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10 Things to Do with Old Brood Comb

Old black brood comb should be cycled out of your hive over time.  How can it be used?

Some beekeepers melt the old brood comb down to make candles or use it to paint on the wax starter strips for foundationless frames. Melted-down old brood comb can be used to feed wooden furniture and leather, even on shoes.  Blacksmiths like to use dark old brood comb wax to seal and protect wrought iron pieces.  Old brood comb can also be used in candle making, bullet lube, bowstring wax, composting, and swarm traps.

Are you feeling bad about throwing away the old dark brood comb? Here we explain how it can be used.

What is Old Brood Comb?

The beeswax structure of cells where the queen bee lays her eggs is called a brood comb.  It is the part of the beehive where the colony raises the new brood.  You can find the brood comb mostly in the lower part of the beehive.

Freshly created beeswax comb will look white at first.  After the first generation of bee’s hatch from the brood comb, it will become darker in color.  The brood comb that is used for generations of bee brood becomes darker until it almost turns black.  The cocoon sticks to the walls of the cell without being removed.  The color change is due to the cocoon that remains inside the cell, along with soil and pollen particles tracked in by the bees over the years.

The cell diameter of old, black, heavy brood comb shrinks from an accumulation of cocoon silk and fecal matter left behind by each emerging bee. 

Old brood comb should be replaced over time.  Some beekeepers give it two years in the brood chamber, and others give it five years.  The built-up cocoons from all the bees make the cells smaller and carry more disease and chemicals over time. 

10 Things You Can Do with Old Brood Comb

1. Melt the brood comb down

Melting old brood comb down the same way you do with the beeswax you get from harvesting honey doesn’t work well.  The task of rendering the wax from the brood comb is an arduous one. Additional elements need to be filtered out before the wax itself can be cleaned. It is better to use a solar wax melter to melt down an old brood comb.

With a solar wax melter, your wax will be melted and turned into yellow wax again in a few hours.  Solar wax melter works well to separate the pupal cocoons, gunk, and debris from the wax while leaving you with clean, almost yellow wax again.

The only time a solar wax melter doesn’t work well is if you live in an area that gets little sunlight. The brood comb takes a while to melt. The solar wax melter needs sunlight and the sun to last for four continuous hours to heat the solar melter to the temperature required to melt the wax. Beeswax melts at about 64C (147F).

Beeswax is precious; each pound of bee’s wax costs the bees about six to eight pounds of honey used as energy to fuel their metabolisms to make wax and draw out the combs. 

2. Sell the wax to Blacksmith’s

You could sell the old melted-down brood comb wax to blacksmiths.  Blacksmiths use it to protect and seal wrought iron pieces. While the metal is still hot, a layer of beeswax is applied and brushed over the metal. 

3. Reload wax bullets

Melted-down brood comb wax can be sold to rifle enthusiasts that use it to make wax bullets.  As long as the brood comb wax is free of dirt, the slugs can be re-melted and used again.  An additional benefit of using old brood comb wax bullets is their use with nervous beginners about the recoil and noise involved in shooting.  Wax bullets are a cheap, safe alternative to full-powered ammunition. 

4. Candle making

Beeswax has been used to make candles for centuries.  Before molding the wax into candles, the biggest thing to keep in mind is to purify the wax as much as possible. The highest quality candles are made with purified wax.

5. Wood furniture polish and sealant

The biggest reason to render old brood comb into wax is making safe furniture polish. Using old brood comb wax to feed your wooden furniture instead of synthetic chemical-based furniture polish has health benefits.  The synthetic furniture polish sometimes causes vomiting, dizziness, and other symptoms when ingested or coming into contact with your skin.

Furniture polish poisoning symptoms of furniture polish can be found on the US National Library of Medicine Website.  When using a natural wax recipe, you avoid any issues with using synthetic chemicals.  With kids and pets, this can be a huge advantage.

6. Leather shoe polish

There are homemade recipes for a leather shoe polish that use old brood comb wax available online.Using melted-down brood comb wax on an old pair of leather shoes or boots will rejuvenate that pair of shoes to almost new.  The recipe is easy to make.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ½ cup of food-grade linseed (flaxseed) oil
  • 1 tablespoon of beeswax. Place a saucepan over a pot of boiling water and melt everything together in a bowl.  As soon as it is melted and combined, pour the polish into a glass jar. 

7. Beeswax Soap

Brood comb wax can be used to make soap.  When you add beeswax to your soap recipe will make the soap harder.  Add a bit of honey, and the lather will increase along with the moisturizing benefits.  

8. Firestarter

For the camping enthusiast, beeswax fire starters are a must. A simple beeswax fire starter comes in handy to start a fire at night when out camping.  Beeswax fire starters are very easy to make.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Melted down brood comb beeswax
  • Old egg carton
  • Lightweight material like sawdust, coffee chaff, chopped straw, or shredded newspaper

Make in four easy steps

  1. Melt the wax. Do not overheat the wax, or it will burn.
  2. Fill the bottom part of the egg carton with the lightweight material.
  3. Carefully pour the melted wax over the material and gently press down with an old spoon.
  4. Add more lightweight material and repeat. Do not overfill with wax; wait until the material absorbs all the wax.  Keep doing this until you cannot compress any further and each hollow is filled.

9. Lubricants

For thousands of years, beeswax was used as a lubricant.  The chemical structure and versatility of beeswax make it an ideal lubricant.  Here are few ideas for using old brood comb beeswax that works:

  • Do you struggle with a stuck drawer in your wooden dresser?  Take the drawer out rub the beeswax along all of the track on the inside of the dresser drawer. This makes the drawer easier to slide out, and the wax seals the wood from absorbing more moisture.  Wax protects the wood from deterioration.
  • Are you struggling with a zipper that constantly gets stuck?   Take the old brood comb beeswax bar and rub it along both sides of your zipper.  This is an easy and simple way to deal with a zipper that is getting a little old.
  • Try using beeswax to lubricate instrument valves.
  • Do you struggle with a screw that won’t go in?  Coat the screw with melted wax or just rub some wax along the threads and give it a turn. 
  • Use beeswax to polish sealed concrete or granite countertops for a natural shine and lasting protection.  Run melted wax onto the countertop and let it cool, and then polish with a cloth.

There are many ways that beeswax can be used to lubricate everything.  However, don’t forget wax is flammable.

10. Anti-rust

Coat your hive tool in beeswax to keep it from rusting and oxidizing.  Old brood comb wax help prevents rust on metal objects, coat items like shovels and hand tools with a layer of beeswax to prevent rust.  When you rub the wax on screws and nails, it keeps them from rusting. Beeswax is also used to stop copper from tarnishing. An easy mixture to make yourself is to melt ⅓ pound of beeswax with 32 ounces of turpentine, brush the mixture onto the copper, and buff with a towel.  A mixture of linseed oil, beeswax, and mineral spirits prevents rust on steel tools. This mixture works great to seal wood handles on axes or shovels too. 

Conclusion

Removing old brood comb from your hives is vital for a healthy hive.  Beekeepers reporting problems like premature queen failure, sick brood, or colony losses, one of the first questions that should be asked is; How old is the brood comb?  Old dark brood comb should be taken out of the hive every two to three years.  Most beekeepers don’t like discarding the old brood comb as wax in any form is precious.  There are many uses for this lovely wax when melting and filtering the old brood comb with a solar wax melter.

Sources

Frank Pearmain

As a homesteader, survivalist, and previously a safari guide in Africa, I have extensive bush and wilderness experience. I am passionate about living a self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle and continuously learn and strive toward that goal!

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