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Comb Honey Sections

An established way of producing comb honey

This page is from my notes taken at a workshop given by Benny Myers at FIBKA Summer School at Gormanston in 2013.

I assume the reader is familiar with sections and the associated equipment. Sections aren't as popular as they were before cut comb honey became popular.

Benny Myers uses CDB hives that were introduced towards the end of the 19th century to help poor farmers on the west coast of Ireland. They are the same capacity as the CDB hives B.S. National, but are run the "warm way" and were intended for producing sections, that were common in those days. There is a lift that covers the brood box in the winter to give extra protection, but when reversed in the summer could accommodate packing around the section racks.

Section rack are very similar to those made for the WBC hive and take 21 sections in seven rows of three.

The hive Benny Myers showed at his workshop was very old and still serviceable.

His first look at his colonies is in March. If they appear to be O.K they are left alone, but those showing signs of problems are inspected. Water is given in the apiary in March. Queens are clipped and marked as early as possible in the spring.

In his opinion yellow bees don't make such good sections as dark bees do, partly because they don't leave the air pocket under the cappings that make the work of the dark bees whiter and therefore more attractive.

The CDB section rack is smaller than the brood box and to prevent bees going through the gap, metal and/or plastic ends are used in the brood box. The queen excluder is the size of the section rack and is flat, so it sits on top of the brood frames to prevent brace comb being built underneath the sections.

Sections when folded dry can break, so Benny stacks a handful together and runs them under the tap. They are folded using a jig to get them square. To entice bees into the first rack, part built sections from the previous year are placed in the centre of the rack. A canvas quilt is placed on top, not a crown board. If a second rack is needed it is placed on top until the bees start to work it, then is placed underneath.

Strong colonies are taken to the heather just as the flowers are opening, but no queen excluder is used here. When they return they are fed thymolised syrup to prevent fermentation and reduce nosema. They are treated with oxalic acid in the winter to control varroa.

Swarm control is quite simple. Colony inspections are 14 days and when swarm cells are built the first time they are all cut out and the next inspection is after 7 days. If swarm cells are built again the queen is removed and placed in a nuc. All Q/Cs bar one are removed from the parent colony. After a further 7 days the emergency cells are removed, leaving the cell that was left last time. If the queen fails to mate, the nuc containing the original queen is placed back in the parent colony, with the queen sandwiched between the combs, so she is protected.

When the sections are removed from the rack the wood is cleaned with a Stanley knife blade, then placed in biscuit tins and stored in the garage.

I hope I have recorded Benny's lecture accurately.

The above is an account of one method of producing sections using a CDB hive that many beekeepers haven't seen, but it can be easily adapted to suit any hive type.

Roger Patterson.