammable so use caution. Do NOT let kids do this.
- Yes…you can use a microwave but it takes for-eh-ver, the heat is uneven, and in my opinion it doesn’t smell as “bee-like” as it does using the hot water bath method.
Now that we have all that cleared up, lets get to the tutorial!
*This tutorial begins assuming you have already crushed your honeycomb, strained the honey and are now in possession of a pile of crumbled comb free of honey. (A honey crush and strain tutorial is on the docket for spring)
- Rinse and dry comb that has been strained of honey and place in a pint or quart sized jar depending on how much comb you have
- Bring a small sauce pan ½ full of water to a boil, then place the jar of comb in the boiling water and allow it to melt. You may have to poke it down and stir it every now and then. (I like to use a chop stick for this.) until is it totally melted, it can take some time depending on the quantity you are melting.
- While all of that is happening, grab an old pair of panty hose and cut the toe end off at about 6 inches. Slide the hosiery over a vessel you wish to strain the melted wax into. (I use silicone measuring cups for an easy pour spout and simple clean up).
- Once melted, pour wax through panty hose. We are straining the wax to remove impurities such as straw or bee fragments…it happens every now and then. You’ll also get teeny tiny amounts of propolis and pollen. You can toss it or you can save it to make a propolis tincture when you have enough.
- Pour strained wax into prepared wax molds. You can buy molds that say “beeswax” in pre-measured sizes or you can use silicone molds, or an old muffin tin (FYI: 1 beeswax muffin puck weighs approximately 2.5 ounces in case you were wondering.)
- Let wax cool completely before removing from molds. And SNIFF! Ah! Nothing smells better! Store in a cool dry place.
- After some time passes you may notice that your wax develops a cloudy coating as it cures. This is called “bloom” and it is perfectly harmless.
The average going rate for beeswax is $5.00 per ounce…if you can bear to actually sell any.
Since some of you may be wondering why I “rinsed the honey residue” from the crushed comb when many people like to place their comb on a pan in the apiary and allow the bees to clean the comb for them. My reasoning is simple: This action promotes a behavior called “robbing”, it’s when bees from other hives come and steal resources from another hive. Robbing also calls attention to our rather large population of Bald Faced Hornets we have in close proximity. Bald Faced Hornets come and rob the crushed comb intended for the honey bees, then when they have exhausted that pile of free food they wage war on our bee hives, killing and eating the bees, the larvae, and the honey. Bald Faced Hornets have killed a few of our hives in the past (hives that were new and trying to establish themselves), for this reason I forego the gesture and clean the comb myself.