Stories & Tales - Wax Dipping

Paraffin Wax Dipping You may recall from the November newsletter how the Interested Bystander had a close encounter with a number of bees - in excess of twenty-four in fact. At one third of a teaspoon per bee that’s over eight teaspoons of honey gone west. A sinful waste!

Paraffin Wax Dipping

You may recall from the November newsletter how the Interested Bystander had a close encounter with a number of bees - in excess of twenty-four in fact. At one third of a teaspoon per bee that’s over eight teaspoons of honey gone west. A sinful waste!

In fact, that rather large number of stings in such close proximity resulted in one very fat leg and, 16 hours later, a couple of fainting fits and a ride in an ambulance to the Hutt Hospital with a stay in their Observation Unit. The subsequent wasted day was followed by the suggestion from numerous well-meaning neighbours that ‘now might be the time to pack in the bees’. Fortunately ‘He Indoors’ has stated that he likes honey, so the suggestion was overruled. However, the mention by a local GP that an Adrenalin Kit might be in order was taken on board. Occasionally the thought occurs that a pot of supermarket honey would be a lot cheaper - but nowhere near as exciting!

Amongst all this huha, the Interested Bystander decided that two hives could be twice as much fun as one, and arranged to purchase more woodware. A mention by Frank Lindsay that he was about to do some paraffin wax dipping of hive boxes and componentry, and the Interested Bystander decided to further her bee keeping education.

Up to Whiteman’s Valley where Richard Hatfield has something very much like an old copper set up in his backyard. The setting is idyllic - beech forest, kune kune pigs, free range chooks, the odd inquisitive bee and a very friendly fluffy cat with a kink at the end of an extra long tail - something to do with Frank parking his truck on it I understand.

When we arrived Frank was busy feeding the fire under the copper with old wax, past-use-by-date frames and anything else burnable. The copper is a large square iron box set in a concrete surround, big enough to take four and a half boxes - four stacked and one down the middle, plus a few frames or feeders around the outside, the whole immersed in boiling paraffin wax. The optimum temperature is around 135-140oC, and it usually takes about two hours to bring the wax to that temp, hence an early start for the stoker. Boxes are dipped for five minutes, though suspect AFB boxes are dipped for at least 10 minutes at 165oC.

If the stoker gets over-zealous the temperature can climb to the high 170’s, at which time funny things can happen, most of them to Frank Lindsay, who starts hopping around looking very anxious. At those temperatures items are inserted and removed very carefully - the set up looks like a large chip fryer, and a splash from the wax can give a nasty burn, hence all handling is done with leather gloves. (Note: If ever you are invited to help, take your own gloves. The pair Frank keeps for visitors have a large hole in the palm!).

The woodware is removed using a couple of hooks fashioned from No 8 fencing wire, flimsy at best and you are NOT popular if you drop the hooks into the wax more than once! (Take note Frank – in the Book it says "a pair of Tongs is considered essential!")

After dipping, the boxes are placed on a table where Frank has a compressor set up for spraypainting. This year’s colours are pink and blue (Rampant Sexism!), and it doesn’t pay to stand within 10 metres of Frank and the spray gun, unless you want to spend the next few days picking paint off your sunglasses. Drying is almost immediate, although the wood retains the heat for quite some time. The Interested Bystander saw unpainted boxes which were last dipped 10 years ago, and which still looked fairly sound.

For those who might be hesitant to use Metalex or other fungicides as a wood preservative on their hive parts, wax dipping offers a ‘green’ alternative. Even better is the news that a ‘green’ wood preservative, which can be brushed on, is being sourced by a firm in Motueka. This would certainly make the protection of hive parts a much simpler and user-friendly affair.

A most educational and enjoyable day - thank you Frank and Mary Ann.