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Honey Caramels Recipe

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I have an insatiable sweet tooth. It is no wonder that that one of my Rugby buddies refers to me, affectionately, as “Fatboy”! Thanks Steve! For a number of years another Rugby buddy, Vince P and I catered large BBQ’s and fundraising events – we were also affectionately known as the “Fatboys”. Now, don’t read too much into that affectionate stuff, Ruggers just tend squeeze tight in scrums, ruck and mauls!

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Just an FYI….I am the Skinny one pictured on the apron! LOL

Back to talking about the Caramels……..Just a side note….how do you say “caramel”?

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noun car·a·mel \ˈkär-məl; ˈker-ə-məl, ˈka-rə-, -ˌmel\

Looks like Merriam and Webster will give you a choices.

Even though honey season is over and I have “officially” sold out, I did keep a 1/2 gallon jar(6 lbs.) of late summer honey for my personal use. Did I say I had a sweet tooth? I do love my honey!

While cruising through Facebook a few days ago I ran across a mention of Honey Caramel candy and just had to try it. End result – very, very tasty but did not turn out as aesthetically pleasing as the results on the recipe web page! See below.

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Looks so yummy and I think they must have frozen theirs or cheated some other way that only food photographers know the truth…..

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I wound up rolling mine in wax paper like Bakersfield’s famous Dewar’s Caramel chews.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line a 8-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the cream, honey, sugar and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°.
  3. Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals.
  4. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 255° (hard-ball stage). Stir in walnuts( I only used 1/3 cup) and vanilla; return mixture to 255°. I think Hard Ball stage is a little higher than 255 deg F.
  5. Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan).
  6. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight.
  7. Using foil, lift candy out of pan; discard foil. Cut candy into 1-in. squares. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends. Yield: about 1-1/2 pounds.

I originally heated it to “soft ball stage….235 deg F – I reheated to 255 deg F and research indicates that the hard ball stage runs up to 265 deg F. My suggestion if you want to try this recipe is go on up to the 260-265 deg F range.

One more suggestion…..use heavy duty foil in the pan!

Originally published as Honey Caramels in Taste of Home Christmas Annual 2013, p144 

Busy day today…..Earlier in the day I took one of my favorite customer and his wife out on a bee inspection tour. We first visited my topbar hive here in Kingwood. The hive is doing beautifully. They were taking photos and shared the results with me. There was a perfect view of a bar with a perfect dense brood pattern……text book. The queen is doing her job!

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Look at the tight dense pattern. This was one of several bars with a similar pattern.

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The girls are working hard, putting pollen away, making bee bread and some honey across the top of the bar.

Next we visited one of my 8 frame garden hives.

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This is a deep frame with an almost perfectly capped honeycomb. Close to 5 pounds – both sides looked just like this. Yum

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish!

 

I am going to end this post with sadness in my heart. A woman who came into my life when I had to immediately move a hive upon nasty request by my HOA, has passed away. She graciously offered up a location for my hive on her ranch up in Franklin,Texas. It was a bit far away, but it grew into a friendship and a mentorship. Johnnie wanted to become a beekeeper and I helped….She was so cute in her bee suit….I had to coach her about donning the outfit….Still makes me smile and laugh a little. We wound up with two hives for her and one more across the road on her niece’s property in addition to one for me. My original hive was productive but absconded…..

 

I found a good deal on 4 NUC’s and installed them the spring of 2016. We had problems with hive beetles. We lost two and another was not doing well. Johnnie nursed that hive back to health. She physically squished hundreds of hive beetles and kept the beetle traps loaded with mineral oil. She was becoming a beekeeper. We picked up two strong NUC’s at the end of summer and now we had 4 good hives. This was when she began telling me of some pains. It wasn’t long before it was diagnosed and the prognosis wasn’t good.

I visited her a few weeks ago, sat beside the bed and held her hand. She had a grace and sweetness about her that touched my heart. My mother passed away at the end of July 2016,  teaching life lessons up until her last breath. Johnnie also showed me grace, dignity and no fear of death. She was ready to shed her earthly body. She passed away early this morning. There is a little less sweetness on earth today but heaven has gained a beautiful soul.

