Monday, April 30, 2012

Crushing Comb

Last time I mentioned there was some exciting bee-and-honey-related news coming to you. Well, this is it!

Last week Dad removed two of the frames from his Langstroth hives over at the garden and, instead of spinning them outlike last time, we opted to crush the comb instead. In other words, make a total mess and combine Langstroth and Warré hive honey-extraction techniques!  The urge to do this came following the building of some Warré-based hives at the garden by a talented carpenter who has kindly donated his time there. The advantages of using these kind of hives and extracting the honey in the associated manner is all in my previous post about beehive design.

Below, one of the newly-completed Warré-based top bar hives:

There is going to be a workshop at the garden this weekend on putting these beauties together so if you're at all interested, make sure you try and get along to it! Hopefully the weather holds out.

When it came to extracting the honey, all we did was grab a frame,

Use a knife to cut out the honeycomb,

Put it all in a bowl

And mash it.

Yes, that is a potato masher… Over at Milkwood Farm in Mudgee, they have a proper honeycomb press which we will hopefully be getting one of soon.

Then it goes into a special sieve that costs too much, placed on top of a bowl or food-grade plastic tub and is left to drain for a couple of days… depending upon how patient you are.


From the two small half sized frames from which we extracted honey, we probably obtained about 2-3L of honey. Most of it has already disappeared… into um, jars. That’s it. Jars.  For storage purposes. Of course.

On a serious note though, one thing we made sure to do when cutting the comb out of the frames was to leave a little bit of wax on there as a starter for the bees when we pop the frame back into the Langstroth hive box. It’s just a thin strip of wax (3~5mm thick) along the top inside edge of the frame. This simply ensures that, in a frame without a sheet of wax foundation, the bees build down the new comb down the centre of the frame according to their own wacky design instead of being dictated to by the wax foundation.

The bananas and avocados in the background are for a raw chocolate milkshake; Even the increasingly chilly weather (Winter is Coming! – Game of Thrones, anyone?) can’t deter me when it comes to these. And I’m finding myself reverting back to the original recipe, rather than going for my supposedly ‘improved’version. I suppose the situation I’m finding myself in is a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

We’ve yet to decide what to do with the leftover wax but we’ll be melting it down into one large block to start with. According to one of our beekeeper friends, the best way to go is to stuff it all into an empty plastic milk carton and microwave it. This way, all the wax will float to the top while any honey still stuck in there sinks to the bottom. All that’s required then is to cut through the carton and grab out the block of wax! The only issue we have with this method is that we're not particularly fond of BPA poisoning… both for us and the bees. So we will just have to wait and see what happens on that front. 

Eventually, all the bees we have will will be moved over to the Warré-based hives where they can really enjoy their lives properly. At the same time, they'll be making us some excess honey for both home use and for sale at the garden!  

- Matilda

1 comment:

  1. Hello! This looks amazing! And who said they can't take great pictures? these pictures look fantastic :) Awesome blog!! <3 From Ming ;)