Granulation of honey in the comb

When we’re first confronted with granulated honey on the comb, we’re usually unsure of what to do. Often these frames are put in a plastic box and left forgotten at the back of the shed (I know I’ve done it) or worse, discarded as worthless.

Often, the granulated honey will first be seen when uncapping the comb prior to extraction. It usually affects the whole frame consistently or one side of a frame but sometimes, it’s seen in smaller patches where there’s been over-lapping flows from different flowers.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can just warm the comb prior to extraction. By the time the honey has liquified, the wax will have softened so much, that it will just collapse as soon as you crank the extractor.

Drawn comb is valuable. It’s taken the bees much effort and energy to create it so re-use super comb from year to year.

Granulation can be taken care of in two ways, depending on whether it’s the whole comb or just patches of it.

Whole comb granulation

Usually, in theses circumstances, the comb cannot be saved but recovery of the honey is still worth the effort. Remove the top bar and cut the granulated comb from the frame. Break or cut it into lengths that will fit into a 30lb food-grade bucket. Put your bucket into a warming cabinet or electric oven and set the temperature to no more than 55c. Needless to say, don’t try this at home with gas!

Before you start, check your electric oven is capable of being controlled down to 55c and that it will accommodate a 30lb bucket. Make sure your bucket is scrupulously clean both inside and out. Remember, the outside of the bucket will come into contact with surfaces that cook your food.

Approximately twelve hours should do for the heat to permeate through and liquify the contents of the bucket.

At 55c, the wax will break down into gloopy mush floating on top of the honey but it will not melt. Don’t worry about HMF, this process is not going to push it beyond 40ppm; the acceptable limit under the Honey Regulations for England, 2003.

Oven temperatures are not particularly accurate so check with your thermometer before you start. If the temperature rises above 60c, you risk overheating the honey and melting the wax which will just make a terrible mess inside your bucket. If you have lots of granulated comb, and you’re near a local bee farmer, you can ask to put your combs through their Apimelter; a tool specifically designed for this job and capable of taking several supers at a time.

Let it all cool to about 30c (use an electric thermometer to measure that, the sort that are used for tropical fish tanks are ideal as they have a remote probe. They cost about £10) then pour it through coarse and fine filters to separate the wax. Allow the honey to settle for twenty-four hours in your settling tank then jar it as soon as you can.

Partial granulation

In this situation, it should be possible to extract some honey and retain the wax for reuse. Extract as normal to remove the liquid honey; being careful to balance the combs in the extractor to prevent comb breakage.

When you uncapped the combs it would have become apparent how much granulation there was on each comb. Try to match combs in the extractor so that combs of equal approximate weight are placed opposite to each other.

After extraction, spray combs liberally with water so that both the granulated honey and adjacent cells are wet. This will start to dissolve the granulated honey and provides a reserve of water in the comb. The bees are then able to fully clear out the comb when it is placed back on the hive. Monitor the comb, after a week or so and repeat the water spray if necessary to ensure all the granulation is cleared.

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