Rest in Peace Johnnie

Bishop

 

 

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Do You Really Know Your Honey?

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No, I am not talking about the person you met through “Match.com” or for that matter, your significant other. I am talking about the liquid gold in the bottle called “Honey”. I have done my own sleuthing on the local supermarket shelves and I have been surprised. There is not much truth in labeling at the supermarket. Local raw honey is a real treat, if you spend the time and effort necessary to verify the moniker, “Local Raw Honey”!

I ran a cross this article while looking around and thought it did a great job illustrating the point….”do you really know your honey?”

“…..Research at Texas A&M University shows that most honey labels aren’t telling the truth, and 75% of the honey in the U.S. is not what it says it is on the label. And this could apply to as much as 90% of the nation’s honey, according to lead federal honey investigator.”

Dr. Vaughn Bryant is an anthropologist and a bit of a honey sleuth at Texas A&M University. He utilizes A&M’s extensive pollen library to identify where honey originates by it’s pollen “fingerprint”. A Michigan TV station did a little test of honey off the shelf at a local store.

“……..So, we took some samples and sent them to Texas A&M University. Our five samples included a bottle from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms, Honey Tree’s Michigan Great Lakes Raw Honey, Organic Rainforest honey, plus a Meijer brand and a Spartan brand.” Just an FYI, every bottle of “USDA” labeled honey I found in local supermarkets comes from either Brazil, Argentina or Mexico….the USDA labeling is based on the country certifying that the honey meets the standards. Long story….

So, what did Channel 17 learn from the samples? You have to read it to believe it….3 of the 5 samples had no pollen present…..it is a great way for distributors/bottlers to disguise the origin of the honey by ultra-fine filtration and usually done under high temperatures, destroying any beneficial properties.

Local raw honey will be cloudy due to fine bubbles and pollen in the honey….

“Most of them were not what they claimed to be,” said Bryant.

First, he looked at the honey bottled from the company formerly known as Groeb Farms. They were previously fined for mislabeling Chinese honey. The label on this particular bottle said “Pure Honey Clover.” Although Dr. Bryant said the sample wasn’t from China, he said there was still a problem with the label. “It turned out not to be clover honey.”

There was “not enough clover pollen to warrant the honey being called a unifloral clover honey,” his report said. The other flower pollens found in the honey included “soybeans, chestnut, mesquite, and eucalyptus.”

“A little bit of clover pollen in here,” said Vaughn. “But it would not qualify as clover pollen. So here’s the case where it’s sold as pure clover honey, but it’s really not.”

Onto jar number two, a jar labeled Great Lakes Raw Michigan Honey. This honey appeared much more true to form according to Dr. Bryant’s analysis. He said there was “sumac” pollen in this sample, which grows commonly in the state. “It could well be from Michigan,” said Bryant. However, a few other suspicious pollens were discovered, too, which could indicate there was other honey mixed in from southern regions, or it could simply mean that the pollen accidentally got in there some other way. Bryant’s report showed pollen from citrus:  lemon, orange, sweetgum, mesquite, eucalyptus and magnolia.

“Those could have been contamination from some other source,” said Bryant. “Or, they could have been part of a mixture. It’s hard to tell.”

Chris Olney, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honey Tree said that the pollen from southern regions likely came from hives that were used in Florida, then brought to Michigan.  He said 50% of the hives are transported by beekeepers to southern regions like Florida to pollinate citrus crops, then they are brought back to Michigan to pollinate crops here in the summer.

Now on to sample 3, which was labeled Organic Rainforest honey. “We don’t know what it is,” said Bryant.

The label had the abbreviation “BR” on the back, which stands for Brazil. However, Bryant couldn’t prove it came from rainforest flowers. It came back from testing as a question mark, because someone had strained all the pollen out. “We have no idea whether it’s organic,” said Bryant. “We have no idea whether it’s from the rainforest or anything else.”

Sample 4, the Meijer Pure Clover honey, had stamps for USA, Canada, and Argentina on the label, but for Bryant, it remains a question mark because, according to the test, “all of the pollen has been removed.”

