June 6, 2020

What to Do with Crystallized Honey in Combs

If you’re like most of us, some of your hives died this winter or spring. Assuming you know what American Foul Brood evidence looks like, and know there is none, you may use the hive’s combs for future bees.

Some combs, especially higher in the hive, may still have honey in them. It will be crystallized, which looks like wet white granules in the cells instead of thick clear liquid honey. The only way to get this crystalline honey out of the cells and still have usable comb is to let the bees do it. It will not come out using an extractor. Ever.

Crystallized Honey in Combs

Crystallized Honey in Combs

When you restock your hives, this honey is better feed than giving them sugar syrup. Put the honey anywhere in the hive you like — above, below, or around the brood nest. They’ll use it eventually. If it’s in comb that you would like the bees to re-fill for your honey harvest later in the summer, either use a queen excluder to prevent the queen from laying in the cells you’re asking them to empty, or put that comb below the brood nest in early spring when the queen (at least initially) is moving up. It is important to get them to eat all the crystallized honey before they begin to store nectar for the next harvest, because those crystals will cause the new honey to crystallize quickly. If you don’t expect to get bees soon, protect combs by storing them where bees and mice can’t get in the boxes, but also in such a way that air can get in, to prevent mold. I use a window-screen-covered metal queen excluder at the top and bottom of the stack, and put it on blocks in the barn.

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