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  1. #1
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    Default How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Someone asked me today why the nectar does not just run out of the comb before the bees cap it in honey form. Is there a simple explanation on how that liquid defies gravity and stays in the frames? I was not able to give a good answer and thought of seeking one out here. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2012
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    Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Surface tension. The water in the nectar tends to stay together so hangs in the cell like a drop of water. As the nectar gets more concentrated this effect gets stronger.
    Cheers
    Rob

  3. #3
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    May 2013
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    Buderim, Queensland, Australia
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Also the cells are not at right angles to the foundation but tilt upwards at about 13 degrees. That is why if you are putting uncapped frames into a small non-radial extractor that rotates clockwise the frame, when it is in, the bottom bar should be leading when the frame is spun and the top bar is behind. If you do it the opposite way the honey will not exit the cell as well due to the tilt.

  4. #4
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Composition of the semiliquid. Pitch and size of the cells. Fill a honey comb w/ water and most of it will stay in the cells too.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  5. #5
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by rmcpb View Post
    Surface tension. The water in the nectar tends to stay together so hangs in the cell like a drop of water. As the nectar gets more concentrated this effect gets stronger.
    Best answer.

    Nectar and water will come out of the cells easier than honey. You can harvest honey by uncapping and turning the frames over with a little heat. Not all the honey will come out. The thicker honey will stay in.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  6. #6
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    Sep 2013
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    Orange County, California
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kidbeeyoz View Post
    Also the cells are not at right angles to the foundation but tilt upwards at about 13 degrees. That is why if you are putting uncapped frames into a small non-radial extractor that rotates clockwise the frame, when it is in, the bottom bar should be leading when the frame is spun and the top bar is behind. If you do it the opposite way the honey will not exit the cell as well due to the tilt.
    These answers are all great. The person who asked me this question wondered about surface tension but I didn't know. The 13 degree angle is interesting, especially how helpful it is to know that when harvesting. I have harvested one time and got 60 pounds of honey but none of my honey was uncapped so my struggles must have been more due to learning how to use the hot knife.

    Thanks to all who answered.

  7. #7
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?


    BTW, which "Orange County" are you in? There are several of them in the U.S.A.

    Also, as has been mentioned, most comb, if formed properly, does tilt up. Though the bees don't always get that right. I sometimes see comb that is even tilted down (and not just those that might have been fastened into frames incorrectly by the beekeeper), and if undisturbed, even these combs are able to hold their contents, even if it were nectar. Though if carelessly handled, much of it will fall from the cells.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 11-06-2013 at 09:23 AM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  8. #8
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    Dec 2008
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    Solano, California, USA
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Cohesion AND tension.... they are the best of friends. If there ever was a perfect picture of working in unison a frame of honey is a supreme example. Its BOTH the properties of the honey and the cell wall design all working in unison that make it happen.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Orange County, California
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Honey-4-All View Post
    Cohesion AND tension.... they are the best of friends. If there ever was a perfect picture of working in unison a frame of honey is a supreme example. Its BOTH the properties of the honey and the cell wall design all working in unison that make it happen.
    Awesome AND amazing!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post

    BTW, which "Orange County" are you in? There are several of them in the U.S.A.

    Also, as has been mentioned, most comb, if formed properly, does tilt up. Though the bees don't always get that right. I sometimes see comb that is even tilted down (and not just those that might have been fastened into frames incorrectly by the beekeeper), and if undisturbed, even these combs are able to hold their contents, even if it were nectar. Though if carelessly handled, much of it will fall from the cells.
    California.

    I saw a beekeeper "Shake" a frame of nectar once and it went all over the top frames which the bees cleaned up. There was a reason he did that but I remember the sight and forgot the reason.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2008
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    Solano, California, USA
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt in OC View Post
    California.

    I saw a beekeeper "Shake" a frame of nectar once and it went all over the top frames which the bees cleaned up. There was a reason he did that but I remember the sight and forgot the reason.
    Beyond looking for tinges of white wax on the tips of the combs and frames there is no better way to see if the "flow is on" than a "shake." When it happens all bets are off as to how many microseconds will pass until the veil is filled when all smiles.
    Last edited by Honey-4-All; 11-06-2013 at 10:25 AM.

  12. #12
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    Can you assume that if the nectar was shaken into the hive none of it would be wasted? I suspect it wouldn't take the bees in the hive long to collect it all and put it back.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  13. #13
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: How does nectar stay in the comb before becoming capped honey?

    I've watched the bees build burr on the glass in the observation hive in my living room. Most are sloped down from the mouth. A few end up the other way around. The bees fill them all with nectar and eventually cap them. I've watched them. They do use both the adhesion by pushing the honey up to the top of the cell and sticking it to the cell wall; and surface tension, which keeps the surface of the honey together even though it is defying gravity (its force is such that it overcomes gravity for the time it takes to get it processed and capped or it's pushed back up if it's not).

    In the late 1800s there was an interest in inverting the boxes of the brood chamber to prevent swarming. There were various methods used from clamps to Heddon frames where a frame pivoted inside another frame to flip all of the brood combs over. Some just flipped the whole box with propolis holding them together. It seemd to work despite the concept of sloping cells.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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