The picture above is after the first time the bear visited and brought destruction. I set the hives to rights afterward, got stung twice, (which took 2 weeks to go down) and left the bees alone. When the bear came back, the scene was much worse and the bees were done for. Total destruction. Between that, and the fact that I've become quite allergic, it was time to give it up with the bees. Disappointing? Yes. But necessary. Twice I have tried, and twice I have failed. I can take a hint--this is not for me.
So I cleaned up. I picked up all the pieces that were widely scattered about and thought about any way at all to make the situation turn out to the positive. There was no honey. The bear had seen to that. But there was wax, and I use the wax to wax my cheese with. Hmmmm....if I could harvest that, I wouldn't have to buy wax, and then I could use it and the bees would not be a TOTAL loss (just mostly a loss). So I spent several hours scraping the frames that were not completely shattered into a pot like so:
|This is a messy, sticky job|
Definitely better than pieces strewn all over the yard, no?
I have rendered beeswax once before, and I remember nothing about how to do it. What I do remember is what I will tell you here: Never use anything in rendering beeswax that you want to either keep clean or use for something else. Beeswax is so sticky, you're pretty much guaranteed to ruin anything you put it in. That I knew. But the rest? I made up as I went along.
First I put the bits in a pot that I will never use for anything else ever again. Unfortunately, it was a small pot, so this all had to be done in many stages. But I put the wax mess in the pot and added water. Then I heated it up.
Why add water? Wax burns, baby. On top of that, there are so many disgusting things in the wax from a hive that you don't want in the wax from your hive, and all of it makes the wax stickier and then it won't separate out. When the water is in there it will keep the dirt, and the the wax will be clean (presumably) and float on top of all the muckiness. So it's a helpful thing. Basically, you take this yucky mixture and heat it up to boiling and then let it boil for a while.
This smells pretty bad. It's all full of dead bee bodies and icky bee stuff and probably larva and icky stuff like that, and it smells like beeswax (which is nice) and hot dirt (which is not). But you can see that the wax is starting to separate here and cling to the spoon that I'll never use again for anything else ever. Eventually, when you see a lot of yellow wax sort of floating in the mess, you pour it into your separator.
This is a highly technical tool, consisting of a piece of old window screen alligator clipped to a disposable turkey roasting pan. Neither thing which can ever be used ever again for anything other than beeswax harvesting--trust me.
Anyway, you pour your smelly, messy goop into this, and the screen catches all the bee bodies and dirt and cooked larva bits, and the wax and dirty water go through. Then you wait until the wax hardens on top of the water, and you scoop it out.
This wax is mostly clean, but still has some icky dirty things sticking to it's underside, so it's necessary to warm it all up and filter it again.
This time, don't use water. Just break up the wax sheets and put them either in a double boiler, or just use a low, low heat. Melt the wax and then filter it through here:
This fine piece of craftsmanship is a plastic container from something someone ate once, with a nylon stocking over it. It is very fancy. The wax will drain through, like so:
And it will leave the mess on the top, like so:
And that's how it works. This a long process, and I can see why beeswax is so expensive to buy when I do this. But I am happy that I did, because now I have more cheese wax, and the hives were not a TOTAL loss--just MOSTLY a loss. It's so much better.
The only thing I cannot tell you is why beeswax that I've rendered is so much yellower than anything I've ever bought. It's probably got something to do with pollen in there or something, but I have no idea. Either way, it's super yellow and smells nice, so that's alright with me.
And there you go! Now you know how to do it, so go on out and render some beeswax today!
And PS--I finished a little table runner yesterday. It was a kit given to me by a friend, which sat unopened for 3 years. I finally opened it, and all told, it took me about an hour to make. 3 projects down!!