Comb honey: the alleged series begins
So you want to make comb honey. Well, I know many of you don’t care about comb honey, but an entire cadre of readers has been hassling me for nearly four years to write this series. However, since this is your idea of what I should do, instead of mine, there are rules. That’s right, rules. Here goes:
Rule #2. During these posts I will be referring to specific manufacturers. Here in the states there are few manufacturers of comb honey equipment, so it’s hard to be vague. So when I diss a piece of equipment—and I will—understand that I’m referring to a specific item and not the entire company.
Rule #3. I take a different view of comb honey production than most, and I disagree with a lot of the conventional wisdom. So please don’t bother to tell me that what I’m saying is “merely opinion.” Of course it’s opinion. That’s why I’m writing it. If you are unhappy with that, by all means go elsewhere. I’ve come to my opinions through experience and I’m happy to share what I learned, but I don’t want to begin every sentence with “In my opinion.”
Rule #4. Making comb honey can be simple or difficult, depending on the type you choose. I’m not advocating one type over another because that’s a personal decision. Wherever possible, I will try to give the pros and cons of each technique.
Rule #5. Don’t forget who is doing all the work. Comb honey is definitely a bee thing, not a beekeeper thing. We can take steps to encourage certain behaviors, but sometimes you get a colony that refuses to cooperate. When that happens—when I can’t coax a colony into doing what I want it to do—I walk away and let the bees do it the standard way. This actually has beekeeper benefits that I will discuss later. But for now, just remember that you can’t do this alone.
Now that you know the rules, I will give you my first opinion. It is often stated that making comb honey—especially in squares or rounds—should be left to experienced beekeepers. In other words, new beekeepers should wait until they have a few seasons of practice. I disagree.
In fact, I look at it in the opposite way: If you start your beekeeping career by attempting comb honey, you will learn so much, so fast, you will be an experienced beekeeper in a flash. Seriously.
Now, story time . . .
Ages ago when I was in college, I had a summer job as a sailing instructor/camp counselor. When we all arrived at camp, the owner explained we would be given the use of a Volkswagon van on our days off. He said, “Can anyone drive a standard transmission?”
My hand shot in the air like lightening and no one else moved. With that simple gesture I became the official driver and was given a set of keys. Very cool.
The problem was this: I had no effing idea how to drive a stick. It was something I wanted to learn and I saw this as an opportunity. I admit we had some pretty rough rides for a few days. I blamed it on the potholes, the weather, the visibility, the mud, the transmission—whatever I could think of at the moment, but I kept at it.
In the end, no one complained about a few bruised elbows and wrenched necks—after all, no one else could drive a stick either, so they could endure the thrill or stay home. Within a few days we were tooling around Cape Cod, and by the time I had to pick up kids at airline terminals throughout Boston, the ride was smooth as silk. Okay, maybe not silk . . .
So anyway, if you want to make section honey in your very first year, I totally believe you can do it. If you want to wait, that’s cool too. Just don’t let people tell you what you can and cannot do. We are all capable of much more than we think.