Saturday, April 24, 2010

Making Wax Starter Strips

Making wax starter strips for your frames sounds daunting but it is fairly easy to do. A couple words of caution, you do not want to do this in the kitchen. I speak from experience. Tap the hot wax pot at the wrong time and you can end up with wax all over the place . It is easy to clean some spots but terrible to do on the linoleum floor. The wax will harden before you can wipe it up and then can be almost transparent and hard to find. All the little wax drops will collect dust and dirt leaving you with a speckled floor until until you get it up, one drop at a time. Trust me, do this outside.

I use an old camp stove. Since I have not been doing this long I do not have a supply of comb to melt down. I get a one pound block from LA Honey Co. If they offer brown or white wax, take the cheaper one, the bees won't care. In a pinch you can use bees wax candles but with all wax from other sources you can not be sure it is clean of contaminants but you have to use what you can get.
Do not over heat the melting wax. Bees wax is flammable and you can end up with a flash fire.

For my first starter strips I used the standard paint stir sticks from Home Depot but I felt bad about getting them that way and I needed a lot of them for each set of frames. So instead of being a sneak thief I have moved on to making my own wax strips. The stir sticks above are not the standard small stirrers. These are the larger ones and a couple will be all you need. I also use a cheap paint brush about the same width as the stirs. Don't waste money on an expensive paint brush. What ever wood you use, soak it in water for a while before starting and that will make the wax removal easier.

You will want to keep the work area covered. You will have many wax drops about the place and this way you can recover some of them also. I use two stir sticks at a time, painting the wax on both sides of each one. You will learn through practice how thick the wax needs to be. You can always re-melt your mistakes.

Once you have both sticks waxed you can use a putty knife to peal them off. Don't worry if they curl or bend, the wax will be very pliable when you use it.

In the middle of things one bee came by to check out the source of the good smells, melting wax does have a honey smell to it. I was surprised more of them did not stop by. My hives are on the back wall of the garage where I was working. (The mouse traps have not been used lately, my dogs take care of those issues)

Once you have the wax strips off the wood, cut it in half. If you can cut it smaller you will have more strips with less work but two's work for me. The extra bits can be use to fill in short strips. I like to have the wax strips to run the entire length of the frame channel if possible. Starting with two stir sticks and utilizing both sides you will end up with eight wax strips each time, almost enough for one super. Over time the stir sticks may get ragged from the putty knife, replace them. Any wood that is not treated will suffice, you do not have to use the stir sticks, just remember to wet it before applying the wax.

Insert the wax into the channel on the top board of the frame, then dribble hot wax the length of the strip. That will help seal the wood and bond the wax into the channel. I scrap off any extra blobs of wax but leave most of the clean up to the bees.

Ten frames all done in short order. You can see where I filled in this one with a bit of extra wax strip. Just make it fit and seal it in. After the frames are done, check them later. Occasionally the wax will not be sealed in well and can drop down. A little melted wax will fix it quickly.

Use clean wax if you can. Remember the melting wax can catch fire so keep an eye on it. Wet the wood first. Do not melt the wax in the kitchen. Follow those rules and you will be on your way and have happier bees.

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