I admit that I am tinkering on the web, searching for information on comb honey production. Any topic would have sufficed, but I m presenting a talk later this week on producing and marketing comb honey so it seemed appropriate to review the subject. (Plus spring is all over me and I am planning to produce some myself.)
Now having said that, I really don t care how the web works so long as it works. Vast amounts of time can be spent on the web reading, frequently becoming distracted by some popup screen. Many of us procure information from the web and its use is only going to increase. However, it s not just as simple as deciding to go the web, getting the information and signing off. There are lots and lots of dead ends and busted leads.
My present environment
For this project, I have the following necessary components:
1. Several common books on Comb Honey production
2. All the major bee supply company catalogs
3. A computer with cable access to the web
4. Some passing experience with comb honey production
5. Some university fact sheets
6. A deadline for getting this information to Bee Culture.
My comb honey books
Having already looked at current catalogs and having seen some of the new devices for comb honey production, I rapidly realize that my hardcopy books are out-of-date. A quick web search shows no newer comb honey books other than what I already have, are available. But abundant information popped up on various commercial pages with instructions for producing and purchasing the latest comb honey equipment. I did a Google search looking for comb honey (exact phrase) and book (at least one word). Google found about 8,940 listings for book 'comb honey' and it only took 0.16 seconds. I looked at the first few hundred listings, but looking at everything would take hours even days. This excess of information happens with most Google searches.
So my conclusion is that there are no readily available hardback books other than the ones I already have. For this discussion, I will use these dated books, fact sheets, my catalogs, and additional information from the web.
Why produce Comb honey?
Equipment Comb honey production requires more beekeeper expertise than producing regular liquid honey, but it needs less processing equipment. There is no requirement for extractors, uncapping devices, sumps or pumps comb honey production equipment is simple.
Demand The demand for local comb honey is normally pretty high. We sell all that we can get and in many cases it s not particularly pretty comb honey. But, I m always surprised to hear from beekeepers who produce the crop and are then stuck with it. Comb honey all types - usually sells itself.
Taste For honey purists, there is not a better honey source than comb honey. Having not passed through an extractor, comb honey still has all the bouquet and ambience of seasonal flowers. It is truly a delectable food.
If it s so great, why aren t we all producing it?
I suspect we could quickly outrun our comb-honey-consuming public if all beekeepers produced it. You see, we ve lost at least one generation of comb honey eaters maybe two. At our annual honey sale, we spend a good deal of time telling people how to eat wax, what the effects are on the human digestive system (none), and whether or not it is impolite to spit the wax out. Each sale potentially requires a short course.
True, comb honey generally sells itself, but even so, beekeepers should grow their comb honey crop at about the same pace as their comb honey consumers are growing.
Types of Comb Honey
Comb honey is not always just comb honey. The common forms are:
n Bulk frame comb honey
n Cut comb comb honey
n Chunk honey
n Section honey Wood sections, Round sections, Plastic sections
You choose the type you want to produce. Bulk frame, the style in which the entire frame is sold, is now really uncommon. As late as the 1970 s. cardboard shipping boxes could be purchased for boxing bulk comb honey, but no more.
I wonder what information I can find on this old procedure for producing comb honey. I checked my collection of comb honey books and found no listing for 'Bulk Comb Honey.' Off to the web I go. (Now, I m sitting here waiting as my computer grinds.) Google came back with Results 1 - 5 of 5 for comb OR honey 'bulk frame'. (0.10 seconds). The term turned up at www.maafs.com/JudgesBook/Honey.pdf, which is a listing for a PDF file for Maryland Honey Judging Standards, but the file won t load. So I wasted five minutes. Interestingly, the April, 2001 issue of Bee Culture had a listing, but that page would not load either (Error message 'can t find server.) I then went directly to Bee Culture s home page and sweated out the listing. Is this funny? It s an article I wrote in 2001 entitled; 'The Underappreciated Bee Supply Catalog1' and I only said that bulk frame boxes were no longer available. (This abortive process has taken 15 minutes.) So, forget bulk comb boxes and bulk comb production. It s not worth it.
