CHAPTER IX Edit
DETAILS CONCERNING HONEY
HOW TO MAKE COMB-HONEY
EVERY bee-keeper who sends to the market honey in the comb enfolded in an attractive carton, or with the section neatly glazed, has produced a work of art; for comb-honey as now marketed is an aesthetic production, and the bee-keeper is an artist as much as if he had painted a picture or had fashioned a jewel. To most people who have an apiary as a pleasurable adjunct to life in the country, the pro- duction of comb-honey is most attractive, while the production of extracted honey does not appeal to them at all. Just the word "honey" calls to the mind of most people a vision of amber sweetness set in white-walled, waxen cells.
The production of comb-honey is attended by more difficulties than is the production of extracted honey. The reason for this is largely because the bees work more readily in cells already made from which the honey has been extracted, than they do in sections where they must undertake all of the expense and labour of producing wax for the comb. More than this, honey may be extracted from the comb
c) One empty section-holder, and one filled with section-boxes, in which
are foundation-starters; two of these have been added to by the bees.
of the brood-chambers, a harvest which is lost to the producer of comb-honey.
For the production of comb-honey it is necessary that the colony winter in excellent condition and develop much well-fed brood early in the season, so that there shall be a great number of active young workers in the hive just before the chief honey- harvest of the summer begins. In New York State we have two large honey harvests, that of the bass- wood in July and the buckwheat in August, so our colonies are made strong and ready by the last of June. In order to have the bees ready to work, the swarming fever must be subdued or controlled before this period of honey-flow. The colonies are carefully watched early in the season, and if after the first pollen-gathering occurs there is no honey coming in, the bees are fed so that the brood may be developed. We rarely have to feed at this season of the year as the fruit bloom gives our bees plenty of honey for rearing their brood, and we never expect any sur- plus before the basswood season.
The supers are put on when there is plenty of brood and plenty of honey to feed to it in the hive; and under such conditions our bees, though Italians, usually push up into the sections at once. We prepare the sections with mere strips of wax found- ation for starters. (Plate XIV.)
Supers thus equipped put on at this time and under such conditions seem to take away all desire to swarm on the part of the bees, if the queen cells have been previously removed.
If the brood-chambers are crowded when the super is put on, the queen may go up into it and start brood. This rarely occurs with us, but in case it does a queen-excluding honey-board may be intro- duced between the super and the brood-chamber. Sometimes a colony seems unwilling to go into the super after it has been added, and the bees will hang on the outside of the hive and threaten to swarm, and through doubt and vacillation lose two or three of the precious days of the basswood harvest.
The usual reason why the bees will not go into the super is that they are not sufficiently crowded below; if they have room they prefer to store their honey in the brood cells rather than carry it to the upper story.
If a colony is strong and has plenty of brood and honey and is still obstinate, men of experience advise the taking of a frame of sections from a colony which is storing in the supers and putting bees and all in the midst of the unused super of the reluctant colony. We have never tried this because we were never obliged to. It sounds very practical and sensible, and it is practised by Mr. Root, and that is sufficient recommendation.
Our way of coaxing the bees into a super which they have sedulously ignored is to place in it some of the imperfect sections, which are not worth much in the market and which contain some capped honey and many empty cells. One section-holder filled in this way seems to encourage the reluctant colony to climb and to store as rapidly as possible.
In large apiaries the following plan is followed: First, put on a super of shallow extracting frames from which the honey has been removed; as these cells are all ready, the bees are likely to go to work in them at once; and after they are working well raise the super, and put in one below it filled with sections containing starters, and all will be well. In dealing with this phase of bee-keeping it is well to remember that full sheets of foundation in the sections are more attractive to the bees than starters; and that sections containing comb already made are still more pleasing, and if some of these made cells contain honey, their attractiveness is doubled. One condition should be observed in putting on a super in the summer: it should be shaded in some way; if it is in the direct rays of the sun, the heat is likely to keep the bees out of it. However, later in the season bees may be induced to work in the super by placing over it a cushion so that it will be warm.
