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  1. #1
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    Dec 2008
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    Default "cost" of crush and strain

    I''m small and perfectly happy doing crush and strain for now and maybe forever, but I'm trying to determine at what point of production volum an extractor makes financial sense for me.

    It's easy to determine what an extractor costs, but what does it cost in forgone future honey production to do crush and strain. Does any one know the production of a hive given supers that are drawn out verses supers that are not drawn out? Are there any rules of thumb about this or does any have any personal experience to share.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2008
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    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    I`ve never done crush and strain but if you want to figure it out...

    It takes about 7 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax. So, weigh one sheet of foundation in whatever size frame you use. Now count the frames you`re gonna do c&s with. Then, after you have done all your straining weigh the wax left over. Subtract the weight of the foundation. The result will be the new wax or drawn comb that the bees have made. So now multiply this weight by 7 and estimate low.

    Example:
    1 sheet of foundation weighs about 4 ounces.
    You c&s 50 frames. (4X50=200 ounces=12.5 lbs foundation)
    The wax left over weighs 30 pounds.
    30 - 12.5 = 17.5 lbs (new wax)
    17.5 X 7 = 122.5 pounds.
    So theoretically, had you given the bees drawn comb you could have ended up with about 100 lbs more of honey. I estimated low because this formula doesn`t take into account the weight of the cappings. The cappings will be made whether you use foundation or drawn comb. If you can figure out what the cappings weigh then you can get more precise. But in any case you can see there is definitely a cost.
    Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you`ll be among the stars!

  3. #3
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    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    I would like to see someone actually point to the study where someone "discovered" the 1 to 7 ratio of honey to wax. Seems like an old wives tale.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2008
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Quote Originally Posted by mythomane View Post
    I would like to see someone actually point to the study where someone "discovered" the 1 to 7 ratio of honey to wax. Seems like an old wives tale.
    Yes I agree this is a bit of guess work. But it does cost the bees something. They are giving their wax glands a pretty good work out so it stands to reason they need to fuel this activity. Also, if you consider the time spent... every bee busy building comb is not busy foraging so there would be less honey coming in. But hey, this ain`t no science!
    Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you`ll be among the stars!

  5. #5
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    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
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    3,379

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    I don't have any facts and figures but from past experience there seems to be a notable advantage to using drawn comb. Beyond the savings of honey that was detailed above there is the element of time. Typically our honey flows are of a relatively short duration and we want to have the maximum amount of empty drawn comb in place for the bees to process the nectar during that flow. If they are busy building comb then not only are you wasting honey on comb building but you are also losing valuable time during the flow. If you have a good flow taking place a few days wasted in drawing out comb rather than gathering and drying nectar can really add up.

    If you only have a couple of colonies it probably doesn't matter too much, but if you get up to 5+ hives it may be worth the investment to at least purchase an inexpensive small hand crank model.
    To everything there is a season....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Middlesex County, MA, USA
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    16

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    MichelinMan,

    Perfect!
    Now to determine what cappings weigh and to verify the 1 to 7 ration and it should be possible to estimate the "cost" of drawing out the foundation.

    Also another question that factors in. Are honey comb frames cycled out after a certain number of years? I'm only a 2nd year beekeeper so mine are still in good shape.

    The sale price of wax is another factor too.

    If your figures are accurate and not hypothetical, it seems like it doesn't take too many hives to justify an extractor. I actually like my "system" of crush and strain because I have plastic frames and just scrape them down (kind of like aggressive uncapping) into an uncapping and straining setup and then just bottle from there and I don't have to clean an extractor, but if my percentage of lost honey production is too much it doesn't seem worth forgoing an extractor because I do sell my honey at retail prices.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,261

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesharvest.htm#expenseofwax

    From Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Products, Coggshall and Morse pg 35

    "Their degree of efficiency in wax production, that is how many pounds of honey or sugar syrup are required to produce one pound of wax, is not clear. It is difficult to demonstrate this experimentally because so many variables exist. The experiment most frequently cited is that by Whitcomb (1946). He fed four colonies a thin, dark, strong honey that he called unmarketable. The only fault that might be found with the test was that the bees had free flight, which was probably necessary so they could void fecal matter; it was stated that no honey flow was in progress. The production of a pound of beeswax required a mean of 8.4 pounds of honey (range 6.66 to 8.80). Whitcomb found a tendency for wax production to become more efficient as time progressed. This also emphasizes that a project intended to determine the ratio of sugar to wax, or one designed to produce wax from a cheap source of sugar, requires time for wax glands to develop and perhaps for bees to fall into the routine of both wax secretion and comb production."