Sample 5, the Spartan premium golden honey had the markings of “AR” and “CA” stamped on the back. AR stands for Argentina according to country code listings, and CA stands for Canada. However, Bryant couldn’t prove where this sample was from either country. “One certainly could not prove that the contents of this honey is what is claimed on the label.”

So, what is your best option? Know who your beekeeper is, ask to go see the hives, maybe even ask to help gather the honey……. This maybe a little TMI, but you will be tempted to lick your fingers every once in a while as you go through the extraction process……FYI I do keep a bowl of sanitary water in the extraction area to dip fingers and hands in while working with the very raw honey. Just saying! Link to the article below.

http://fox17online.com/2014/02/25/the-truth-behind-the-honey-labels-a-fox-17-investigation/

 

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This is hand crushed honeycomb from my topbar hive.

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Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood clean the wax.

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A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.

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Honey….being added to a frame. Not ready to extract but looking good.

Buy Local and know your honey.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Bee Adventures

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Yesterday morning, yes too early for the bees  (mistake one), I went to check on and maybe harvest some honey from my original top bar hive. It has been intolerably hot lately, hot enough to make the wax comb very soft. This topbar hive is my gentle hive. See photo below;


I normally just smoke them a little and wear my veil as seen in the photo! Today I decided to gear up and wear my white overalls, gloves and the above veil.

Mistake two; The bees were agitated from the “git go!” No problem, I had smoke and protective gear. It was 8:45 in the morning and the top bar hive was still in the shade. Probably a thousand or more clustered on the outside and little evidence of foraging…..

The veil has long strings and the trick is to make sure that my collar is flipped up and the veil secured without gaps. Mistake number three, I failed to check the collar and the fit. All of a sudden I feel air from beating wings on my face.

“John, are the bees inside my veil?”  I ask.

“Yes, quite a few”, he responds.

I start heading out of the area and I have company both inside and out. They seem to be pissed at me and ignoring John. I took 6-7 or more in the back of my head and a few more on my forehead.

I wander back to my Suburban, licking my wounds and suit up. John is putting the bars back in place and the top back on. I return to take a peek at the other topbar hive and the two Langstroth hives.

The 8 frame is healthy but growing slower than my other three 8-frame hives. The 10 frame hive is doing nicely with a queen hatched from my original top bar hive. FYI,  my top bars sized to fit in my Langstroth hives. The second top bar hive was also cloned from a queen cell and a few  bars of brood, pollen and honey from the original hive.

Ok, I have orders from the sales manager (my wife for some cut comb and I know where to go. I have two 8 frame hives nearby and I have been anxious to harvest them. I pulled 11 frames, 3 beautiful ones for cut comb and we extracted the others.


I wound up with 12 – eight ounce squares and I also boxed up all the trimmings. I let them drain a bit on the rack before boxing them up. I love cut comb! I also wound up with over 30 pounds of liquid honey. Two more hives to visit in the next day or two to  on the honey production.

TTFN

Bishop

“Goo” Friends are Great Friends

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This past week was a very busy bee week….pun untended. Tuesday morning I received a call from an old cowboy down in the town of Porter. He had a tree filled with bees that fell last winter. He had been cutting it up to get it out of the way and came to a halt when he noticed bees exiting a split in the side of the tree. There it sat until Tuesday morning.

He mentioned something to Chuck down at the Knox feed store on Knox Rd in nearby Porter. The cowboy didn’t necessarily want to harm the bees, but if they wouldn’t leave, he would apply diesel and a torch. I gave my “goo” friend John a call to see if he wanted to join me on an adventure….I didn’t see his eyes roll but I am sure they did…….Let me back up, why do I call John a “goo friend”?

 

I posted a bit of our adventure on Facebook and fat fingered what should have read, “good friend”, but left the “d” off! An observant reader of the post caught the error…….But, it sounded good to me, I mean we are dealing with gooey honey! On top of that that, John was one of the unfortunate senior guys and in this downturn the Company gave him the opportunity to look for another career. Not sure he had being my assistant beekeeper on his list of options. He has been a good sport and we have had some “goo” adventures.

