CHAPTER X Edit
HOW TO PRODUCE COMB HONEY Edit
HONEY is marketed in two forms, either as comb honey, in the individual onepound sections in which the bees store it, or as extracted honey, this being extracted from the large brood combs used in an upper story above the brood nest, the queen being prevented from laying her eggs in the extractingcombs by means of a perforated zinc board, which confines her below, at the same time giving the workers access to them for storing. Whether the beekeeper proposes to produce comb or extracted honey, it is very necessary that the colonies shall be strong at the time of the honey flow, and this can only be brought about by seeing that every colony put into winter quarters is strong, supplied with ample stores, and, if wintered outdoors, is fully protected.
When the old-fashioned box hives were the thing, the principal way the surplus was gathered was by brimstoning the bees, a barbarous method to say the least, and when the bees were killed, the combs were cut out and set aside for use.
American hive, Langstroth type. At best, this is an untidy method, and the combs secured are often more or less filled with brood and pollen, and such honey seldom finds a ready sale. With the advent of the modern hive, it is possible to secure comb honey of snowy whiteness, in little boxes containing about a pound each, and, best of all, the colony does not have to be sacrificed, but is still in possession of the brood nest, with ample stores for winter, and ready for the next season's work.
In the production of comb honey under obsolete methods, twenty-five to thirty pounds was considered a good yield per colony, but with the modern hives with section box supers it is possible to produce three and four times that amount of the choicest honey imaginable. While it is possible to secure a good surplus from any strong colony in an average season, with the ordinary hives having the full depth brood frames, such as the Hoffman Self- Spacing frames, yet a good many progressive beekeepers are adopting a shallower hive, as tests have proved that the shallower brood nest compels the bees to store more of their honey up in the sections where the comb-honey producer wants it. For the production of comb honey, there are no better hives on the market than the Danzenbaker and similar hives, several kinds of which are manufactured, all having a brood nest about four inches shallower than the ordinary hive.
Let us suppose that the winter is past and that the spring has come, and that with the first warm days of April, each and every colony has been looked over, and those that were found to be queenless were given queens, and those that were weak have been strengthened by giving them frames of sealed brood and bees from the stronger hives, so that things are generally equalized.
In transferring frames of bees and brood to the weaker colonies, be sure that you do not take from the stronger colonies the frame containing their queen, or else you will needlessly sacrifice her, since the colony to which she is given will destroy her, while the colony from which she was taken will be made needlessly queenless and will lose time and honey in having to rear a new one.
As fruit bloom comes on, examine the brood frames of a few colonies, and if the cells near the top bars are sealed with nice new white cappings, indicating that the flow is well under way, then make haste to have the super cases Foundation-fastener and section-holder. all filled with the little section boxes with a full sheet of thin comb foundation in each box. It is a good thing, if many sections are to be put together, to attend to this work during the slack winter months, and thus have them all in readiness for the flow, as a good deal of worry will be saved thereby.
The little section boxes are made of white basswood and are grooved at the places where they are to be bent to put together, and before putting them together it is an excellent thing Different methods of cutting foundations for the sections. to lay a lot of them on a table, so that the grooves will all coincide, and then pour a little hot water from a teakettle over the grooves, as this will make the wood soft and flexible and save the breaking of many a section. The foundation should be cut in strips just long enough to almost fill the section boxes, leaving a space of about a half inch at the bottom and about a sixteenth of an inch space at the sides, as it is necessary only to secure the sheet of foundation to the top of the section box.
While there are many methods of fastening the foundation to the tops of the section boxes, perhaps the best is the DaL/ Foundation fastener, which works with a slight foot pressure, and, with a little heat supplied from the lamp that goes with it, securely fastens the foundation in place.
The average super case holds about twentyfour of these little sections, and each row of sections is held in place by a section-holder, with bee space fences or spaces between each row to prevent the bees from sticking the combs together, or causing some to bulge. Have no less than three super cases for each hive, and if possible four, and long before the fruit bloom have every super ready to place on the hives. When the brood combs reveal the fact that the colony is gathering new honey from fruit bloom, lift off its lid and on top of the brood body place a super filled with section boxes, and on top of this place the lid. All the strong colonies should be treated alike, and by the time the clover honey begins to come in the bees will be at work in a state of great activity in the sections, and when an examination ^ the supers shows that the sections are nearly all drawn out and filled, it is time to give the colony another super case of sections. Instead, however, of putting the Supers for plain sections. additional one on top, it must be slipped in between the super in which the bees are already working and the brood body, as tests have proved that the bees will more readily accept it and start to work in it than if it were placed on top.
By doing this, the bees that are working in the super on top are compelled to pass through the empty one in order to get to the one in which they are working, and thus become familiar with it, and, being near the brood nest, it is accepted. When it is found that the colony has pretty nearly filled the second one, and the field indications are that the flow is to continue, a third super can be placed beneath the upper two, and so on, one at a time, until sometimes as many as four or five may be placed on the hive. This is called tiering.