    The problem with most of the estimates on what it takes to make a pound of wax is they don't take into account how much honey that pound of wax will support

    From Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Products, Coggshall and Morse pg 41

    "A pound (0.4536 kg.) of beeswax, when made into comb, will hold 22 pounds (10 kg.) of honey. In an unsupported comb the stress on the topmost cells is the greatest; a comb one foot (30 cm.) deep supports 1320 times its own weight in honey."
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Middlesex County, MA, USA
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    If you only have a couple of colonies it probably doesn't matter too much, but if you get up to 5+ hives it may be worth the investment to at least purchase an inexpensive small hand crank model.
    Mike, Thanks. Funny you should mention five hives. That's exactly what I have. so maybe that's why I'm thinking about this so much. I can see, that like most things in beekeeping that answer is not simple.

    The one option that I don't think I will do though is to get an inexpensive hand crank. After borrowing a hand crank tangential extractor from a friend I did decide that when/if I get an extractor it will be a motorized one and probably radial. At 58, I'm not sure my shoulder would last with a hand crank model.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    515

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Well, this example seems not terribly scientific to me -- though leave it to you Bush, to know where the hell to find it! I am with you that there is an advantage for sure in drawn comb. This is common sense to me. My issue is that these figures are bandied about as gospel, and they have spurious roots at best.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
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    983

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    There is another point not yet mentioned here. It is VERY hard to prevent swarming without drawn comb..next to impossable on a long hard flow. Also even though you are using plastic frames and dont have to relace foundation you are loosing about 1/2 of your honey crop. Whether producing comb hone or drawing new comb....you get about 1/2 the honey drawing out new comb vs using drawn comb. When I ran 150 colones and each was double queened and equalized prior to flow, production was very even throughout the bee yard. If I put foundation on a colony the rest would make two supers of honey while the colony that had to draw out the wax made one.....this has been consistant for 37 years. So if you have two hives of bees and average 40 lbs colony per year using c&s you would make about 80 lb ave with drawn comb. so over a 5 year period you would loose 200 lb/colony or 400 lb honey. 400lb honey at $4.00 lb is $1600. In my opinion cut and squeeze is NEVER a option!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    OKC, OK USA
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    2,869

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    "For this reason (cost of equipment) it is doubtful whether anyone with fewer than 50 colonies should raise anything but comb honey." (and/or C&S)

    Richard Taylor, The How-To-Do-It Book of Beekeeping.

    This is however one area I disagree with Mr. Taylor on and ordered my Maxant last week.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  12. #12
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    Nov 2006
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
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    3,390

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Another consideration, IMO, is that the honey provides the fuel for the wax, but that is not the only input. The bees have to work at it, and bees that are drawing comb are not doing something else, like gathering nectar or curing it.

    Along the same lines, there are a limited number of days in a nectar flow when the weather's good and there is a worker force that is big enough to get 'er done. A hive with drawn comb does not have to waste part of that crucial period redrawing comb every year. They can just put it away. And I've learned that when a strong hive has drawn comb, they can really put quite a bit of honey away in a short amount of time. However, the work proceeds more slowly when they have to draw the comb.

    I suspect (but do not really know) that the honey production on a crush and strain hive is reduced by significantly more than just the amount of honey is takes, in theory, to draw the wax. (Unless all that is figured into the 1 to 7 ratio theory. However, if that's included, then the 1:7 ratio is necessarily pretty subjective.)

  13. #13
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    Mar 2009
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    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Ok Mythomane, you're pretty quick to dismiss our predecessors who have done studies on wax production as spurious. So, why don't YOU do such a study yourself? During a time of no flow, give one of your hives a super of foundation, feed them, account for any honey stored, and why don't YOU tell US how much honey/sugar syrup it takes to produce one pound of wax? Do your study to those standards that you accuse others of not using. Write a paper on it, submit it here and to one of the bee journals. Perhaps quite a few of us would be interested to see how your study turns out, and how it compares with previous ones.

    Until you do that, quit accusing others of using spurious data, or hearsay, when reputable people have done studies and they've been reported.

  14. #14
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    Mar 2007
    Location
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Posts
    282

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    I'm willing to bet when the price of bees was lower crush and strain was probably a more economical decision as well as possibly the high price of an extractor. I just started this year and have noticed the value of drawn comb in the supers. I do have an issue of using old comb in the brood area and am trying to figure out a plan of action to keep the colonies on nearly new comb.

