Comb honey components on offer at Toklat Apiaries
Here’s some info on what I have here in stock- first come first serve; when it’s gone it’s gone.
“Natural” comb- provided with a comb guide or
starter strip and a good honey flow the bees will
build in the empty frame; to harvest simply
brush off the bees and, with a hot knife heated
in boiling water, cut into desired sized chunks.
These may be placed in a wide mouth jar and
topped off with liquid honey or served on a
plate. Place the foundationless frame in the
middle of 9 or 10 frames if you need only a little but make sure there is no queen in the honey super unless you like bee larvae – it’s most likely
to be drone (good grayling bait).
(Sildeshow) My daughter is eager to try honey in the natural state; bees will draw natural comb when provided with a starter strip (wax, plastic or, popsicle sticks) in deep, medium or shallow frames. Comb can be cut, placed in a wide mouth jar and filled with liquid honey. I’ve got 14 shallow boxes, 2 shallows with starter strips and one box of 24 1⁄2 - frame deeps (you can sell the frame and all for $50-$60) The boxes are $50 each with 10 frames and starter strips.
Ross Rounds and Hogg Half-Comb cassettes:
Look in the Mann Lake catalogue or go online to see what a deal you’re getting. I have extra rings, covers and a few labels as well as thin surplus foundation. Remember it takes a strong colony to produce comb honey. In the past, I’ve shaken all the bees from two deep brood chambers and two medium honey supers into a single deep brood (yes, they’ll fit), placed a queen excluder above then at least 2-3 comb honey supers. These sell like hot cakes at $15-$20 per section (well filled out). Assembly can be tedious but I’ll show you how it’s done – I have 2 8-frame (32 sections) and 6 9-frame (36 sections) plus foundation and covers; comes with requisite number of covers and foundation all for $50/super compare to $130 plus shipping from a catalogue!
The tedious part is placing the plastic rings; I’ll put the thin surplus foundation in next, then stick the two halves together, then a sharp knife is used to trim the excess wax from the outside of the rings.
There are three conditions which must be met for the successful production of comb honey in the Interior; excellent nectar flow, large foraging adult population and adequate equipment. Let’s define comb honey as that produced from floral nectar, stored and capped in the cells by the bees, and presented just as the bees made it- untouched by human hands.
This year (2017) is shaping up as an excellent nectar flow (as of early July) – the fireweed and clovers (our best excess honey producers) are, if not blooming, are on the verge of busting out with a week or two. The weather has been amenable; adequate rain to keep up ground moisture, warm days, and plenty of sunshine. Honey production has been all over the map- my North Pole colonies have barely touched the honey supers while at Ann’s Greenhouse they’ve filled two medium supers. Last year North Pole was my best location…go figure.
A large adult foraging population is also necessary – notice I say “large” and “adult”. Remember it’s the adults (4+ weeks old) who are out foraging – they claim (whoever ”they” are) bees make 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their whole life or it takes bee visits to 1 million flowers to make a pound of honey. They literally work themselves to death- the old bees will have tattered wings and less body hair (just like me). They must bring in adequate amounts of nectar and pollen to keep the young bees happy and feed the brood nest development. This means adequate space or risking a swarm. As I hope you know, beekeeping in the Interior requires 2 deep (9⅝”) brood boxes and two medium (6⅝”) (sometimes more during a good flow) or 3-4 shallow (5⅝”) honey supers; take care of your back! Not only is the aforementioned hive volume required but also empty cells for the queen to lay in. Have you expanded your brood nest horizontally as well as vertically? It’s a good idea to store frames of nothing but honey and pollen against the walls (nothing needs to stay warm) in the 1&2 position or the 9&10, rotate any frames that may be drawn out on one side 180° so the bees can draw out the opposite side. Bees will tend to “chimney” up the stacked boxes putting a wall of honey on either side and ignoring the outer frames (1, 2, & 3 and 8, 9, & 10). That why it’s important to get in the hive once every 7-10 days and arrange frames. Don’t place a frame with bare foundation in the middle of the brood nest it breaks up the cohesion of the nursery- foundation is best drawn out when adjacent to the brood nest. Remember the bees keep the brood nest at 93-95° F so act accordingly.
