During the early summer, I helped a local beekeeper remove a wild bee's nest from someone's house. The bees had been living above a bay window, nice and snug between the ceiling and the roof. They had been there a number of years, and their nest was about three to four times the size of a National brood box.
Transferring the bees into a hive
Over several hours, Clifford used a large knife to slice up sections of the nest. He handed these sections down to me. I then crammed the comb (which contained brood) into empty frames, binding it with string. We slotted these frames into a brood box, planning to let them settle, and then move them into clean, sterile frames in a few weeks time.
Clifford gave me the honey, to repay my time, and I arrived home later that day with a 60 litre tub full of honeycomb. I had no honey extractor, but even if I had, it wouldn't have helped, since extractors are designed to extract honey from foundation frames.
For old comb, which is firmer to the touch, and darker, even black, you can squeeze the honey out of the comb and into a bowl with your bare hands. You will be left with a lump of wax in your hands, and lots of honey in the bowl.
But this does not work with fresh new comb, which is soft and crumbly to the touch, and a paler colour. The wax is too soft, and will merge into one sticky mess in your hands. Instead, crush the new comb in a large saucepan and heat it gently. The wax will separate and float to the top. Skim it off with a large spoon as best you can. Then strain the remaining honey through a fine wire sieve into a bowl. You should then put the skimmed wax into a further saucepan (or container) and repeat the exercise once more.
And then voila! Lovely wild honey - simply stacks of it - and lots of happy family members and friends, all enjoying honey on their toast. This cheers me up, despite my problems with my own bees (see previous post on Robber Wasps).
I found a good description of how to do this from some outdoor folks in Oz (Oz outdoors). Looking again more recently, I also found a lovely description elsewhere (check out this link). But in essence the learning from my experience is that you need one method to extract honey from the soft comb, and another to extract it from the firmer comb.
I was surprised to see even Mr P spreading honey on his toast. He'd never been a honey lover before - he always ate marmalade. Why the sudden change in taste?
He smiled. "I never ate it before because it was so expensive to buy! But since this is free, I'll eat it as much as I want now!"