What’s The Wax Worth?

Much has been made of the fact that it takes a lot of bee energy and honey to make wax. So much is made of this fact that it is often misstated the most valuable thing in the hive is the wax comb. This misunderstanding stems from the fact that it takes multiple pounds of honey to make a pound of wax. The conversion rate of


Photo #1 – Frame full of honey and 100% drawn comb. Weight: 4 lbs 13.2 oz.

pounds of honey made into to a pound of wax varies by study.

These studies have found the conversion rate to be somewhere between 6 and 8 pounds of honey to make a pound of wax.

When discussing how many pounds of honey is required to make a pound of wax, it is rarely considered and often overlooked how much honey a pound of wax supports. Or alternatively, how much wax is in a honey super.

 
To answer this question, I took simple observations of the weight of honey in a medium frame of honey and the weight of the wax that held it. In these observations a medium frame of comb containing 100% drawn comb and full of honey was weighed. After the honey in
that frame of comb was removed with a centrifugal extractor, the
comb was rinsed in cold water to dissolve residual honey. The frame
& empty comb was left to dry and then re-weighed. An exact duplicate
frame was weighed in order to determine the weight of only the wax
comb.

Photo #1 shows the frame full of comb and honey weighs 4 pounds 13
ounces.  
 


Photo #2 – Frame after honey is extracted. Weight: 8.2
oz

Photo #2 shows the frame with empty comb to weigh 8 ounces. The weight of the supported honey is determined by simple subtraction to be 4 pounds 5 ounces.

 


Photo #3 – Empty Frame. Weight 6.8 oz

Subtracting 6.8 oz. which is the weight of the frame shown in photo #3 from the weight of frame & comb of 8.2 oz. yields the weight of just the wax comb. A mere 1.4 ounces of wax.

That mere 1.4 ounces of wax comb held over 4 pounds 5 ounces of honey. The construction of the wax comb allows it to support an astounding 50 times its own weight in honey. While this 50X ratio is astounding, more discussion is needed to examine the value of that 1.4 ounces of wax compared to the value of the honey it contained. Using a conversion rate of 7 of honey to wax the conversion rates mentioned earlier, we find that 0.6 pounds of honey was converted into the 1.4 ounces of wax to hold the 4.3 pounds of honey.

Dividing the honey equivalent amount of wax into the amount of honey that it held yields 7.1 pounds of honey held by every 1 pound of honey converted into wax. That means that the value of the honey is actually over 7 times that of the wax that is drawn to contain it.

So how much Bee Energy in wax is in medium frame full of comb honey & how much goes into the honey?


Bee Energy of honey in a medium frame

  • If H is the energy to make a pound of honey, 7H is the energy to make a pound of wax.
  • Total wax in a medium frame is 0.0875 pounds
  • Total bee energy value of wax in a medium frame is 7H x 0.0875 pounds = 0.613H of bee energy .

Bee Energy of wax in a medium frame

  • If H is the energy to make a pound of honey, 1H is the energy to make a pound of honey.
  • Total honey in a medium frame is 4.5 pounds
  • Total value of bee energy of honey in a medium frame is 1H bee energy per pound x 4.5 pounds = 4.5H of bee energy per frame in honey .

Summary

  • Bee Energy in the wax of a medium frame is 0.613H Bee Energy in the honey of a medium frame is 4.5H

5 thoughts on “What’s The Wax Worth?”

  1. Good to know the weight of wax and this is one nagging fact that bugged me with the pound of wax studies. Often wondered how many frames a pound of wax would build. Now we can estimate nearly 11.5 frames. Great observation. However the reason I cite comb is so valuable is that the queen cannot lay, nor can the foragers store food without comb, so there can be no sustainable colony without the wax. And the fact that it takes a good number of bees (and of the proper wax producing optimal age) in a well fed state to quickly draw out a frame of comb. If you are lacking in bees the wax production rate is set back by quite a large measure. So the value is not just a $ factor but time and colony effectiveness as factors.

    1. If non-$ value is the measurement of worth, then maybe that analysis would need to consider the value of the bees to make the wax and the queen to make the bees.
      That analysis might go something like…..
      – The wax can’t be built unless there are worker bees, so maybe the worker bees are more valuable than the wax.
      – Even if there is wax, a colony is not sustainable without a queen. So the queen is more valuable than the wax.

    2. In production work, the wax is merely a tool for collecting honey, but in colony management, drawn comb (not “wax” per se) has value that is indeed difficult to measure. The ability of a young queen to quickly repopulate a colony that’s encountered some anomaly is truly valuable in the recovery of the colony. Drawn comb is particularly valuable in these cases. In fact, the act of processing drawn comb into just wax devalues the wax considerably. Wax, as a product of the hive, is barely worth dealing with at all.

      It’s folly, I think, to try and quantify one component of the super organism over the rest. The queen is more valuable than the wax, which is especially true if queens sold by weight. The wax has less value than honey. The workers have a different value, etc. All of that is silly to a beekeeper who knows that it takes a hard-working queen, sufficient numbers of workers to forage and tend the colony, drawn comb for a nursery, the capacity to build more comb for honey hoarding, and a beekeeper to intervene on their behalf when needed.

      But how to quantify the worth of drawn comb? Consider the value of “frames of bees”. Consider the absence of empty, drawn combs in nuc sales – that is, drawn comb may cause a nuc to progress too quickly. There’s lots of moving parts in a bee colony, and each is critically important all the time. In times of crisis, the value of each changes in relation to the crisis (drawn comb for recovery, beekeeper for mites, etc.). Plenty of interesting ways to look at this problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *