Bees for Development
Harvesting beeswax is an integral part of the honey extraction process. Honey cannot be extracted with a harvest of honey being collected as well. This will to some extent depend on the type of bee hive being used. Fixed comb and top bar hives produce a lot more beeswax than moveable frame hives because the whole comb is harvested in order to harvest the honey. With frame hives, the honey extraction process preserves most of the honeycomb but there will still be a great many wax cappings to process into blocks of beeswax. With whole combs harvested from fixed combs and top bar harvesting the cleanest and most efficient way to extract the honey is by cutting the honeycomb up into very small pieces in a large bucket. This is then strained through a clean mesh cloth into a second bucket. The consequence of this is that the honey will drain in the bucket while the wax will remain in the cloth. This is the wax that the beekeeper now needs to clean and transform into clean wax or sale.
To get the best wax the beekeeper should only use fairly fresh comb that has been used by the bees for honey storage and has not had much brood reared in it. It is clear which thes combs are because comb gradually changes colour, from yellow to black as the bees use it to rear the young bees. The black combs are full of larval cocoons and will not release much wax. The larval cocoon trap the wax from better combs and so much wax is wasted. They will also colour the clean yellow wax into darker colours that are not so saleable. Consequently, dark combs and light combs are better processed separately. The picture on the right shows how variable the colour of the wax can be.
Getting a good block of clean wax is a two stage process. The first is to extract the beeswax from the combs to make it into a block of sold wax rather than all the scraps and bits. Although the top will look clean the underneath will be dirty however, and the wax will need a second processing to get it into a better state.
There are a number of methods - and variations on methods - to extract beeswax. Some are more complicated than others so the choice of method will be determined by its suitability for individual circumstances. The three main ideas are:
Each of these methods can be carried out using simple constructions or utensils that would normally be found in an African household. In each case the wax produced will need a second filtering for it to become clean enough for use.
If a large enough container is available this is a very quick way of processing a large quantity of beeswax.
There are other variations on this technique at this point.
This uses the heat of the sun as a fuel source.
Once the wax is melted it should be removed from the extractor and left to cool and harden.
This uses hot water to melt the wax but the wax drips through a suspended bag that acts as a filter. It is a very quick a method of producing clean wax.
The water must be topped up as it evaporates.
List of Articles available on this topic (7):
Hive Products/Solitary Bees/Solar Wax extraction
Angie Twydall/David Baldock/Dr Chris Coulson
Making a solar extractor
Marketing Honey and Beeswax from Apis dorsata in West Kalimantan
Mulder, V.; Heri, V.; Wickham, T.
Traditional honey & wax collection from Apis dorsata in West Kalimantan
Mulder, V. Heri, V. and Wickham, T.
Wax extraction information
Zambian Beekeeping Handbook
Clauss, B. & Clauss, R.