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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. 


  1. Excellent idea! We cut it all out and melt it all in a crock pot then strain it but your idea gets rid of the casings first, leaving less to screen out of the melted wax. I like it!

  2. Thank you Joan! I was doing the same as you and not enjoying the mess. And the hive gets a clean, too.

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  4. Does the foil tray hold/catch alot of water? I'm just wondering if I need to accommodate running water during those 90 mins. Thanks for this idea Stephen, I'm going to try it next time I have old well used comb to cull out.

  5. Joan, I punched some holes in the foil to let the water run through out onto the ground. The wax solidified on the foil. But this was my first time doing this, so I'm sure my method could be improved. Let me know how you get on, please. Blog your results and we'll see what is the optimum method! Good luck. Steve.


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