Comb honey is honey that is not removed from the honeycomb before consumption. It is not strained or heated or spun or squished. It's, simply, taken out of a beehive and eaten! Comb honey isn't difficult to harvest. I think it's, actually, the easiest way to harvest honey. There's hardly any equipment needed and the equipment you do need is probably already in your kitchen.
I love comb honey because it reminds people that honey is made by bees. It wasn't made in a factory or is from a recipe created by a human. It is 100% gathered and created by honey bees! It is beautiful and delicious and unique.
Why Harvest Comb Honey?
- Maximum health benefits from the hive - beeswax, pollen and propolis are all in comb honey.
- Very minimum alteration by humans (if any)
- Takes the least amount of work for the beekeeper to harvest
- Little equipment is needed
- Sells at a premium price
Photo: Frame of my honeycomb on display at the Halekulani Resort breakfast buffet.
Uses for Comb Honey
- Cut into chunks and sprinkle over a salad, waffles or ice cream
- Put a piece on brie cheese and lightly heat in the oven
- Serve with a fruit and cheese platter
- Makes a beautiful display at breakfasts and brunches.
Harvesting Comb Honey
Part 1, Setting up the Hive
- Take foundation out of the frames you wish to harvest comb honey from. Replace foundation with a starter strip. This is a 1-2” strip that hangs from the top bar of your frames. The starter strip can be made from wax foundation, plastic foundation or wood. Drizzle a little bit of melted beeswax over the strip to secure it to top of the frame.
- Make sure hive is level!
- Obey the “bee space”. This means you do not allow more than 3/8” space in between frames.
- Use as little smoke as possible. Beeswax is very porous and can taste smokey.
Photo: Frame with a plastic foundation starter strip.
Part 2, Pulling from the Hive
- Remove frames from hive once they’re mostly capped.
- Use a feather or brush to get the bees off. No smoke!
- Harvest a lot all at once or one frame at a time. Keep in mind, the longer comb stays in the hive, the darker the wax will get. You can store frames of honey comb in the freezer if you cannot harvest immediately.
Part 3, harvesting
- Cut comb using a bread knife into the size pieces that will fit your containers.
- Freeze! You can freeze the honeycomb in the frame before you cut it or freeze your comb honey after they’re in containers.
- If you do not want a pool of honey in your container with the comb, let the cut pieces of comb sit on a wire rack in a tray overnight. This will allow most of the honey to drip off.
There’s a variety of containers you can store comb honey in. You can put them in a plastic clamshell container, hard, plastic honeycomb case, in a jar with liquid honey or just a Tupperware container.
For the Beginner Beekeeper
For the beginner beekeeper, you may not harvest any honey your 1st or even 2nd year keeping bees as you figure out how much honey to leave on the hive over winter.
In this case, put just a few foundationless frames in a honey super and see if the bees build off of it. You can harvest just 1-2 frames from this box. The whole box doesn’t have to be for comb honey.
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