If the honey is coming in at a good rate, and the bees are working well, when the sections in the super are something more than half full, lift it up and place another containing sections with starters beneath it. The reason for this is that the bees would not naturally go into the empty super if it were placed on top until the other was completely filled. But with this plan they continue working in the super, even though it be on top, and meanwhile find it "handy" to fill the intervening sections. If the honey-flow is great, even another super may be placed next the hive and below the other two. How- ever, in our practice we rarely put on more than two, usually taking off the top one when we need to inter- polate another. This process is called "storifying" in the English books, which is a most graphic term and should be introduced into our nomenclature.
TAKING OFF SECTIONS. (Plate XX.)
In taking off the sections we do not need to wait for the completion of every one in the super. The outside rows are rarely perfect, and we usually put these unfinished sections back on some other hive to be finished.
These unfinished sections, if not too empty, serve very well to sweeten the daily bread of the home table. If sent to the market they bring low prices, and the bee-keeper who is working for comb-honey should plan to have as few of them as possible. While the honey left long in the super has a much finer flavour than that which is removed early, yet care should be taken not to leave the sections on the hive so long that the comb becomes soiled. It is an interesting fact that honey ripened in the hive gains special richness, as if it were somehow imbued with the spirit of the little socialists that make it.
Toward the end of the season it is best not to tier up, but to place an empty super on top. The bees will not use it unless necessary, but will devote their energies to the sections below. The great danger
PLATE XVII. "IN APPLE-BLOSSOM TIME'
to be avoided in tiering up is a surplus of partly filled sections, and the way we avoid this is not to interpolate a super until the one on the hive is at least three-fourths filled.
A regular part of bee exercise consists of prom- enading up and down and across the sealed honey; the bee has not as yet, unfortunately, attained the fastidiousness which leads her to wipe any of her six feet carefully before entering her domicile, con- sequently the sections of honey thus walked over may be stained and unmarketable. There is no remedy for this except to look after the supers care- fully, and take out the sections before they are soiled.
Some sections may look dirty because old wax is used in making the caps. If such is the case, and it is simply yellow, the wax may be bleached by standing it in the sun or by subjecting it to sulphur fumes. Some apiarists have special rooms and others tight boxes for the sulphur bleaching. Only two things are necessary to accomplish this success- fully; first, that the room or box be tight; second, that the sulphur placed in an iron dish be heated so that the fumes are strong and all-pervading. Some say that the sulphur should be heated so that if a match be touched to it it will flame. The combs need not be subjected to such fumes more than a half-hour to become as white as they can be bleached.
SCRAPING THE SECTIONS
In preparing comb-honey for the market, it is necessary to first scrape the propolis from the sections so as to leave the wood white and beautiful. To do this the section should be set square on and in line with the edge of a table, and below should be a pan to receive the scrapings. Hold the section firmly in one hand and scrape the side that is in line with the edge of the table with a downward stroke of the knife; a case-knife is best for this. To scrape the wood clean and not in any way injure the honey, and to do the work rapidly, measure the skill attained in this business. In scraping the sections it is best to have four of the shipping-boxes at hand, so that the honey may be graded and placed in its proper class as it is cleaned.
First, as to the way the sections are filled, or in other words, as to the bee technique. There are three grades Fancy, No. 1, and No. 2. In the fancy grade almost every cell is well filled, and the comb has the surface evenly built and well capped. No. 1 has an even surface and is well filled, but may not be so perfect in the corners as is the fancy. No. 2 must be at least three-fourths full. Anything below No. 2 is called chunk honey if sold in the comb, but it is more profitable to extract honey from all sections that range below No. 2.
Second, as to the colour of honey: It is graded as white, amber, buckwheat and dark, and these need no explanation. Thus honey is listed perhaps as "fancy white," or "fancy buckwheat"; in each case it is the best of its kind.
