My jar of beeswax

As a first-year beekeeper I get to enjoy the adventure of keeping honey bees, of learning about them, caring for them, and seeing their day-to-day lives up close. Meanwhile are two things I don’t get, and they’re kinda biggies.

Honey and beeswax.

Back in May I started out with five frames of bees, which house 10,000 individuals. Today, that number has grown to about 15 frames, or about 30,000 bees.* You might assume that 30K bees can produce a lot of honey and wax, and you’re right. But since this colony is still establishing itself, they’re going to need all of it to get through the winter. In other words, no excess for me.

I can, however, take “burr comb.” In fact, I should.

Bees store pollen, nectar, honey, eggs and larvae in honeycomb, which they build with beeswax. A new colony like mine spends a lot of time and effort building honeycomb from scratch, and they need every bit to support their growing numbers (in the peak of summer, the queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs per day). They’re meant to build the comb on the frames, which you can think of like hanging file folders in a filing cabinet. Every now and then, however, they get a little overly ambitions and build comb on *top* of the file folder, or frame, and that’s called burr comb.

I don’t want them to do that for a few reasons. It can make the hive difficult to inspect, become a real mess and prevent me from closing up the hive properly. So I always scrape it off and put it into my jar, which you see here.

Soon I’ll melt this down, get the impurities out, make sure it’s good and clean and then let it solidify into natural beeswax, which I can then use to make candles, lip balm, all sorts of interesting things. I hope to collect some more before the season ends, and of course I’ll show you what I make and how I make it. Wish me luck!

*Do you know what honey bees are really good at? Making more bees.

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