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Wax Foundation -brittle with age


#1

I have noticed that wax foundation I put in some frames last year (and didn’t use in the hive) has now become quite brittle.
I found the same thing happened some years ago to new foundation I fitted but didn’t use for a few years - so it wasn’t just peculiar to the wax from last year. Has anyone else experienced this and does anyone know why it happens?


#2

I’ve had the same, in similar circumstances. I also noticed that when I came to melt down the old & very dark brood comb from the cutout i did last Summer that it seemed dryer & a more friable in texture. Perhaps it loses moisture over time?


#3

If you melt wax and dip a brine soaked board in it you can make a sheet of plain wax. This wax will be very brittle and tough. If you run it through a press (like to make it into foundation) it will squish it and it will become soft and pliable. Then if you wait long enough it gets tough and hard again. It has to do with the structure at a low level. The wax breaks up into little plates that slide. When you first squeeze it these slip apart from each other. As it sets they form small bonds again. What I really find mysterious is how an old comb can get papery. Almost like it dried out. I suspect it does. I suspect there is some moisture in the wax that dries, but that wouldn’t explain why I can melt that papery comb and get soft oily wax again without adding anything…


#4

Very fascinating, thanks @Michael_Bush and @Kirsten_Redlich. On another recent topic, @BeeShack observed, " We played around with the comb and found that when washed in water it is behaved like a sponge. Amazing - i am not quite sure why it does that".
I am guessing that perhaps water does somehow get between those plates perhaps- yet interestingly, beeswax is said to be impervious.


#5

Yes Dan, that sounds pretty normal from my experience.


#6

I thought -and this is only a guess- that it might have something to do with the shape of the comb and surface tension. Any thoughts.


#7

@BeeShack
I wouldn’t discount any theory and I’m not sure what others think… but I believe Michael Bush has it with the action and structures at a microscopic level within the wax.