The very first time in which Basti opened a hive in front of me and I saw all those bees working on the honeycomb, I was very impressed. If anybody had told me only one year before ‘Cri, one day you’ll be in a apiary in front of sooo many flying bees!’, I would have never believed it. I would have thought that if anything like this had happened, I would most probably just run away. And instead no, I was there, observing enchanted. Maybe wax and honey perfume make any fear disappearing? It could be! In any way, I was there and this is fact, and you know what? I also enjoyed much to be there…it was almost relaxing!
‘I’ve a task for you!’
‘For me? What what what?’
‘Put the wax sheets to the frames!’
‘We need new ones for the upcoming spring…if you want to help!’
‘Of course I do, but I did not understand…Wax sheet? The wax that is in the frames is not from the bees??’
‘Mmmh no, not all at least! Don’t worry, it’s easy! Later I’ll explain you everything!’
You too were not aware at all about this like me? I can understand…What is this wax sheet? Wax is involved for sure, but what’s it? What has to be prepared? To answer to all these doubts and find out more about this beekeeping point, keep on reading 🙂
Wax sheet what??
Yep, when a beekeeper puts the frames into the hive, these have generally a wax sheet on, that is a sheet made with beewax. On the sheet many hexagonal cells are printed, right like those that bees build. But why do we put this wax sheet? Bees are not able alone? Of course, but if bees follow too much their artistic inspiration, they would prepare a honeycomb that would make beekeepers’s life much more complicated. To avoid this, we use this trick. If you don’t implement this, you risk to damage bees, brood and wax everytime you open for an inspection. In the end it’s like a way to guide them: you put this wax sheet and they build their cells, by following the scheme.
Who invented it? From where does this all come from?
Once upon a time, some centuries ago, it existed a world in which beekeepers knew only a way to harvest honey: killing bees. Bees were killed at the end of the season to take their honey. Luckily, during the Enlightenment Age, they decided to find a solution. How did they put an end to this? Beekeepers started to test new kinds of hives and to try to improve them more and more. It is no coincidence, that right in this period we have the studies from Langstroth and Dadant, whose hives we spoke about here https://www.gaeblini.com/en/2021/03/28/which-hive-to-choose-and-according-to-what/ .
The Modern hive
Between 18th and 19th century Modern hives were invented at last! These were the hives that allow beekeepers to get the honey without killing the bees, but not only. They also allow a control on the natural swarming for example, and so handling the apiary more efficiently.
With the Modern hive, beekeepers introduced officially concepts such as the ‘bee space’ and the frames (and soon we’ll speak about the wax sheet too, don’t worry!). The bee space is the precise space for bee passage among the different honeycombs in the hive. It is big enough to let the bees pass, but neither too big because otherwise the hardworking bees wouldn’t be happy till it’s not closed. If closed, this would be a issue for the beekeeper: for example, if the bees close the space between the honeycomb and the hive because it’s too big, the beekeeper will struggle to take out the honeycomb for checking it. With the bee space the problem is sorted out because bees – they are not stupid at all – know exactly that that is the right space for their passage and they will keep it free and untouched.
So…the wax sheet?
In mid-1800 in Germany they invented the wax sheet. It’s a sheet made with wax, where hexagonal cells will be stamped afterwards. Today you can either produce them by yourself with some specific tools or you can simply buy them. Nevertheless, be careful with this second option: if you decide to buy them, you must rely only on a trustworthy supplier. It is worth it to spend a bit more and make sure of chemicals absence. Don’t forget this because then chemicals will go into the hive and, of course, in honey too. As far as we are concerned, we always buy wax sheets at a very professional and reliable provider. However, in the future we would like to produce them on our own (also because they are pretty expensive and if you have enough wax to get them by yourself, this is more convenient).
But this wax sheet…how can I put it into the frame??
And here come I eheh 🙂 This is what Basti was asking me to do. It may seem those things that nobody wants to do and you leave it to the trainee, but in any case it’s essential to have it ready for when the nice season starts. If you want, it can be one of those activities that you can take care of during winter. In the end, it’s very simple – if I manage, anyone can manage!
Let’s start from the ‘ingredients‘:
- The frames: they have a metal wire – don’t forget this detail!
- Wax sheets previously bought (as already told, you can also produce them by yourself)
- a small transformer
- a wooden base
The metal wire will heat up and the wax will melt a bit, so as let the wax sheet stuck to the frame.
ET VOILÁ! LES JEUX SONT FAITS!
Now tell us…Did you know about this wax sheet? Did you know that, hence, honeycombs often start from a already printed wax base?
If you think this article was interesting, feel free to share it! 🙂
43 thoughts on “The wax sheet: what’s this? Why to use it?”
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