- - Product number: RCH004
Comb honey is a great way to harvest that delicious liquid gold. Comb honey is growing again in popularity in tandem with the growth in beekeeping in general in New Zealand and in particular with hobbyist beekeepers. The convenience of dispensing with the whole honey extraction step is also a major benefit for the beekeeper to go to comb honey production. It is ideal for the hobbyist and small commercial operator for that very reason—and what could be more appealing than a beautifully packaged clean capped comb of honey. Having said that there have been some issues with the production of comb honey in New Zealand.
The first is the awareness of Tutin toxin which can inadvertently be introduced to comb honey. Because of this potential problem, in many areas of New Zealand it is not permitted to harvest comb honey after the New Year and then sell it to the general population. During dry times the honey dew produced by the Vine Hopper after sucking on the Tutu plant contains the Tutin toxin. The bees can and will take this up and add it to their honey. This is the source of the Tutin toxin. Because comb honey in each cell is very specifically derived from the nectar the bee collects, one bit of comb honey could have very high concentrations of Tutin toxin. Extracted honey being a conglomeration of honey from lots of comb dilutes any toxin that might be in some comb cells and also can be tested to determine the concentration of toxin in the bulk honey. This ensures bulk liquid honey is safe for human consumption. Comb honey by its nature can’t be certified as “safe” in the same way. So restrictions are in place to prevent comb honey that might contain Tutin toxin ever being produced and sold to the general public.
Secondly, the ways currently used to produce comb honey have some issues. The main way of producing comb honey is the “cut comb” method. This involves the beekeeper putting frames of comb foundation in honey supers with the foundation not supported with wires. Once the comb is filled and capped, the frame is removed and the comb cut out of the frame into squares and then packaged, usually in specially made plastic comb honey containers. This method has the advantage that there is very little special equipment involved. The frames and supers/boxes that are used are standard Langstroth sizes. The disadvantage is that the process of cutting and packaging can be messy and time consuming. The other common method is to use prefabricated “containers” that encourage the bees to build and fill comb directly into them. In the past they were made of very elegantly made wood squares that would use beeswax foundation, or more commonly now plastic containers with the foundation imprint in the bottom. These would then be waxed and inserted into specially made frame holders and put on the hive. The advantage of these systems was that the bees “package” the comb honey for you. The disadvantages are that they require special equipment and interestingly, the bees just don’t like fully filling square shapes.
This last fact was appreciated by Tom Ross in the USA, who having found wooden round comb honey sections frustrating, designed a new system to exploit the preference by bees for filling round spaces. His system became so successful that round comb honey is now generically called in the USA, “Ross Rounds”. His specific system patent has long since expired and Ceracell have now got dies and moulds to make the equipment for you to produce the New Zealand equivalent, Ceracell Rounds.