THE RENDERING OF OUR BEESWAX TAKES QUITE A LOT OF TIME AND LABOR, FROM THE HIVE TO THE END RESULT
Not all beekeepers process their wax in the same
fashion. I am not going to get into these various methods since it is not pertinent to our website.
Also, it is important to know that sometimes beeswax can vary in color due
to the nectar or flowers the bees "worked" on before the extraction process of that particular nectar or honey.
For us, it isn't a factor that usually matters since most of the beeswax
we harvest comes from one source to begin with: our bees.
We have discovered that using our method helps to retain the natural
quality of pure beeswax. It definitely uses more resources and time, but it is well worth it.
This is especially true for us since we are very picky when it comes
to creating beautiful beeswax candles for those who can truly appreciate it's beauty and benefits.
It is also important to us because we truly desire for those who have purchased
or will purchase our candles, that it will be an investment they feel was well-worth it.
THE PROCESS, FROM START TO FINISH .... ALMOST
First of all, the
honey supers are removed from the bees. Each frame full of wax and honey is un capped with the hot knife (for more on
this, see Extracting Our Honey)
All the honey, cappings,
wax, and "bee debris" end up in the wax melter tank. This tank is used not only during the extraction process, but is
invaluable for heating beeswax and warming up crystallized jars of honey to it's liquefied state.
As the extraction is taking place, the tank gets very full.
It is important to stop the extraction long enough for the honey to drip down below the wax cappings, or to the bottom
of the wax melter, and into the clarifier tank below it. From the clarifier tank, the honey is pumped into barrels.
When the wax in the tank looks "dry" and it is determined
that most of the honey has "left" it, it is shovelled into barrels for storage. The wax melter can take just so much
weight, therefore, it is important to empty it as necessary.
The process of allowing the honey to slowly drain from the
wax can sometimes take up to 3 days for every full tank. Normally, that would equal about 5 - 6 tanks-full.
All of what has been mentioned above is repeated until there
is no more honey to extract.
When the last of the frames are extracted, the wax melter is left
long enough for as much honey as possible to end up below the layer of wax. Honey is heavier than wax, so this happens
naturally. Also, during this entire time, the wax melter is kept heated to no more than 100 degrees F. This
keeps the honey liquefied just enough for easy pouring, but will not melt the wax.
GIVING BACK TO OUR BEES
The honey that is at the very end of the entire extraction
process is valuable for using to give back to our bees. We use other "feed" also, but this left-over honey also
helps. The honey is poured into metal cans we call "Feeder Cans". Each can has a tiny hole punched on the
lid so that the honey or feeding syrup will drip very slowly into the hive. One can, per hive, is placed atop the
hive lid. The bees "carry" the dripping honey and store it in cells of the frames inside their hive. They
also use it to feed the queen and brood.
Back to the rendering process:
When as much honey as possible is drained away from the wax, also called "wax cappings",
then the process of melting and straining begins.
The amount of wax the tank can hold is shovelled into it.
The tank is then heated to melt the wax enough for easy pouring into plastic tubs. The wax melter has a cover to
keep the heat inside, however, during the night, one must go out to the extraction room and assure that the wax is not
being heated too high. Also, "turning" the wax in the tank is necessary.
The tank does have a thermostat, but this isn't enough.
If the wax gets too hot, it discolors. It turns brownish in color. High heat is not good for processing beeswax.
Just like honey, it can burn easily. Also, beeswax retains quite a bit of honey. One can never get every
drop of honey out of the beeswax. This is why this wonderful commodity maintains the very essence of it's sweet honey
STRAINING THE WAX INTO PLASTIC TUBS
When the tank full of wax is liquefied, a valve that is
located on the bottom of the tank. It is opened and the hot wax pours into a plastic tub, which has porous
material stretched over the top of it to strain debris, as it pours. The tubs are sprayed with a release agent so that, when
the wax hardens, the entire slab will fall out quite easily from the tub.
It is important to "strain" the wax using a porous material in
order to remove most of the debris, such as honey and slumgum, from the beeswax.
In the wax, there is debris we beekeepers call "slumgum".
This consists of the wax that was cut off by the hot knife called "brood" comb or, sometimes, the honey supers full of honey
filled frames have darkened beeswax. This is caused from the bees building their cells over and over again.
This also happens inside the brood comb as well.
Mostly, however, what is extracted is honeycomb and not
brood comb. But, sometimes, the latter can be within stacks of the former.
When the hot knife removes some of this darker wax and other
debris inside the comb, this "slumgum" ends up at the bottom of the beeswax anyway. It is also a part of the honey
we feed back to our bees. Not much is wasted when a beekeeper is doing his/her job and this sediment or slumgum is not
Once the tubs are filled with hot wax and the wax hardens, the
slabs come out and at the bottom of each is always slumgum and a small amount of honey.
What happens is, as the wax hardens, the slumgum ends up in the
bottom because it is heavier than the wax. So, when the slab comes out of the tub, the one side of the wax has the slumgum
on it. There isn't much left on the bottom so, the slab is taken to the sink and the
slumgum and a very small amount of honey is washed off with warm water.
If we're not happy with that particular slab because
it still has too much slumgum left in the wax, then it will be tossed back into the wax melter and the
process of melting and pouring into tubs begins again.
TAKING EXTRA TIME IS WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!
Taking extra time and labor yields beautiful, naturally golden-in-color
pure beeswax that retains that wonderful honey scent. It also helps to create an excellent candle that burns bright,
long, and is very beautiful to enjoy.