how to

How to clean wireware


Whenever my queen excluders or screened covers get all blocked up with beeswax, I use a heat gun to melt it off. I used to try to scrape them clean but it took forever; the heat gun does a better job in a fraction of the time.

The heat gun I have is 1500 watts, has two settings, and costs about $20. I use it for lots of things around the apiary, but mostly for melting wax or propolis. In addition, it works for many odd jobs around the house. It’s one of those things I didn’t know I needed until after I brought it home.

You can get heat guns plain and inexpensive, or you can find spendy ones with all kinds of fun features you probably don’t need.

If you use it on excluders or wire covers, it helps to tip the pieces backwards at an angle to the ground. If you hold them vertically, the melted wax runs down along the wires, but if you hold them at an angle, or lay them flat, the wax drops off onto the ground.


A queen-excluder-blocked-with-beeswax. To clean wireware, use a heat gun.

A beeswax-encrusted queen excluder. Too much wax built-up will block all your bees, not just the queen.


When using a heat gun to clean wireware, tip the equipment away from you so the wax doesn’t run down the wires.

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  • I do the same.

    One problem. With SHB, an absolute pest here, the wire excluders offer “home” for the pests (have a look at the edges of the excluders – perfect gaps).

    The plastic ones are much more difficult to clean but are gap-free. Any ideas how to clean the plastic excluders??

    • Max,

      I wonder how much heat they can take. Have you tried? I have an old plastic one around here somewhere. If I can find it, it’ll test it.

      However, I’ve heard you can freeze them, and then bend them. The wax should pop out (or more likely the excluder will crack). We have some experimenting to do.

      • Rusty,

        I have tried the freezing – the plastic split @#$%^&
        I have try and heat it but the ones I have bend/warp at the temp in a hive. They need to find a more heat resistant plastic so we can immerse them in hot water.

    • Hi Max,

      I have some of those plastic queen excluders and I place them on a sheet of newspaper, then blast them with my hair dryer. Works a treat!

  • Wow, Great idea. Its amazing how beekeepers learn to think outside the box. But I’m still new so anything to me is a great idea.

  • Rusty,

    I used my paint-stripper gun on a bunch of really beat-up (but FREE) old deeps and frames when I started out beekeeping. I liked the way the heat melted old wax and propolis into a kind of “antique sealer” for the wood. There was some evidence of wax-moth, but the heat shriveled the old webs and most likely fried any eggs that were left.

    Glad you reminded me. One colony is devoting a lot of effort to propolizing over the hardware cloth on the ventilation opening of their inner cover. Anyone would think they don’t LIKE good air circulation!

    N. Kentucky

    • Actually, I think that’s where mine came from. I couldn’t remember the price but, like you say it was like $8.95 if you had the coupon (which they will give you).

  • Don’t forget wax is flammable. Melting wax fumes can be flammable. Heat guns etc are capable of starting fires so… Be careful! I’m just saying!

  • Anyone try using a heat gun to uncap frames of honey? I think I may have seen someone do that on youtube and was thinking about trying it this year.

    • Mark — I’ve been using a heat gun to uncap frames of honey for a couple years now and it works like a charm. Very clean. No left over wax to deal with. It might take a few extra spins in the extractor to get out all the honey, but it’s not a problem for me. I posted a demonstration video here:

    • Phillip of Mud Songs did a video that showed using a heat gun to uncap. I tried it, and wasn’t nearly as good at it as he was, but it did the job. You need to use a light touch so you don’t melt too much off the tops of the cells.

      We have used our heat gun to melt propolis scrapings in a pie tin, so we can paint it into minor gaps in a hive body. Some of our boxes developed unevenness at the corners as the wood shrank.

  • This observation is slightly off topic, please be patient with me. Due to the construction of the all metal wire excluders a small void exists between wires along the inside edge of the perimeter frame. This creates a space for small hive beetles to find peace and rest. I fill that void with wax or suitable material that will melt and fill that space.

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