For comb honey you need a very crowded box- just on the verge of swarming- this is especially important if you’re employing the plastic Ross Rounds or Hogg Half-comb cassettes (more on that in the attachment). If you’re needing just a couple of squares to put on a dessert plate or wow your friends, the best method is to have the bees build “free comb” off of starter strips which can be as simple as popsicle sticks glued or tightly secured in the top bar of a frame.
Choice of equipment- this depends on how much you want to get into it; a super of Ross Rounds ready to put on the hive will cost $132 plus shipping from Mann Lake and you need at least 2 or preferably 3. The covers and labels will run another $65 (see page 15 in Mann Lake catalog). Cut comb with popsicle sticks is at the other end of the spectrum- I sell an assembled medium frame for $2.00 use your own popsicle sticks; you can replace one of the frames in your honey super but be sure the queen isn’t laying up there unless you like larvae. You can cut up the comb and put it in wide-mouth jars then top it off with liquid honey for the best of both worlds- if you’re stirring it in your tea you may get a wax film atop your beverage.
If you’re interested in comb honey please read the next post. As I get older I’m cutting back on my inventory (less hassle for my kids when they pry the hive tool from my cold dead fingers) so I have both Hogg Half-Comb cassettes (5) and Ross Rounds (8), I have the covers, extra rings, thin-surplus foundation and a limited number of labels. I also have 2 shallows with starter strips and 14 assembled, painted, frames and foundation (no heavy lifting) ready to put on a hive normally $64 each now $50 on sale as are the Ross Rounds and Hogg half-comb reduced to $50 each while supplies last.
Let’s hope the conditions for an excellent honey flow persist and we all have an excellent season (see next post).
Dear Fellow Beekeepers,
If you’ve followed the news I’m sure you noticed it has been raining wildcats and wolves (that’s several orders of magnitude over cats and dogs) – this portends good and bad news for beekeepers. The good news is that we will still be able to get bees from my supplier (he has lost 1500 colonies) and the end of the big California drought is at hand- if the dams don’t burst. The bad news is everything is running late (i.e. the almond blooms) and we’ll see a price increase in packages ($5) and queens ($2) plus our shipments will begin in April, the 14th being the earliest. We’ll have 6 shipments of 90 packages each (see the order form to select the date you want); let’s hope it doesn’t get hot in Seattle or California- makes for poor shipping.
I’ve just come back from a family vacation with my daughter and 2 granddaughters; of course we stopped and visited (for tax purposes) with my bee supplier and the acres and acres of almond blooms (the pollination fees are up to $180/colony – not a bad 2-week paycheck if you’re operating several thousand colonies; but think about getting forklifts or 18 wheelers stuck in the orchard mud miles from nowhere). The bees will build large populations on the almonds and wild mustard to prepare them for shaking into packages and shipment to Alaska.
There have been a few developments in the bee world #1 being as of January 1, 2017, in order to feed antibiotics to bees you have to have a veterinarian prescribe the drugs. I am not one to advocate feeding antibiotics as they routinely do down south and how many vets are knowledgeable about bee diseases? Fumadil-B (the white powder you get in the snack sized baggies from me in the spring for control of Nosema) does not fall under these new Federal Regs but as soon as I finish off the partial jar I have on hand I will no longer supply it – our season is so short that diseases (especially mites) don’t have a chance to build to major problem status (different story if you are going to attempt overwintering). The difficult method of diagnosing Nosema and the efficacy of treatment is up in the air so I’ve decided to go organic (at least no chemicals in the hive).
The schedule and prices for bee orders and classes are attached to this email as well as on my web site; One major change – if you order bees through the web site please put the check number in the appropriate spot – last year the post office managed to screw up 14 of my orders (“But I mailed in a check”), I'm hoping this will put one more layer of record keeping in the machine. If you call about your bees please know the date you ordered – “Hi, this is Bob, are my bees here yet?” is not sufficient information as there must be 20 Bobs and 540 package orders. Let’s pray for a warm spring, lots of willows and good build up! I’ll be home to FBKS about March 7 (PS- I heard there was snow in FBKS).
