I’ve enjoyed being able to check on my bees during my lunch breaks over the past while since Omicron shut down my normal office work schedule. What a lousy way to learn the Greek alphabet, eh? I’m burnt out from the pandemic like most of us, but being able to take a break from my office job and hang with my bees has provided a huge mental boost. Today, for instance, all I did was give some comb honey to a colony I suspected was hungry. It only took about five minutes, but it was so relaxing.
I did this so fast, it didn’t require smoke, a veil or gloves. The bees were too busy staying clustered to worry about me. The sun is beating down on the black hive now. What heat was lost will be regained quickly. I’m also planning to wrap the hive with silver bubble wrap to see if that helps.
So what’s the difference between honeycomb and comb honey? Why do beekeepers call it “comb honey” when everyone else calls it honeycomb?
Well, for one thing, honeycomb refers to a type of comb, whereas comb honey refers to a type of honey.
A frame of empty comb, what most beekeepers call “drawn comb.” The bees can fill this comb with pollen, nectar (which becomes honey) or the queen might eggs in the comb.
Comb full of pollen.
At first glance, this frame might look like “honeycomb,” but closer examination shows some brood in the middle of all that honey. Click the images for a better view.
Comb honey. Nothing but honey and beeswax.
Honey bees produce wax. From that wax they build a variety of comb. Think of comb as rows and rows of Mason jars, but made of beeswax instead of glass, and lids or caps not made of metal but from beeswax too. What the bees decide to put in those jars — those honeycomb-shaped jars — determines what we call them. Sort of. Continue reading →
Other than looking pretty, I’ve never understood the appeal of Chunk Honey. Chunk what? A chunk of comb honey, or what the layperson might call honeycomb, is dropped into a jar and then filled with honey. Or in my case, it’s dropped into a jar already full of honey. And that’s it.
According to my previous post, When is It Time to Harvest Honey?, it’s about time to harvest some honey now. Which means it’s about time to add some escape boards so my bees can “escape” from their honey boxes, which then makes it easier for me to steal their honey. You know, I think I might have a video of me from earlier today that shows how this works:
I pulled this funny looking 5-pounder of comb honey from one of my hives yesterday. No humans or bees were harmed. The honey extractor known as a “Flow Hive” would deprive me of this experience. Beekeeping, for me, is about being close to the bees. Honey is the bonus.
Or as we say in French, Bombes au Chocolat de Miel.
I made some chocolate covered honey comb loosely based on an idea or recipe I stole from page 157 of the American Bee Journal, the February 2020 edition, and boy oh boy was it delicious.
A bite-sized piece of comb honey dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with milk chocolate.
I made some with milk chocolate too, but the dark chocolate ones were the best. The milk chocolate ones were a little too sweet. It all just blended together, whereas the dark chocolate made the comb honey flavour, along with the smooth velvety feel of the beeswax, jump up and say, “Wow!”
By the way, this simple method of dipping comb honey in chocolate should work well with anything. Whatever the kids can think of dunking into chocolate, go for it. (So said the person who has only done this once.) Continue reading →
I stole some comb honey from my bees for the first time in about three years.
The bees quickly drew out and filled the comb soon after local fireweed came into bloom, which makes me think it’s mostly fireweed honey. Pure fireweed honey is virtually colourless. It almost looks like it’s made from sugar syrup. I’ve only tasted it once in Newfoundland from hives set up in Logy Bay. I’ve tasted other honey in Newfoundland that claims to be fireweed, but the colour and taste of it makes me think it’s a mix. A pure varietal honey in Newfoundland, with wild flowers growing everywhere, seems unlikely.
Something To Keep In Mind: Plastic buckets from the hardware store contain BFA, a substance that is generally not good for humans. I doubt much BFA would get into the honey in this process because the honey isn’t stored in the plastic. It mostly just passes through the plastic funnels and sits in the plastic bucket for less than a day. But still, stainless steel or food-grade plastic buckets are preferable. Honey meant for public consumption should not come in contact with non-food-grade plastic.
I recently crushed and strained about 6 litres of liquid honey (about 1.6 US gallons) from a medium honey super. I followed what some called the 3-bucket method (a method I stole from the Backwards Beekeepers), which I’ve demonstrated before, except I didn’t do it properly the first time. This time I did it right and it worked perfectly. The process is explained with labelled photos below. Basically you pour the crushed comb honey into a bucket with holes it, which drains into a bucket with a paint strainer on it. Then you bottle your honey.
Honey with crushed comb dripping from top bucket (bucket #1) into a bucket with holes (bucket #2), then straining into a bottom bucket (bucket#3). (Oct. 07, 2014.)
This probably isn’t a bad method for hobbyist beekeepers with a small number of hives. Comb honey is the best, but for liquid honey, crush-and-strained in my experience tastes and feels better than extracted honey. The fact that the honey strains through the beeswax, much of flavour of the wax — which is a huge component of natural honey — isn’t lost like it would be with extracted honey.
I decided to pull a frame of honey yesterday from a monster hive that’s out of control.
Partially capped honey (July 01, 2012.)
The honey has a hint of maple and a distinct wild flower aroma compared to the more delicately balanced honey I harvested in the city last year. I’ve tasted some wild flower honeys that were almost pungent, not particularly pleasant or elegant. I’m glad that’s not the case here.
Here’s a narrated video of me harvesting five foundationless frames of honey. I cut out 28 small squares of honey comb from a little over 1 and a half frames. I crushed and strained the rest of it and bottled it the next day.
I meant to strain the crushed comb using the 3-bucket system that requires a paint strainer, but I put the paint strainer on the wrong bucket (the paint strainer goes on the bottom bucket), so I had to improvise a bit. That mistake cost me some honey, but it wasn’t too drastic. Continue reading →