Comb Honey Production
By Carol Mark
Comb honey production for some is an art and others a pursuit for perfection. As a small beekeeper I try to make it fun, and am I in awe by what our fuzzy friends are able to accomplish given the ups and downs of Kentucky weather!
That said, my approach in reviewing comb honey will be somewhat in reverse, as I share how to aim at the end result by starting there first, with the customer. I want them to LOVE my product so I make sure I fill their needs. Clean and neat; NOTHING STICKY, sticky means ants. Make it look really delicious.
Phase One, Getting the Bees to Produce
[caption id="attachment_180" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Hives that look like this, booming with residents, are my pick to use for my comb."]
In considering comb honey production, the first concern is, do I have my hive(s) ready to make comb? Comb production requires lots of young bees who have functioning wax glands. Older bees in the hive cannot perform the act of making wax efficiently, so in early Spring check those hives that are going to be potential comb-building hives.
Now one could say go feed the hives for artificial nectar flow stimulation, and yes, you can.
Sometimes you do not get the desired results. I sure did hate that all that comb was lost (right), but those things happen.
This is my booming hive (lower right) and I have several others like it to make comb. I try my best in mid-April to find the queen and move her to a nuc. This hive had a few queen cells, which I left, lots of workers, and a nectar flow taking off. That nectar flow is the very important ingredient in the comb making recipe. Moving the queen means no swarming and all attention is making the new queen cells and what to do with those wax glands and where to put it—Build comb!
I put a comb super on top and let them work out their loss of the queen on white wax production. The sign of white wax is the indication that time is right for comb. You can see it on the tops of frames between supers and these are indications for additional supers to be added.
Phase Two, Managing Their Production
The best even comb honey is achieved by paying attention to those supers and moving the frames from the center to edges for even comb production throughout the super.
Phase Three, Product Preparation
I bring the supers into the honey house, wrap them in plastic sacks and freeze them. This is a super of cut comb that has been frozen and thawed. The super must be frozen and thawed twice to kill wax moths. Once doesn’t work, trust me!
After that process of freeze and thaw, I open up the sack, let them thaw, and turn on the dehumidifier to draw out the moisture. I keep a very dry kitchen.
The process then goes like this:
Step 5: Label and sell!
Ross Rounds and Basswood Boxes are other comb products that require more specialized equipment, but the process of getting the bees to make comb is the same: lots of nectar in an almost swarm-crowded hive condition. I find removing the queen helps a lot to control the swarm. Best of Luck!