Your Urban Homesteading Vocabulary Word of the Day: Slumgum


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.


Slumgum tips:

  • 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.

Leave a comment


  1. I read an article about using it for a fire starter. it works!
    You dry it in a dehydrator and then bag it up. i take a clump of it wrap it in paper towel, and then give it a splash of old cooking oil. works great.

  2. I’ll gladly buy some from you (if you’re willing to part with any) I tincture it for scent. We natural perfumers call it bee goo.

    • Interesting! Would never have guessed that it would be used in perfume. But it makes sense. Despite it’s ugly appearance it smells good.

  3. Thanks much for the suggestion of using slumgum for a bait hive. I’ve always saved a frame of brood comb for my swarm boxes, but I like the idea of using slumgum instead. It’s the only “product” from the hive where I couldn’t figure out a use. (I’d heard of using it for fire starters but don’t have a need for that.)

    I’ll be interested in hearing of your wax processing. I use a solar wax melting box and then filter the resulting wax through a knee-high nylon in a crock pot. I hope that filters it enough to make candles – another one of those projects I hope to try.


  4. I guess I need understand more – what do you mean by baiting empty hives with it?

    • I mean that you put some slumgum in an empty hive. Bees are attracted to the smell. Hopefully a hive will move in and you’ll have free bees.

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