I want to share with you a very simple method of processing harvested comb from a top bar hive. This should give you an idea of the potential yield and the relative simplicity of working with the top bar hive. The best part of this single comb harvesting method is that it can be done in less than 30 minutes and you will still get to the office on time!
One of the benefits of harvesting single combs at different times throughout the season is that you get to sample honey from multiple flora sources because the bees are collecting from different nectar flows at different times during the season. I have been amazed at the wide variety of honey flavors, even between honey comb that I harvested just two weeks apart.
The single comb harvesting method also benefits the bees. To harvest a single comb the hive only needs to be opened very briefly, usually only for a minute or so, and the bees hardly get disturbed at all. This is really a good method for a beginner to start with, because it is not as involved or intimidating as harvesting a bunch of combs at once.
I think that it also develops a trust and a confidence with the bees, giving them the message that you are both sharing in a mutual relationship and you're not there to strip them of all their honey. In this relationship, you have provided them with a great home and are protecting them from the elements. In return, they share a comb with you -- a symbiotic relationship that keeps the bees healthy and keeps you from getting stung.
Now let's get on to the details. Quite simply, we are going to extract the honey, placing it straight into the storage jar. Here is a Cathedral Hive honey comb that has been removed. When I weighed the complete comb after removing it from the top bar, this comb weighed 9.5 pounds.
What is amazing is that, when extracted, the honey weighed 6.2 lbs. so you can see that a very small amount of wax is rendered from the comb. This particular comb filled up an entire 1 1/2 quart jar. For a quick harvest, that's quite a bit of honey and it's only one comb!
Cut the comb off bar and mash in bowl The comb is cut off into a bowl and mashed, until all of the comb cells are broken up and it has a nice even consistency.
An easy way to "decap" the honey cells is to run a serrated knife along the cappings to cut them off. Do this to each side of the honeycomb to uncap the honey cells. This allows the honey to ooze out of the cell.
Spoon honeycomb mash into a mason jar Spoon or pour this honey wax mixture into a 1 quart jar. Screw on the brass jar ring, but not the lid.
Drape a fine screen mesh over the mouth of another 1 quart jar.
I use a fine mosquito netting that we sell on our Beekeeping Supplies- Meshing page. Cloth or cheese cloth will not work. When the mesh is draped over the mouth of the jar, screw on the brass jar ring to hold it in place and mist the screen with a little water to break the surface tension that will develop when the honey flows through.
Hourglass jars Now take the jar with the mesh and turn it upside down, setting it on top of the filled honey jar and duct tape the two together forming a honey hourglass.
When a good seal is made, flip the honey hourglass over and put it in a warm place and wait for about an hour.
Your honey will flow right from the honey comb into the jar, leaving behind the beeswax.
I find this method of harvesting honey from the Top Bar hive very practical and rewarding. In my area I have found that the Burdock flowers create a beautiful, almost clear honey that is very exotic and medicinal. When the Burdock is nearing its flowing stage I make a note of where the bees have filled combs in my hives by looking in the window. When the Burdock blooms, I can observe which combs are being filled. Then I harvest the one or two Burdock nectar combs.
Some folks like to call this method the Crush and Strain Method