I will have a limited amount of used (but in excellent shape) equipment this spring plus some new, never-been-used honey supers with ten frames and foundation. They are painted, assembled and ready to go on a Langstroth hive (as I get older my bee abilities diminish). Talk to me in mid-March about used hives and in June for the honey supers.
No, I didn’t buy one but fellow beekeeper Larry Dunn did and was kind enough to lend it to me for a trial. The Flow Hive, for those of you that have never heard of it, was the crowd-funding sensation of 2015 raising over 12.4 million dollars when they were only looking for $70K. The father-son team out of Byron Bay, Queensland, Australia spent 10 years developing and testing this before jumping into the market- here is a synopsis of my experience here in Alaska’s Interior:
Price- Wow! One of the claims made is that it will do away with all that expensive extracting equipment. Mann Lake advertises an “Extracting bundle” for $600; of course the shipping will kill you. I solved that by having it shipped (free in the lower 48) to my daughter’s house and then bring it up as 49er free baggage- it’s all packed extremely well. The Flow Hive is $700 for a single brood box combined with the Flow Hive Super plus shipping (that’s been all over the map – I’ve see anything from $150 to $49 to the United States). Who buys an extractor? I have two 3-frame extractors that come with uncapping knives, tub and capping scratcher which I rent for $25/day; pretty reasonable for something you only use once a year.
Hive size – The hive can be used as either a 10-frame or an 8 frame for the brood boxes. In my opinion 8 frames in the brood box is not enough for Interior Alaska; 9 will fit (snugly) and you should expect to allow 2 brood boxes (18 frames). Mann Lake sells an 8-frame starter kit for $140 (complete with frames & foundation plus the cute gabled copper clad roof) and you’d need a second brood box for $56. Even with shipping it is a good deal. The next question is quality of material.
Quality- The Flow Hives and components are made from sustainably sourced Western Red Cedar (whatever that means) – Mann Lake’s are made from pine (just as attractive in my opinion). I have put together literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of boxes from Mann Lake and would say that the number of defects is <2%. The same quality control does not seem to exist in the Flow Hive- stories abound. Foundation is not included- they advocate foundation-less frames. Going with the flow (pun intended) I put 9 foundation-less frames in my first brood box. They were very good at drawing them out but they did confine their comb-drawing activities to the “rear” of the brood box i.e. the end furthest away from the entrance. About June 1st I rotated the brood box 180° in hopes they would make an even curtain of brood comb- they did but with great reluctance. I added a 9-frame second brood chamber (above) on June 15th- by 1st of July they hadn’t touched it, so 4th of July weekend I moved 1 frame of brood from the lower box to the upper (now it had 8 frames in lower). By June 10 they had still not done much in the second box but I added a small swarm (about 2.5 lbs) and they really went to town drawing out and filling the second brood with honey. The swarm was Italian and queen-less so I removed the queen excluder after 4-5 days and let them have full run of 2-deep boxes and 17 frames.
Flow Hive™ super - July 26th I removed 2 of the plastic Flow Hive frames and moved 3 frames of capped brood up to the honey super. I placed a queen excluder above the 2nd brood box (the brood frames moved up were to draw the bees up through the excluder as they are not at all keen on the bare plastic Flow Hive frames, the brood hatched out and I replaced the plastic frames and waited, and waited, and waited. NOTHING!! They may have put a little wax in the cracks between the Flow Hive cells but certainly did not store any honey.
On July 26 (after several days of rain) I went to show some visitors the Flow Hive- the red cedar was so swollen that I couldn’t get the observation/harvest panel off the back. Finally, after stripping the knob off the panel and great prying efforts it came off – not the kind of quality I’d expect.
On the phone with 3 other flow-hive havers I found the same story. General consensus was that it was a bust. Keep your eye on Craigslist this fall if you want to try one- of course one season will not prove or disprove the system but I at least can extract from the 2nd brood box – one flow hive-haver got 11 full-deep, beautifully-capped frames of light honey.
