Solar wax extraction is popular with beekeepers as the energy source is free. Beekeepers are known for a prudence and frugality that borders on the miserly.
The solar powered wax extractor is a device for melting beeswax from old comb or part rendered blocks, that is powered by the sun, has no moving parts and can be left unattended.
There are many plans regularly published in beekeeping magazines. But before you make one… Consider how you will use it. My personal one is rather small as I was working around an existing metal reflector, but if I were making one now I would make it large enough to accept a stack of ten framed queen excluders.
Principle of the solar wax extractorAll it amounts to is… a simple box with a hinged lid that is double glazed. There is a collector for the melted wax and a metal tray that has an “8” mesh filter at the bottom end. The whole device is arranged so that the face of the double glazing is perpendicular to the angle of maximum insolation.
The device that I have is insulated by expanded polystyrene sheets on the outside and then the outside of the insulation is further covered by a skin of shiplap boards. Even with this extra insulation it only runs well on days with clear blue sky and summer sun. It will deal with 2 or so lbs of wax per day if the sun shines and it coped adequately with my needs when I only had a few hives. I currently use a steam extraction unit.
Greenhouse glass is recommended for the glazing and the uppermost sheet overlaps the reduced top edge of the bottom part of the frame to allow rainwater to run off without collecting or penetrating into the box.
The mesh along the bottom edge of the melting tray is intended to strain out any large particles of debris and stop them reaching the collecting tray. I found that a certain amount of particulate debris would still find it’s way into the collector and so I took some cotton twine and wove it in and out of the holes in the mesh. The fluffy nature of the twine retains the debris, but allows the liquid wax to flow unhindered. The large particles and cocoons remain on the metal tray and after draining under the influence of a hot sun for a day or so after the main melting the sludge is scraped out and I discard it. It can be used for garden compost or as a fire lighting medium. There is also a method (Slum Gum Press) by which the remaining wax can be removed. (When time allows I will detail it).
Ladies’ tights (panty hose) can be utilised in Solar extractors… The rough quality wax and old comb are stuffed into the legs and then tied off. The sausages so formed are put in the extractor and the fine mesh retains a good deal of the debris whilst the molten wax runs easily out.