The traditional methods of extracting honey and beeswax are unsuitable and unhygienic. Extraction of honey by squeezing with the hand seems to be the quickest method for the average honey-tapper, who cannot afford a centrifugal honey extractor or solar wax-melter.
However, the hand contaminates the honey and unripe honey ferments within a few days after an extraction. Neem and coconut honey are light in consistency and ferment more quickly than honey produced from other plants.
The combs, including brood, unripe and capped honeycombs, are collected at night. They are all stacked on a wire mesh and a container is put underneath the pile of combs. The fire begins to consume the combs, and honey and wax trickle down into the container until all combs are completely consumed. The material collected is left untouched until the next morning where beeswax which has hardened at the top of the honey is removed, and the honey is poured into bottles of about one kilogram.
The disadvantage here is that honey loses nutritional value and quality when exposed to high temperatures. In addition, the smoky fire employed is full of ashes, charcoal, dust, and gravel which contaminate the honey. Such honey tastes bitter and smoky. The brood combs also add water to the honey, and such honey cannot be stored for long nor enter international markets.
This is a simple device and can be made by local craftsmen. The melter is made of wood, lined with a galvanized metal plate and has a glass or clear plastic cover. The base is airtight. The melter can be painted black to absorb more heat. On a sunny day, the wax extractor is capable of generating a temperature of 61°C, enough to melt down a bee comb so that both honey and beeswax flow into a container inside the box.
Hot Bath Method
In the absence of a wax-melter, the hot-water bath process is now adopted by some beekeepers may be adopted. This is the quickest method of obtaining the wax, but it can only be employed after the combs have been crushed and the honey removed. Few equipments are required for same:
- A cooking pot
- Sackcloth or a sack (preferably jute)
- String or twine (2-3 meters long)
- A stick or a discarded top-bar
- A large spoon or ladle
- A large spoon or ladle
- Put water (depending on a number of bee combs) into the cooking pot and heat over a fire.
- Wash crushed bee combs to remove dirt and honey and place in the sack.
- Make a good package by tightening the string around the sack.
- By now the water should be quite warm. Put the package into the pot and use the stick to push it down to the bottom.
- When it reaches a temperature of about 59°C, the wax begins to melt and a waxy scum begins to form on top of the water.
- Use the stick to press the package. More wax will float to the top of the Water.
- Use the ladle to skim off the melted wax and pour it into a mold. Continue this process until wax no longer rises to the surface
This method, suggested by a beekeeper from Accra, Ghana, is published here for its simplicity, cheapness and efficiency. The method works on the same principle as the solar wax melter, employing the sun's heat to melt down the combs. Some equipments required are:
- A large container
- A sheet of nylon mosquito mesh
- A strong nylon cord and a needle
- A plastic or polyethylene cover
- Fasten the mosquito mesh over the container with the nylon cord.
- Place honeycombs on the wire mesh so that honey can trickle into the container.
- Cover the honeycombs and container with plastic and secure it fast to the container with another cord.
- Leave the honey and container in the sun. Both honey and wax will seep down into the container. The vex will harden above the honey and can be removed when the money cools down to be decanted and bottled.
Beeswax collected should be molded in the following manner:
- Use a container with a rounded bottom and a mouth wider than the bottom with a very smooth inner surface. Many plastic containers are suitable.
- Place a small quantity of water (about a tablespoonful) in a cooking pot and put it on the fire. Do not melt beeswax in a dry container. It should not be exposed to fire because it burns easily and can be damaged by too much heat. Melt beeswax and all bee combs outdoors.
- Pour melted beeswax into the mold and place in a cool, dry place to cool.
- Remove the cakes of beeswax the next morning.
- The dark material collected at the bottom can be removed with a knife and can be sold to a shoemaker. The clean raw beeswax is ready for the market.