Paraffin Wax Dipping—Does It Work?
A good friend of mine and an excellent beekeeper was showing me his stacks of nuc hives ready to be put in the field for queen rearing and splits. I asked him how old they were as they were starting to look a bit worse for wear and he said they were three to five years old. We went up to some and the landing boards were rotten through and fell apart in his hand. He was surprised as he said they were wax dipped
I had noticed at another visit that he had his men wax dipping hive boxes. You see, the men dipping were doing just that, dipping. The wood components were in the wax for a matter of seconds. In effect, they were getting a thin surface coating of wax. There was no penetration at all. Hence, the wood of the boxes would let in fungi and moisture once the paraffin coating got damaged. The paraffin was no more effective than a simple coating of paint and maybe less so.
Paraffin wax dipping of wood hive components does have the potential to prevent rot caused by fungi. Fungi need moisture, and the objective of paraffin dipping is to drive out all the air and moisture in the wood and replace it with paraffin wax.
That is the key! The wood must stay in the vat of hot wax until the wood is as hot as the wax through and through. The moisture is boiled out of the wood and wax sucked in to replace it.
There has been some increase in the advertising of paraffin dipping of bee boxes for a fee as a means of preserving the woodware. However, I think beekeepers that have others do their dipping for them should be wary. If the company selling you paraffin dipped boxes can’t prove that the wood has been immersed in wax at 160 C for at least 10 minutes the paraffin wax has not fully replaced the moisture and air in the wood.
Let’s do some arithmetic! If the box must stay immersed for 10 minutes, and the vat can fit just one box at a time, if everything goes perfectly 6 boxes can be done in an hour. That is 48 boxes in an 8 hour work day! That’s it! Let’s say a worker gets paid $20/hour divided by 6 boxes per hour, the cost of labour alone is $3.33 per box. Add in the paraffin wax and the gas or electricity and the simple cost to properly dip a box is probably $5/box or more. That assumes the dipper can be run by just one worker. Probably the Health and Safety rules would require at least two workers because of the hazardous nature of paraffin dipping. Now the company could have a huge vat that you pushed boxes through, let’s say it would hold 10 boxes. That way you could put one box in a minute and by the time it reached the other end, it would have been immersed for 10 minutes. Okay, so then they could do 480 boxes a day, but they definitely would need at least two workers, so you might get the cost of labour down to $0.67/box, plus again the cost of wax and energy taking the cost to about $2 to $2.50/box. Then profit margin added on, let’s say $1.50/box, you should be looking at $4/box at least for an effective paraffin dipping fee. And that doesn’t include painting, which if you want it done must be done when the paraffin is hot. So if you are paying less than $6/dipped and painted box, I would suspect the job isn’t being done right.
So ask the supplier the question, “How long is the box immersed in the hot wax?” then close your mouth and wait for the answer. If they tell you, “10 minutes”, then ask the next question, “How many boxes can you dip per day?” If they start telling you hundreds, even thousands, then ask them if you can see their dipping vat, because if it isn’t huge, they are telling porkies!