Producing Comb Honey
Okay, entire books have been written on this subject. What can I say in a few hundred words? I could go to my books or I can canvass the web. I ll do both, but to the Web first.
I told Google to look for the exact phrase 'comb honey' with at least one of the words to be 'Prod*' I gave the wildcard character (*) in order not to miss either of the words 'production' or 'producing.' Google came back with: Results 1 - 10 of about 240 for prod* 'comb honey'. (0.36 seconds). I was immediately buried in advertisements for buying comb honey, but essentially nothing on the production of the product. I will need to rewrite my search queries.
Boom, Big Hits.
A simple set of search commands for 'comb honey equipment' pretty much buried me. Modular Half Comb Cassettes, Round Section Comb Honey, and Bee-O-Pac Comb Honey Systems turned up in addition to the traditional information about cut comb and chunk honey production techniques. There is abundant reading here with lots of photos to readily supplement my dated books. As you would expect, many of the listings are from well-known bee supply companies. I went to several of them to see what they were listing for Comb Honey Production.
Bee Supply Company Web Pages
Most companies list the readily available comb honey equipment, but a few oddities still remain in the catalogs. The Dadant Company2 lists a Wax Tube Fastener as did the Walter T. Kelley3 Company as well as other companies. This device still being available is interesting. Most of the traditional comb honey devices are gone from the catalogs. I don t know if I even have one these gadgets. Using that lead, I went to my catalogs where it was reported that the Wax Tube Fastener is used to secure foundation in grooved top bars. I then checked the web to be sure that grooved top bars were still available. They are everywhere. (Results 1 - 10 of about 24 for 'grooved top bars'. (0.23 seconds)
In my beekeeping memory, I have watched most of the heretofore traditional methods of comb honey change to modern methods. The basswood contraptions are gone from almost every catalog, having been replaced by the current plastic devices for producing comb honey. In fact, the Walter T. Kelley Company is the only remaining company that I could find that was still manufacturing any basswood comb honey devices. If I ve missed anyone, no doubt I will hear from them.
Cut Comb and Chunk Honey
The production of cut comb (honey simply cut from the frame with a knife or cutting device) and chunk honey (cut comb honey that is surrounded by liquid honey) is still the same. Abundant listings turn up from simple searches.
The New Plastic Devices
For this project, the web was immensely helpful in researching and reviewing the availability and function of the few plastic comb honey devices. I started my search under comb honey equipment and then went to subsequent pages. Draper s Super Bee Apiaries, Inc has posted a good set of instructions for the new Bee-O-Pac at: www.draperbee.com/info/newitemsb.htm
Information was available for both Ross Rounds and Half Comb Cassettes; however, I was required to specifically go to commercial supply companies to find the products.
What have I accomplished?
I have no interest in writing a 'How to use the web' article. But increasingly, the web is the primary information source for any beekeeping subject. I would be lost without it. From writing this article for you, I have reviewed: (1) the availability of different pieces of comb honey equipment, (2) the procedures for the 'clamshell' devices (Bee-O-Pacs) including seeing photos, and (3) found information on current production techniques. I also found the following: (1) innumerable dysfunctional web pages, (2) useless pages or pages with no information, (3) abundant advertisers selling either the product or comb honey itself. While the web is immensely helpful, it can require a significant time commitment.
Who to believe? Who to trust?
When using the web, please be skeptical of nearly everything. Anyone can write anything about anything and put it on the web. Boom it s done. But you already know this. When I look at web pages especially when writing articles or searching for proper information I look for credibility. 'Who wrote this page?' There is nothing wrong with individuals selling bee products, but I frequently question their objectivity in the information they provide. Much of the time, the information from the web is junk with occasional pearls of wisdom not necessarily incorrect, but just the wrong answer to my search question. It s a classic situation of separating the wheat from the chaff. The web is a great but imperfect information device. I love it.
Dr. James E. Tew, State Specialist, Beekeeping, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH 44691, 330.263.3684, Tew.firstname.lastname@example.org; www2.oardc.ohio-state.edu/agnic/bee/; beelab.osu.edu/