A Calm Interlude

With the swarm busily establishing itself in the new Rebel Rebel hive—no longer a swarm, really, but "kept" bees—my attention once again turned to the more relaxing beekeeping-related pleasures I'd envisioned when first taking up this pursuit: photographing the bees on flowers, learning the names of forage plants I wasn't already familiar with (who knew there were so many kinds of clover?!), watching the bees come and go in the bee yard, trying to spot "my" bees on my daily walks through the fields, working my way through Maurice Maeterlinck's captivating book, The Life of the Bee, and consorting with the locals.
During this relative lull, I also built a delightfully low tech solar wax melter to convert bits of culled comb into gobs of that wonderful, aromatic substance known as beeswax. Using materials at hand and applying my Amateur Hour Carpentry can-do spirit, I had my melter built in twenty minutes.

Take one tin can and add some water (for the melted wax to suspend in). Create a sieve using a paper towel.

Place comb on sieve. (The comb I'm getting now is small; I'll use a bigger container once I begin harvesting larger pieces of comb. This year, I am leaving the bees everything I can so they're well provisioned while getting established. Next year, there may be honeycomb to spare. If so, we will eat the honey and melt the comb.)

Place can with comb in an insulated container—in this case, an old styrofoam box I got at the Park Slope Food Coop.

Cover with glass (or, in this case, an old plastic cutting board).

Let the sun shine in!

After a day in the hot sun, my solar wax melter had yielded a sweet-scented nugget of gold reminiscent of a lunar crescent. The moon, we now find, is made not of green cheese, but of beeswax.

One of the neat things about beeswax is its color variation. Here's a comparison of the results of my first two "meltdowns." (If only all my meltdowns were this productive!)

In time, as pieces of off-center comb are culled and honeycomb is harvested, there should be a good supply of comb to melt down. Then we can start making lip balm, hand lotion, candles, and maybe even crayons. Who doesn't like a good, homemade crayon?

By the way, beeswax is secreted from the honeybee worker's abdomen during the comb-building process, yet another in the bees' seemingly unending store of fabulous talents bordering on the surreal.

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