Some beekeeping jobs result in garbage bags full of dark, dirty comb. Such was the case, this past week, when I cleaned out an acquaintance’s hive that had absconded. In the course of processing that comb into wax I came across a word I’d never seen before: “slumgum.” Slumgum is the dark brown sludge made of propolis, larvae parts and dirt that you’re left with once you filter out the wax.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, we can thank my fellow Californians for this nineteenth century neologism. The OED cites the 1890 classic, Gleanings of Bee Culture, as the earliest occurrence of the word “slumgum,”
1890 Gleanings Bee Culture XVIII. 704/2 The cappings are laid on this perforated tin, and, when they melt, the wax and honey run through into the chamber below, leaving what Californians call the ‘slumgum’ on the tin above.
- Don’t throw out the slumgum. You can bait your empty hives with it. Bees love the smell of slumgum.
- Don’t leave your slumgum outside like I did. It turns out that urban night critters such as skunks and raccoons also love slumgum. Some mammal dragged mine off and ate it!
- Side note: check your library’s online digital resources. The Los Angeles Public Library offers the Oxford English Dictionary, and many more online reference resources, for free to anyone with a LA library card.
Stay tuned for a longer post on beeswax processing in the next month.