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John the BeeMan's Blog - June 2015 - Cut comb & section comb

BBKA News May 2015

Varroa: I wonder how many more articles can be compiled on this subject!   Varroa is certainly a vital part of beekeeping and we will constantly need to be reminded to take action, so keep reading about it.

What a fascinating insight about the prisoners-of-war and their beekeeping exploits, especially that they studied and took the module exams.

National Pollination Strategy:   If only farmers would take this seriously.   From my observations in Norfolk, they are doing the bare minimum just to collect the money offered.   They get paid to leave field margins with wild flowers, although most of it is just grass.   I contribute to the RSPB’s experimental farm in Cambridgeshire where the various DEFRA incentives are used, resulting in increased numbers of many varieties of bird.   Mammals are included in the scheme, especially small voles and mice which help in the food chain of raptors and owls.   They are still able to make a farm profit, at the same time spreading the word to farmers in the UK.


Swarming

May had cold nights, but several warm, sunny days brought out many swarms, judging by the desperate phone calls.


May - Apiary Up-date

Only one of my colonies has shown signs of swarming, luckily I caught it just in time to find the queen and carry out a “nuc” style artificial swarm.   Without going into too much detail, I am still disappointed with my 6 colonies with only 2 showing any promise, 2 are queenless with one of them seeming to have laying workers!!   I’m not expecting much honey this season.

Bald bee – probably just getting old!
Me against 7’ high Comfrey
Bald bee – probably just getting old!
Me against 7’ high Comfrey

My Murphy bees are still behind netting without much sun, awaiting a new location after the building work nearby finishes.   The one strong colony now has 3 supers, even though I have a nuc box at the ready in case they intend to swarm.

Nuc at the ready
A good full frame of sealed brood
Nuc at the ready
A good full frame of sealed brood

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Bumble bees

I have had many calls regards bumble bees and have used my persuasive powers to keep the nests where they are.   I collected one ‘tree bumble bees’ nest from an air vent to a bedroom.   It is now in my back garden attracting a few males around the entrance.   I am due to give a talk, with slide show, on these bees next Monday 1st June at the Highgate Society when I will explain how they differ from honey bees and wasps.   I will also discuss their pollination advantages.


June Forage

Beekeepers used to refer to the “June Gap”.   After the abundant forage available in May, there can be a quiet week or two at the beginning of June before the big flow from the lime and blackberries.   These provide our bees with, probably, the prime nectar flow of the season.   On good years a strong colony can fill a super per week, a perfect time to try for comb honey, either cut or section.   This is the real and traditional way to serve honey.   The Irish beekeepers specialise in this and sell it, side-by-side with strawberries, at the roadside, especially in County Wexford.

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Comb Honey

Cut comb is the most straight forward method.   Use unwired thin beeswax foundation in standard super frames and hope that the bees fully fill and cap it.   To prepare the filled comb for sale, lay the full frame on a cake grid over a shallow baking tray to catch honey drips (both bigger that the frame).   Cut the whole comb out of the frame and then slice up the comb to just under the size of the “crystal comb containers” (from Thorne).   You should be able to cut about 7 or 8 pieces per frame, weighing approximately 6 to 8ozs each.   Allow the combs to drain before packaging.

Cut comb in plastic container
Cut comb in plastic container

Section Comb is much more difficult to achieve, mainly because the bees do not usually fill the sections fully.   The equipment is shown on page 22 of the Thorne’s catalogue.   Specialised racks are needed to hold the square or round section holders (round ones are more likely to be fully filled).

In all cases there must be a good nectar flow when trying this and it is best to position the super on top of an ordinary one over the queen excluder to avoid pollen being stored with your comb honey.

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Forage:

Lime trees, blackberry, Rosebay willowherb, all to be found on Hampstead Heath.


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