I just wanted to write a little bit about preserving wooden-ware. For me one of the worst things I can bring myself to do is to buy replacement wooden-ware. Let's face it bee hive parts are expensive no matter how you look at it. Some beekeepers build their own; it's a huge investment in time, materials and equipment. I and many others like to buy equipment unassembled, put it together myself and finish it myself. I would prefer to buy my wooden-ware once and any additional purchases are to support our growing apiary.
This is where wax dipping of wooden-ware comes in. For the past few years I have been priming and painting all of my wooden-ware. I even go to the trouble of sealing every exposed end and edge with latex caulk. Wow, those hives look fantastic when you put them out there in the bee yard! The following spring, well, not so much, let alone two or three springs! I also have an aversion to pulling all of the frames out of a hive so I can pressure wash and repaint. I don't think it makes the bees or I very happy to be accosted in such a way. For the past few years I have been doing (way too much) research on paraffin dipping of wooden-ware. Some of the best points that I have learned is that some keepers have dipped their hives back in the late 90's and they are still going strong, you even hear of equipment older than that still doing well. In a worst case scenario when you have a die-out (yes, it happens to everyone) you get an opportunity to re-dip a hive. On the bright side of that, you toss it in with your new hardware, very little scraping and no sanding of old paint. One of the other most important points is that a hive "deep fried" in paraffin wax is sterilized. If by some chance that die-out was caused by some virus or bacteria the heat will kill most things and what doesn't die will be encapsulated in the wax within the wood.
The process; Wax dipping is performed by heating a mixture of paraffin wax and rosin or micro-crystalline wax heated to 150-160 degrees Celsius (302-320 deg. F). The wooden-ware is then fully immersed in the wax for about 10 minutes. This allows for the wax to permeate the wood and displace all of the moisture. Hives can be painted after dipping as long as the wood is still hot, it will absorb the paint along with the wax left on the surface. If they are left natural they will not be "waxy" or sticky but they will repel water.
Most times someone who is dipping wooden-ware will wait until there is enough work to keep the process running for a few hours or even days. Usually it takes nearly a day to bring six or eight hundred pounds of wax up to temperature. Our tank holds about 800 lbs of wax and takes about four hours to bring up to temperature. So, if you're going to get this done, make sure you plan ahead and stay in contact with the folks doing the dipping. If you miss an opportunity it may mean waiting for another few weeks until we have enough wooden-ware stacked up to make it worthwhile.
We should start our first run sometime in late January and knock out all of the wooden-ware ordered over the winter. Follow up sessions will be as the demand requires and weather permits. We encourage everyone who is considering purchasing wax dipped wooden-ware to get their orders in as early as possible. We want to avoid a backlog during the January schedule due to getting everything assembled and ready for the dipping process. Winter is the time for building equipment and getting ready for when spring arrives.
Cost, Yep this is always the big question. First let me tell you a little about the equipment and the materials. For many folks that have a few hives or even a few dozen hives the required equipment will discourage you from wax dipping. The process is also inherently dangerous. The wax is heated well above its flash point for ignition (burning) and safety measures are a must. (This is probably the place were I should say "Please don't try this at home")
Back to equipment, we have a custom built stainless steel tank that holds 800+ pounds of wax. The tank has a weighted lid that is also a fire suppressor. Our method of heating the wax is by propane gas burners under the tank. This setup has proven the most economical design for us.
After calculating gas consumption for warm-up and process then adding in wax, labor and other supplies, it is easy to see that the pricing of wax dipped equipment is a bit higher than standard equipment. In the long run the best value is to double or triple the life of your equipment.
Talk to us about wax dipping your equipment. If you build it yourself or have it bring it by, and of course if you are buying new we would be happy to supply you with high quality wax dipped equipment.
For more information about wax dipped beehives and Woodenware in Tappahannock contact us at HiveFive Apiary and Bee Supply.
Please ask for a quote for quantity discounts.