  15. #15
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    Aug 2008
    Location
    Valley Center, CA
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    190

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Quote Originally Posted by teebee View Post
    Also another question that factors in. Are honey comb frames cycled out after a certain number of years?
    My boss has been a commercial beek for almost thirty years. He's bought equipment from other beeks who have bought equipment from other beeks. I've seen frames stamped '1976'. We use them till they break & can't be fixed.
    KI6FCI

  16. #16
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    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    reteveng

    I am not dismissing/accusing anybody. I already said I think most of the above posts are correct as relates to drawn comb. There is an obvious advantage. I am not a scientist, nor pretend to be, and am not really qualified to do a scientific test of that nature. My issue is with this 1 to 7 ratio. You state there are reputable people who have done studies. I am less concerned about their reputation as their method. You say there are scientific studies. Help me out here and show me this information.

  17. #17
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    Feb 2009
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    dallas, tx, usa
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    Just a note in defense of Taylor:

    1-People like comb honey. It will sell well, and you can bump the price so that it perhaps offsets some of the loss from the comb they have to draw.

    2-Having been friends with Richard I can tell you that he did not always agree with the stuff he wrote in his books. He was in a location (Interlaken, NY) which was pefect for producing comb honey. You may not have such luck.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
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    2,646

    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    you have to factor in Michaels comment about how much wax is in a frame.... its a very small amount... way less than a pound for a typical frame.. so lets say its 1/4 lb and it supports 6lbs of honey..... you gave up 1.3 lbs of honey to get 6 at a cost of 2.50 a lb, you would need to 400 frames to pay for that 1000.00 extractor.... that would be 40 supers.....

    as for me, I have 2 extractors, one commercial, one home made..... and yet for small amounts I crush and strain. or to clean up frames I don't want to store (partials)

  19. #19
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    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
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    983

    Smile Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    gm charlie....using your analysis you are right BUT as also stated in the above post you make 1/2 as much honey with no drawn comb....there is more to consider than just the amount of wax made. Also the extractor is a long term investment...and you can sell it when you retire so it doesnt really "cost" you the purchase price. My first extractor was purchased in 1981, a dadant 12 frame radial for 383.03..(incl shipping). I was so proud of it I never forgot the purchase price. I sold it when I purchased Hubbard 44 framers. Selling price was 500.00 so what did it cost me to own it for the 5 years i owned it? You have to look at the big picture. If you have two hives you NEED a extractor....will make you $$$!!!!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: "cost" of crush and strain

    "A comb honey beekeeper really needs, in addition to his bees and the usual apiary equipment and tools, only one other thing, and that is a pocket knife. The day you go into producing extracted honey, on the other hand, you must begin to think not only of an extractor, which is a costly machine used only a relatively minute part of the year, but also of uncapping equipment, strainers, settling tanks, wax melters, bottle filling equipment, pails and utensils galore and endless things. Besides this you must have a place to store supers of combs, subject to damage by moths and rodents and, given the nature of beeswax, very subject to destruction by fire. And still more: You must begin to think in terms of a whole new building, namely, a honey house, suitably constructed, supplied with power, and equipped....

    "All this seems obvious enough, and yet time after time I have seen novice beekeepers, as soon as they had built their apiaries up to a half dozen or so hives, begin to look around for an extractor. It is as if one were to establish a small garden by the kitchen door, and then at once begin looking for a tractor to till it with. Unless then, you have, or plan eventually to have, perhaps fifty or more colonies of bees, you should try to resist looking in bee catalogs at the extractors and other enchanting and tempting tools that are offered and instead look with renewed fondness at your little pocket knife, so symbolic of the simplicity that is the mark of every truly good life."--Richard Taylor, The Comb Honey Book


    "The opinion of experts once was that the production of beeswax in a colony required great quantities of nectar which, since it was turned into wax, would never be turned into honey. Until quite recently it was thought that bees could store seven pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax that they needed to manufacture for the construction of their combs--a figure which seems never to have been given any scientific basis, and which is in any case quite certainly wrong. The widespread view that if the combs were used over and over, through the use of the honey extractor, then the bees would be saved the trouble of building them and could convert the nectar thus saved into honey, was only minimally correct. A strong colony of bees will make almost as much comb honey as extracted honey on a strong honey flow. The advantage of the extractor, in increasing harvests, is that honey stored from minor flows, or gathered by the bees over many weeks of the summer, can easily be extracted, but comb honey cannot be easily produced under those conditions."--Richard Taylor, The Comb Honey Book
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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