 

Back to the adventure. I picked up John and we went to check the tree out and figure out what options we had. The cowboy said that the bees didn’t seem too riled up when he was using the chainsaw so that became plan number one. We planned to open the hive with the chainsaw. The split where the bees were entering and exiting the hive seemed very busy! Lots of activity and lots of pollen going in. The log had several other cracks which turned out to be to our advantage. About 3 ½ feet to the left of where I planned a cut was the stub of a forked branch that showed evidence of being hollowed out. That turned out to be correct and helped us out on day two of the removal. Yes, two days for free bees!

 

At the end of day one…really about 3 hours of continuous work, we had about 14 frames with cut comb rubber banded into place. Operatiing a chainsaw in full gear, awkward positions and on a fairly warm sunny day took a lot of steam out of this 65 year old guy! Our close examination of the tree indicated a possible narrowing on the left end and a massive cluster of bees massed up on the log interior that was void of comb. Our guess was that the queen had run on up into that narrowing and the girls were clustered up with her. Packed up our gear and made plans for day two.

 

Day two now, in addition to the chainsaw I brought a reciprocating saw for making more controlled cuts. Long story cut short, we wound up borrowing the cowboy’s reciprocating saw as mine was sick and wouldn’t get up to speed. First order of business was to gather the clustered bees. Using sugar water and a misting spray bottle we swept bees into a plastic tub and a plastic feed scoop, “gotta” love a cowboy with lots of tools and equipment. Just guessing we scooped up enough bees to fill at least two packages of bees, maybe more. We were dumping them in on top of the frames and they were pretty much staying put. We made our fine cuts into the narrowing end and realized that we needed to go with the big gun and fired up the chainsaw.

 

Now luck worked into the equation. Realize now, that I am a rookie and my “goo” friend is a little less than a rookie but learning quickly. I fired up the chainsaw and feeling my way along, advice I heard in a video by a local beekeeper Tom Brueggan, cut out the narrowing portion. It came out in a half pipe like piece about 3 feet long and bees packed solid in the “trough’ like section. Poured and swept the bees into the open top of the box. We placed the top on the box and went about some clean up and organizing tools. John pointed out that the bees were now clustering on the top lid and marching in through the hole. I broke into a big grin and he said it first, “We have the queen don’t we?” Yes we did. It was a first for both of us to witness the “march”. They we packing themselves into the hive body.

 

Our cowboy kept his distance and watched as we finished cleaning up and putting away our tools. We battened down the top of the hive box, two deeps and a medium pretty well filled with bees and cut comb. I went over to visit with the cowboy as John shed his gear. I had my hood and gloves off while letting the sweat cool me off. About that time cowboy’s brother showed up and I knew him, couldn’t place exactly where but he had sat through one of the classes I teach in my consulting role. So now cowboy, Deon as best I can decipher how he says his name and brother Rocky are visiting with us. Deon has an ice cold Miller Lite in his hand and must have seen me eying it. As any good cowboy, he had an ice chest in the bed of his pick-up with a few more. Wow, that beer hit the spot.

 

We got permission to leave the hive box in place for a while, until I find the right spot to locate it. That will give the girls time to get comfortable and begin attaching the comb we cut out and placed into the frames.

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The hive box with 20 frames containing the comb rubber banded into the frames. added a super shortly after this.

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Interior back wall of the log. It was a bit of a challenge to cut with the chainsaw and be delicate enough to feel the hollowed out portion. Thanks again to Tom Brueggan for his hint.

 

Day three;

My “goo” friend and I head out to Navasota to pick up four packages of bees to be installed into four ready and empty hives. 10 minutes into the drive we were at the Hot Biscuit of Porter and yes, they make good biscuits. An hour and 20 minutes later we were at R Weaver’s place and enjoying the welcoming committee.

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Hello boys!

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Any goodies for us….They had plenty but was going to be a difficult meal….they were working on a poor box turtle that was cracked open in the road.

