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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Steam cleaning a polynuc

I made the feeding hole in the top of a polynuc a bit bigger and poked in the steam hose.  See below.
There is some tinfoil in the bottom of the hive, to catch the dross. I poked a hole in the foil to allow the wax to run out through the mesh floor onto the correx sheet below (just visible).

Very good results!  See the dross left behind below.

So I like this very simple and clean way of rendering wax out of old frames.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wax extraction by steam

Here are the results of my new toy - a wallpaper steamer that serves as a steam-maker for a makeshift wax extractor.

Here's the problem. When a hive dies (like several of mine have this rotten summer), you have the issue of what to do with the frames.

Leave them in the shed?  They will get attached by wax moth (see blog entries passim).

Cut out the comb and dispose?  A waste of wax (and I need a supply for waxing plastic frames - see other blog entries passim).

Put all the comb in an old pair of tights and boil to remove the wax?  Very messy, not very effective, and almost certain to promote domestic disharmony.

Put into a solar wax extractor?  Cost to much, takes too long, and anyway, what bleedin' sun in this soddin' rainy island?

So my solution is below.

£22 from B&Q. Fill with 5L of water and switch on.

The wallpaper steaming plate (not shown) can be put aside until Mrs Novice has a redecorating hormone surge (thankfully not too frequent).

Place the broodbox, complete with frames to be steamed, onto a mesh floor (to catch most of the rubbish that falls out of the frames), with baking foil below that to catch the wax.

On the roof, I placed a polystyrene tile (as used in roof insulation) with a hole in the middle.  Insert the end of the steam hose through the hole.  Weigh the roof down with bricks.

In 90 minutes, the result is shown below.

Frames with just the larval cases remaining.  All the wax has melted out, see photo below.

The result was 660g of clean(ish) wax, artfully displayed on a tea tray in photo below.

It needs to be cleaned up for sale, but for waxing plastic frames, it's good enough.

Wax extractors from Thorne's are £550. 

Review of Plastic Frames

I have used plastic frames (from Modern Beekeeping) for the last couple of years, on one hive, as a trial.  Here are the results.

Good things.
Easy to prepare.  Just melt some wax, get a paint roller (a small one!), roll in the hot wax, roll onto the frame.  All the while supporting the frame from underneath.

Easy to clean.  Just scrape 'em down, steam them off, and start again.

Bees like them.  See photo below.

You can see that brood has been laid from side to side (see previous entries on the blog).
Remember, this is a Langstroth hive, so that's a lorra lorra bees.

Bad things

They warp.  See photo below.

Where this frame has warped, the concave side has encouraged the bees to make brace comb.  On the convex side (pictured), the frame is not drawn out into comb, because it is too close the next frame.  The bees will always keep at least one beespace between frames (more at the bottom than the top, so that two bees can work back-to-back in the wider places).

They also warp banana-style, along the length, which makes it harder to get them all back in place in the hive after an inspection.


I won't be using them again until I can find a solution to this warping problem.  Pity, because they have a lot going for them.