These should be ordered rather than made, as a good-looking shipping-case adds materially to the value of the honey. These cases come in different sizes, and have one side made of glass so that the handlers may see that the contents are fragile, and therefore may possibly be persuaded to deal with them gently; the cases come in flats and are easily put together. For anything that looks so well put up as honey sealed in its perfect cells, it has a most amazing capacity for leaking. Once, in the enthu- siasm of girlhood and inexperience, I carried some honey carefully packed in a box in my trunk, hoping to give a friend a treat. Needless to say that honey was "linked sweetness long drawn out," by the time I arrived at my destination; and all the clothes that I carried in my trunk were literally "too sweet for any use."
Shipping comb-honey to market is likely to be a disastrous performance at best, since it is almost impossible to guard against careless handling. Some ship in glass-covered sections which protect the comb, and make a very attractive appearing pro- duct.
Shipping the sections in cartons is winning its way now for fancy grades. A carton is a pasteboard box which may be bought in flats with the shipper's name printed upon it. While these cartons may be bought in almost any style, from perfectly plain to those highly ornamented, and provided with tape handles, yet we believe there is a chance for personal initiative in this particular field. An artistic design in pretty colours, individual and unique, would certainly prove a special attraction for selling honey in cartons. The great advantage gained from the use of the carton is that the honey reaches the con- sumer in a neat package without further handling, and may be carried like a box of bonbons. When cartons are used the shipping case should be a size larger than for the plain sections.
There are two ways of marketing honey open to most bee-keepers. First and best, the local market. If the honey can be placed in the hands of the grocer directly from the bee-keeper, certain advantages accrue. The comb is not broken by much careless handling, and it reaches the market in good shape. Though the price may be somewhat lower perhaps than the highest quoted prices, yet it is reliable, and there is no discount for breakage in shipping, and for differences of opinion in grading. It is certainly far more satisfactory for all concerned to place comb-honey on the home market; this is usually practicable for all except the greater apiarists. We know one man who has about forty hives, and who lives in a town of about three hundred inhabitants; though he produces a reasonable amount of honey he very inadequately supplies the demand for it in this little village, and he receives city prices.
The second and least desirable method of mar- keting comb-honey is to ship it to a commission merchant. If this is done, it is well to select a mid- dleman in whom we have absolute confidence, or we are likely soon to become pessimistic regarding his honesty; so frequently is the price of honey reduced on account of breakage and leaking and other accidents which this very frail delicacy is heir to, that we rarely realise the prices quoted in the newspapers. If a good middleman can be found, then our advice is to stick to him, and send him the very best product possible, fairly graded and in the most attractive form, hoping that he may be able to do for us what we should do for ourselves, and that is, work up a special market.
It is far better to market comb-honey the year it is made. However, if it is to be stored, it must be placed in a room that has a constant temperature above 60 F. It is best to fumigate the sections if there is any danger from the bee-moth, for this little rascal will destroy a great amount of comb-honey in a very short time. (See " Bee-Moth.")
Some kinds of honey will granulate much sooner than others. The longer the honey is left in the hive and the more perfectly it is ripened, the less liable it is to granulate. Extracted honey will candy much sooner than honey left in the comb. We have kept comb-honey more than a year without crystals appearing in it. The only way to prevent comb- honey from candying is to keep it in a temperature that does not fall below 60 degrees. After honey is candied in the comb, nothing can be done with it except to sell it at a lower price, or keep it to feed back to the bees. The latter is probably the most profitable way to dispose of it. Some people like comb-honey after it is granulated and the home- table may use a certain amount of it.
MAXIMS FOR PRODUCING COMB-HONEY
Keep the colonies strong.
The bees should be kept warm and well fed in the spring.
The bees must have wintered well.
The colony must have brood and plenty of honey in the brood-chambers at the beginning of the honey season.
Never let the honey in sections or supers be exposed in the apiary to incite robbery.
Keep the sections in a room in which the tem- perature never falls below 60.
Fumigate the sections before they are stored if you are troubled with bee-moth.
Send the honey to market in as attractive form as possible. Make your product individual in ap- pearance, and strive to create for it a special market.