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black specks in my honey

Posted by thisbud4u San Diego (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 18, 08 at 11:16

Hi all,
When we pulled some frames for extracting, we got a few frames with a little brood in them. Not wanting to get the brood into the honey after extracting, we took the hot knife and cut out the brood. Unfortunately, that also cut into the brood part of the comb, and when we extracted and filtered, there were still tiny bits of black comb in the honey. I've tried a tighter sieve to remove the black specks, and that seems to get most of them, but my question really is about what I SHOULD have done.

Right now, I'm thinking that maybe I shouldn't have touched that area with the hot knife at all, trusting that the extracting process would leave the brood in their cells if those cells were still capped. Is that correct?

Beekeepers must face this issue all the time. Just wondering what the right way is to handle brood in your combs when extracting.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: black specks in my honey

I use queen excluders to keep the brood out of the honey in the first place.

RE: black specks in my honey

Filter / straining honey: As someone posted in another question, I've always heard pantyhose can be used. I never used them myself preferring instead, either five gallon nylon paint strainers (pick up a five pack at a local paint store) or a new shear curtain (again, nylon) - either one is pretty cheap and makes for good strainer material.

Queen Excluders: their use... yes or no? Probably could be a whole topic unto itself. I'm sure others can chime in here on that topic, pro and con.

If you have multiple hives and have run across several frames where the queen has laid eggs in the honey supers, then it might be worth your time to consolidate these frames into one (or more) supers and definitely put a queen excluder below it. After the brood emerges, the bees will fill up the cells with honey and you're ready to extract (or save that super as 'extra' food stores to overwinter the bees - if needed - and there have been winters where I've been glad I've had those extra frames of honey).

But I tend to agree, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You'll save yourself some headaches if you can insure you queen hasn't been up in the honey super laying eggs. There are several other considerations for the most successful use of queen excluders.

Here is a link that might be useful: Incl link to my photos page

RE: black specks in my honey

Thanks, guys. I've got queen excluders underneath my top supers. Sadly, one of the supers was completely empty after being on the hive for a full year. This super was full of bees, who were busy eating away the wax on the frames in this super. After the hive swarmed this January, I guess the hive decided that they didn't need the extra room. Plenty of bees in the bottom three supers, and no evidence at all of wax moths, hive beetles, mites or anything. Just can't understand why they wouldn't use that top super. Has anyone seen this sort of beehavior before?

RE: black specks in my honey

Yep, it's why Queen Excluders are AKA "honey excluders" by some beekeepers.

Remember, the bees ain't in business to make you honey; they're in business to keep their queen/colony alive and produce more bees.

If they come to the understanding their queen can't access an area of the hive in which to lay eggs, the space isn't very useful to them (at least, for their purposes mentioned above).

It's best not to leave Q.E. on the hive all year long. A better technique is, about two or three weeks before robbing the hive, open the hive from the top (letting sunshine in) and lightly smoke the bees down - do this down through your supers until you reach the point where you want to put your QE. One of the objectives here is, to "chase" your queen down into the brood boxe(s) so she isn't trapped by the QE, up in the honey supers - you want her to run down away from the sunlight. Bottomline is: make sure your queen is below the QE.

And the reason I say do this about three weeks before robbing the hive, is why? Egg to emerging "cycle" time. If, by chance, you do have brood in the honey supers, you want the bees to have a chance to finish raising it and letting it emerge so they can fill the cells with honey. Obviously you won't be having new eggs laid up there because you've insured the queen is down below the QE. You also don't want to do this two or three months ahead for reasons you've already experienced.

Some say you can place a super of honey (all frames, fully capped) to form a 'honey barrier' which the queen won't cross and then place empty supers above that - thus excluding the queen. I've done this and it works (more or less) - it works right up until the point where the bees decide their queen is 'honey bound' and they begin to uncap and move the honey around and then you get eggs laid in what used to be a full super of honey (only). So the concept of using a full super as a honey barrier only works for a couple of weeks (at most).

RE: black specks in my honey

The key to using a queen excluder, in my experiance, is to make sure they have started to draw frames and fill them before you put the excluder in. They will NOT cross one to start new work on the other side, especially if you are using plastic foundation. But whenever I've let them get started, they cross it just fine.

RE: black specks in my honey

Thanks, cpp. Good advice, and indeed I did put the excluder in before they'd started to draw the frames.

However, one of my two hives filled the super which I'd placed above the excluder and one hive did not. The difference was, the one that DID fill the super was the stronger hive. The other one is somewhat weaker right now for some reason. So, perhaps the trick is to only use excluders on your strongest hives.

The other problem with excluders is that they're a pain to clean!

RE: black specks in my honey

I would totally agree with cpp; I don't think you want to put a QE on a hive where you're expecting them to draw out comb. Much better for the bees to have unencumbered access to frames where they're drawing out comb.

Here's how I clean my QE (pretty fast and easy, assuming you've got the metal kind). I use a propane torch (I think I bought mine at WalMart a few years ago for about twenty bucks). They're also good for torching the inside of any used hive boxes you may have bought in order to clean/sanitize them. Cleanup may take a few seconds per QE.

RE: black specks in my honey

Cleaning QE: forgot to mention, I also built a solar wax melter (see photos on flickr) and it works great for cleaning the excluders too - after about 15 minutes in it, all wax is off them.

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