We were picking up the package bees, four to be exact and hopefully sans hitchhikers! We then turned around and headed back to Kingwood. First stop was at the Dacus place on Russel Palmer Road to install two of the packages. Max was home and came out to observe just as we were finishing up. Max is very new and we put his gear on and gloves to watch. Went very smooth.

Next stop was placing a package in the hive at Mike and Annette’s place. Mike watched from a distance and John reminded me to remove the plug from the queen cage….yes, I forgot….isn’t that what “goo” friends are for. Mike became a lot more comfortable and actually posed next to the hive in shorts, flip flops and a T-shirt……A great illustration that 99% or more of the time bees just want to go about their business while ignoring people.

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Mike was photo bombed by one of his new friends!

Package four went to Troy’s place out off Mills Branch Road. Troy was home so I had him suit up and watch the process. He is also very new to bees and very hungry to learn. It went very smooth and again the “goo” friend had to remind me again to remove the plug from the queen cage. Did I say that I was 65 yet?…..maybe. Troy also mention that he just picked up a few empty lots down the street from his house that I can use to expand if needed…..I think I know where the Cowboy hive is going to go!

 

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John and Troy and a glimpse of my topbar hive behind them.

So, a great “bee” week, a lot of learning and nice successes.

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

I am Legal Now

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Actually, I have been legal for a long, long time! As of September 1st of this year I can legally sell honey at Farmers Markets as long as I meet the State of Texas’ labeling requirements. The key change for small producers, those selling under 2,500 pounds per year, requires a label indicating that the honey was not bottled in a facility inspected by the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

  
This is an example label added to the bottom of a jar. I snapped this iPhone photo at the Liberty County Beekeepers meeting this week. This little law change has many small producers breathing easier. To sell retail or wholesale, honey must be bottled in a licensed and inspected honey house/facility. That cost is beyond the means of hobby producers. Many small producers were technically breaking the law prior to September 1st. Small producers could always sell direct to the customer. A caveat, the honey must have been sold by the producer or immediate family member. That was how is I peddled my honey. 

My haul from the northern hive was small but very tasty. Most of the honey was bottled in 3/4 pound plastic Queenline bottles. I made a little larger bottle as payment to the hive’s host.  About 13.5 pounds total for this trip. The hive is now in winter mode and the honey remaining is for the bees. 

  
I just love the feel of the bottle getting heavy as it fills, the wonderful aroma that escapes and catching the sweet drops on my finger as the valve closes. I do lick my fingers and then rewash before proceeding! Yes I do! 

 
The honey bear actually holds the same weight as the white topped bottles. 

I have the catalogs out, dreaming about next spring and deciding how big my hobby will become. At a minimum I will have my existing Langstroth and two top bar hives. Let me amend that, I am building two “half” top bar hives this weekend. I can use them as Nucs or if arrangements can be made, as a rescue hive for cutouts or for capturing swarms. 

TTFN

Bishop

First Harvest From The Top Bar Hive

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Yum, Yum, Yum……I pulled 3 bars with huge slabs of beautiful fully capped honeycomb 20 minutes ago and I was totally amazed. I cut up and saved 20 3X3 inch chunks,  had a few to snack on and have a freezer bag full of odd sized pieces. Yum!

Getting ready to cut them lose.

Getting ready to cut them lose.

My son Joe suited up and gave me a hand. Thanks Joe.

My son Joe suited up and gave me a hand. Thanks Joe.

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off

The combs pulled on the top  bar hive are much thicker than those in my Langstroth hive. The broken pieces are so good to snack on!

The combs pulled on the top bar hive are much thicker than those in my Langstroth hive. The broken pieces are so good to snack on!

I separtted the slabs with parchment paper....they caught the dripping pretty well but I was sure tempted to lick them clean....I resisted!

I separated the slabs with parchment paper….they caught the drippings pretty well but I was sure tempted to lick them clean….I resisted!

I caught a shot of one of my bug catchers hanging out on a banana leaf with my iPhone the day before....They are so good looking.

I caught a shot of one of my bug catchers hanging out on a banana leaf with my iPhone the day before….They are so good looking.

More Top Bar adventures soon!

TTFN

Bishop

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