IMHO- Remember this is simply my opinion based on one season (and a real wet one at that) but I don’t think it’s the ticket for beekeepers in Fairbanks; here’s a list of pros & cons:
- Very expensive
- As sold not enough brood space for Interior Alaska
- As sold there is too much space between bottom board and lower rails on frames (in the sustainably harvested Western Red Cedar supplied) - bees build lots of burr comb making it very difficult to reverse boxes.
- Almost everybody I’ve checked has the Varroa detection sheet in the upper slot; IMHO it should be in the lower so the mites can’t reach the screen.
- Wood swells considerably- upon assembly of hive make sure the back observation panel is a loose fit.
- If you use 8 frames in the brood box there is quite a bit of slop; mine built really fat combs and even attached the outermost to the walls; 9 frames will fit maybe too snugly.
- Bees are loath to work the plastic Hive Flow super- I haven’t talked to anybody whose bees stored honey there.
- Be careful with the Flow frames; Don had one come apart and spent 20 minutes in reassembly.
+ ?? Does anyone have anything positive to say? I’d like this to be somewhat balanced; let us hear your story.
Too bad honey bees can’t access the Internet; if they could they’d be able to see the newest purported “best thing for bees” since hollow trees. On one hand, I have to congratulate Stewart and Cedar Anderson (the father-son “inventors” of the Flow Hive™); they spent a decade working on the prototype (and hopefully ironing out the bugs) and subsequently launched the most successfully crowd-funding program ever; they estimated they needed $70,000 for startup capital and ended up raising $12.4 million!
They must be true believers in the statement, “You don’t get what you don’t pay for”, as one of the biggest complaints is the high price tag, however, I doubt the commercial beekeepers who operate thousands of colonies are getting operating capital loans to order them by the container lot. I initially poo-pooed the concept after receiving literally hundreds of emails with links to their website but now, with some time on my hands and adequate air conditioning (it’s hitting upper 90’s here in Cambodia), I’ve spent way too much time cruising the Internet in search of critiques both good and bad. As I have NO vested interest (other than curiosity) in the success or flop of this enterprise I thought I’d save you some time and do some cruisin’ in cyberspace.
One of the first things that I’ve been struck by (I’m basically a newbie to the Internet) is how nasty and snarky people are in their comments, especially on YouTube. There appear to be 3 camps – those who hold the new method up there with an almost religious zeal, those who need the bumper sticker “We don’t care how they do it on the Outside” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” and finally those who are taking a “wait and see” stance. I like to think I’m in the middle of the road camp (please no emails on the election!) But, I also am in agreement with a huge number of reviewers who believe that this hive is enticing a large number of wanna-bees into the “like beer on tap” perception of honey harvesting. Their stance is to check e-Bay, Craigslist, and curbside trash piles after the first harvest to get a real discount on the equipment.
The best “critical” review of the Flow Hive™ here in the US in my feeling is by Fredric Dunn on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVN6RYC-bcQ) he got his Western Red Cedar hive via Flow Hive™ out of Lancaster PA (this is horse and buggy Amish country – theoretically renowned for woodworking skills). They are also being manufactured someplace in Oregon (in my view, closer to Western red cedar trees) as well as Australia. They are running several months late on hive deliveries (news flash! One, ordered last year, just showed up in North Pole March 3, 2016) but if you live in Alaska you don’t need the actual Flow frames until late-June or early-July. Watch his YouTube video and read the comments – quality control seems to be an issue. Also, watch the YouTube video (put out by the Flow Hive™ people on hive assembly (am I surprised that all his components fit?) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY9mD74HmOo) My only observation is why no glue? I use 8d nails plus glue and clamps when I assemble my boxes they will outlast me (I still have my first hive from 1984 in perfect shape). IF I were to screw the boxes together I wouldn’t use round-head screws but #8 flat-head, sheet-rock screws making sure everything was predrilled. Splitting? I’ve never had any issues with Western pine but the cedar did look like it would be easy to split. I’ve put together more than 1,000 boxes (maybe more) in my BK career and had minimal problems- some of my own doing, “handholds belong on the outside!” Perhaps a dozen finger joints (or box joints) didn’t line up perfectly and another 6-8 were severely cupped and stacked into the “flatten these out someday” pile. Overall, I’d say my Mann Lake boxes go together like fine furniture.