Tiering, however, should be carried on with caution, and no more supers given to each colony than it is able to take care of, and if the honey flow shows any signs of a cessation, no more supers should be given, or else there will be a lot of unfinished and unsalable sections on hand ; whereas if the colony had only been given as many as they could take care of, and finish a nice surplus of, nearly all finished sections will be secured. No rule can be laid down; the beekeeper must be governed by the condition of the colony, and the local flora, and, using his best judgment, give to each colony individual treatment.
As I look out over my own apiary, I find that some colonies have but one super, others have two, while a goodly number have as many as three and four, varying according to the rapidity with which each colony fills its sections. Sometimes the bees will sulk and refuse to enter the supers, preferring to cluster on the outside of the hive, and in some instances will swarm with ample storage room, and when such is the case the beekeeper must resort to some method of compelling them to go above and get to work. This can often be accomplished by the use of bait sections, that are partially completed, and can either be had from some left over from the previous season, or a few can be taken from the supers of colonies that are working well, and three or four of them scattered among the empty sections in the supers on the sulking colony. It is astonishing how quickly this will set some sulkers to work, so that in a day or so the colony will be working with vim and energy, in striking contrast to their idleness of a few days before.
If this does not work, another good plan is to give the colony a good smoking, driving almost the entire force up into the supers, and often this will accomplish the desired result, but should this not succeed, then there is one plan more that can be worked, which I have never known to fail. Lift from a good working colony, in which the bees are working in full blast on the sections, the entire super, bees and all, and place it on the sulking hive, and it will not be long before the colony will catch the fever of the force above and begin to work, and as the bees transferred will return to the hive from which they were taken, no loss of its working force will ensueo A disad vantage of smoking the bees out of the comb honey supers is that as soon as we smoke them a lot of bees are certain to uncap many cells in their endeavor to fill up before going below, and this will spoil the looks and sale of otherwise perfect sections.
Comb as well as extracted honey usually comes from two flows, the early or light honey, and the late or dark honey; they should be separated, as the early light clover honey is of lighter color than the late, and, being of more delicate flavor, is worth more per pound. For this reason most beekeepers take off the early surplus as soon as the flow is over, which is usually the middle of July, and, removing the honey to a safe place, give back the supers, or extracting-cases as the case may be, for the later fall flow.
Nothing is gained and much is lost by leaving all the surplus on till the fall, for in the case of the early honey the nice white combs will become travel-stained and unsightly and not bring the top-notch prices, so for this reason it is best to take the honey off as soon as it is sealed, for when it is sealed it is fully ripe acid ready for use or sale.
There is really only one satisfactory way to take off comb honey, and that is by means of a bee escape board, having a Porter bee escape in it that escapes all the bees into the brood nest below, thus enabling us to take off the surplus without having to smoke the bees below, and getting a lot of stings. The bee escape boards are furnished by the supply houses, and are used in the following manner :
First lift all the supers from the hive and slip the bee escape board on top of the brood nest, and place the supers on top of the escape board. In twenty-four hours all of the bees will have passed out below, and, being unable to get back again through the trap, the supers will be completely emptied without the aid of smoke and no uncapping of cells. The best time to put on the bee escape board will be late in the afternoon after the bees have ceased flying, and by the following evening the supers free of bees will be ready to come off. These supers with their section boxes should be stored in a warm room secure from the bees, for should the bees find them, they will steal the honey, and carry it back to their hives in short order. For this reason see that it is stored in a safe place until you are ready to take the sections of honey from the supers and pack in shipping-cases. When you are ready to put your comb honey in marketable shape, it will be necessary to take the sections out and with the blade of a sharp knife, scrape from the wood of the section boxes the propolis or bee glue, more or less of which will be on the boxes, but be careful and not jab the combs.
At best, there will always be some unfinished sections on hand, but their number can be greatly reduced by a little care. As we stated above, nothing is gained by leaving the combs on the hive after they have been sealed, but the having a number of unfinished sections can be avoided by waiting until nearly all the combs are sealed, and when this condition is reached, the supers should be taken off by aid of the bee escape board and the fully sealed or finished sections removed from them. If the bees are working nicely, there will be very few of the unfinished sections on a hive, and these can be separated from the finished ones, and be placed in supers by themselves, and returned to the bees immediately, and if the flow lasts a few days longer, they will practically all be finished. There are several different sizes of sections that are used, some with the bee-way cut in them and perfectly square, while others are plain, without the bee-way and are taller than their width. Though the latter contain no more honey than the perfectly square ones, yet they appear to, and sell more quickly, and these things have led an increasing number of beekeepers to adopt them. A perusal of the catalogues of the various supply houses will enable the beginner to make such selection as suits his fancy, as tastes differ. The fall flow of comb honey is harvested the same as the early flow, and should be taken off as soon as finished, or when the weather indications point to a cessation of the flow.
In the production of comb honey there will be a greater likelihood of swarming than in the production of the extracted; but giving the hives shadeboards, and open entrances full depth and width, and, last, treating each hive according to the "shook swarm" plan, will reduce it to a minimum and lessen the work and worry of the beeman. The proper way to prepare the sections for market will be treated fully in the chapter on "Marketing the Honey Crop."