Midnite Bee-Beekeeper's: Tips
Cut Comb Honey
saw a renaissance of producing section (comb) honey. The eminent
Russian beekeeper, Peter Prokopovitch, was the first to produce
this kind of honey over 160 years ago. Section (comb) honey
was popular and shipped regularly in railroad car lots in
the early 1900's -- acknowledged leaders in the field
at that time were Dr. C. C. Miller and G. F. Demuth. The Killion
family in Illinois is one of the few remaining contemporary
producers of this specialized product. Most recently, introduction
of the plastic circular section has promoted renewed interest
in comb honey.
Section (comb) honey is the purest product available from
the bees. It's virtually untouched by human hands or man-made
equipment. The honey remains in the comb until removed by
the consumer. In this era of over-processed foods, it's
one of the most "organic" treats available to consumers
and demands a premium price.
Two types of section (comb) honey can be found -- circular
and square. The square sections are usually made from the
finest basswood, whereas the circular ones are constructed
of plastic. The virtues of each type are well-known -- as
well as their limitations. It's generally agreed that
circular plastic sections are easier to produce because the
bees fill them more uniformly than the traditional square
A lot of information exists on preparing wooden and plastic
sections for the colony. Like with so many things in the art
of beekeeping, however, recommended procedures to manage a
colony for comb honey production are obscure or incomplete.
Glancing at several different methods leads one to the "sneaking
suspicion" that the bees will produce section (comb)
honey no matter what system is used -- if the conditions are
Therefore, it's important to understand certain principles
and to work out the details of management which will adhere
to these. MAXIM: Strong colonies and vigorous honey flows
are needed to produce section (comb) honey.
Although beekeepers can't control conditions to maximize
honey flows, they can influence dramatically the strength
of their colonies. It can't be emphasized too much --
hives should " boil over " with bees! In order to
achieve this, some people use the two-queen system; others
a single queen. Some run double-brood chambers; others insist
that only singles are needed. Some dequeen colonies and give
cells or young queens to prevent swarming; others stick with
a queen-right system and try to prevent swarming by other
means. Most beekeepers reduce double- and triple-brood chambers
to singles and doubles, respectively. It's generally agreed
that the bees must be crowded in order to "make"
them go up into sections. They apparently don't like to
work in sections and must be forced to do so.
Crowding, however, produces two management problems -- swarming
and pollen storage in the sections. Both are undesirable,
and so a balance must somehow be achieved in determining how
much room to give a colony which is used for section (comb)
honey. This is only acquired through experience.
Timing is extremely important in section (comb) honey production.
Bees of field age are a must. That means the queen must be
stimulated to lay a maximum number of eggs four to six weeks
before the flow. Since the sections are worked from the rear
toward the front, supers should be reversed every few days
to promote uniform filling. Top supering is recommended by
many, but some bottom super. Two supers are added by most
at the beginning of the flow; additional ones are put on as
each preceding super is one-half to two-thirds full. It's
better to err on the side of adding too many at the start
of the flow and too few during the latter half. Any error
means incomplete sections -- a waste of bee and beekeeper
time! Filled and capped sections must not be left on the colony
after they are finished. They can become travel-trained and,
therefore, unmarketable in a short period.
Finally, there is the matter of storing completed sections.
Even in strong colonies wax moth eggs are always present.
There is no fumigant now labelled which can be used for comb
honey. The best alternative is freezing the sections to kill
wax moth eggs. To reduce condensation, sections should be
sealed in air tight plastic bags while being frozen and during
In summary, successful section (comb) honey is based on certain
principles: 1.Strong colonies "boiling over" with
field bees 2.Vigorous honey flows 3.Proper timing A.Stimulating
the colony to maximum egg-laying 4 to 6 weeks before the honey
flow B.Adding supers as earlier ones are 1/2 to 2/3 filled
C.Removing filled supers as soon as they're completed
4.Giving enough room to reduce swarming and pollen storage
yet forcing the bees into the sections 5.Proper handling of
completed sections to prevent wax moth damage.
Sections (comb) honey production is considered to be one of
the highest forms of the beekeeping art -- certainly in the
same league with rearing quality queens. It, therefore, requires
more work and attention to detail than other management techniques.
The end product, though, is well worth the extra effort. The
best advice is to start small and increase production as you