How (well) do bees recycle wax?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
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    806

    Default How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    Three days ago I hived a colony from a cutout that I didn't do. It was an exposed hive, built on some small branches of a tree. The beek who did the original cutout just clipped the branch and put the whole mess, upside down, into a plastic tote with a lid and a screen.

    It was a mess, and there was about an inch of dead, soaked bees and honey in the bottom of the tote.

    But I was able to put comb into about 8 deep frames, and I put an empty, drawn medium on top of that. Then I put a bunch of the scrap comb and honey on top of the medium frames, on a big, flat paving stone, and put a medium box around that to shield it from robbers.

    3 days later they've cleaned off that scrap comb pretty well. Should I leave that wax in there for them to use as building material? The comb that I framed up will need a lot of repair and attachment.

    Under what conditions will bees recycle scrap comb?
    Painted Peacock Manor, Palos Verdes, CA

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,162

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    In my experience, they don't re-use much wax during periods when they are making new wax. They use small quantities at other times, at least it gets removed from where I leave it on re-cycled plastic microwaveable dinner trays which are my preferred container for wax scraps left in the hive. What they do seem to re-use is scraped-off bits of propolis. I suspect air temperature within the colony is a big factor.

    Often the wax scraps, if there is more than small amount, get repurposed in situ as comb, which if there is a lot and it's in an awkward place can make problems on the next inspections. If they've cleaned it off, I would remove it and render it and give it back to them on extra-waxed foundation if you are sure that it poses no risk of disease transmission. (My EFB travails this year have made me very skittish about swarms, and certainly about bringing in combs from away. I wouldn't do either one, any more.)


    Nancy

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
    Posts
    806

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    It's their own scrap comb, from the cutout.

    Due to its construction on the branches, there weren't many large flat sheets for banding into frames, so there were a lot of little crooked bits left over.

    So if it's diseased in any way, they've already got it.
    Painted Peacock Manor, Palos Verdes, CA

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Weston, ME
    Posts
    974

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    I doubt they re-use wax in enough of a quantity to bother with. Dye it and see if it shows up anywhere.
    From what I know, the reusing is more like minor stuff - not full blown building.

    The queen survive that mess - or was she one of those in the bottom of the tote?
    - - Michael Joel
    1 John 3:3-4, Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:18, James 2:17-20, 1 John 5:2-3

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Palos Verdes, CA, USA
    Posts
    806

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    Dunno about the queen yet. I'll find out on Saturday. I didn't want to mess with them at all during the first week after hiving.

    I lifted the lid, just to see how they were doing on the scrap comb, and they seemed pretty calm. So I'm hopeful.
    Painted Peacock Manor, Palos Verdes, CA

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
    Posts
    2,102

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    Undrawn foundation gets chewed out as capping wax in the end -of-summer dearth. Any massive remelted block of wax is untouched. In the dearth, robber bees will shred wax to dust (and ignore the piles of it). I've seen bees "snow plowing" through big pile of robber dust, completely ignoring the wax. Autumn bees readily harvest propolis from old comb and frames, and leave the wax alone -- they are only interested in the gluey mix.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Haralson, Georgia, USA
    Posts
    350

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    I use the scraped off wax to rub an extra coating of wax onto my plastic foundation. My bees seem to appreciate it but only when they are in a wax drawing mood.
    Working to propagate my survivors and staying treatment free

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
    Posts
    430

    Default Re: How (well) do bees recycle wax?

    JWC, So that is where the foundation wax went. Big holes this summer, no new comb. Just figured out the propolis thing. Removed a propolized QE and saw the bees working it for a week afrerwards. Noticed that most of the propolis was gone after the week.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

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