- SECTION HONEY PRODUCTION -
USING ROSS ROUNDS™ SECTION EQUIPMENT
We apologize for the length of the following instructions, but could find no way to tell you these things in fewer words. They also contain some tips we have learned the hard way that will save time and money.
ROSS ROUNDS™ Section equipment makes comb honey production easy and profitable for the beekeeper. It requires about one fourth of the labor of former methods, and produces a finished product that is attractively packaged and durable enough to withstand handling. Any beekeeper with moderate skills and a good nectar supply can produce round sections. If help is needed, a number of books are available that give detailed information on management; one of the best is Richard Taylor's THE COMB HONEY BOOK which describes several procedures for section production.
ROSS ROUNDS™ equipment consists of brown molded plastic frames into which are inserted white plastic section rings and a sheet of beeswax foundation. The frame is made in halves so that insertion of the rings and foundation is easy. These frames filled with rings and foundation are then placed in a wood super or rack, and are ready to be filled with honey by the bees. Plastic covers are made to fit the top and bottom of the sections, and a wrap-around label completes the package. Covers can be clear both top or bottom, or a clear cover on top and an opaque cover on the bottom. This last arrangement is preferred by some commercial beekeepers.
The wood super itself is an important part of the system. It's height is four and one-half inches, and it is fitted inside with end and side follower- boards that are blocked out a bee-space away from the super walls, following the principle of the old Kruse or Killion supers. One of the side follower-boards is nailed in place over blocking to form a bee space, and the other is held in place with super springs. This super arrangement is important because it encourages the bees to fill and finish the outside combs, greatly reducing the possibility of cull sections.
After the bees have finished the sections, the supers are taken off, and the frames removed and separated into halves. The sections are taken from the frames, excess foundation removed with a small knife, plastic covers fitted on top and bottom, and the sections finished with a wrap-around label.
In most areas one additional step is necessary to protect the section from wax moth damage: the covered sections are placed in plastic bags, tightly sealed, and placed in a freezer at 10 degrees F or less (0 is best) for at least twenty-four hours. After freezing, the sections are allowed to come up to room temperature before opening the bag in order to avoid condensation on the sections. The sections may be left frozen indefinitely without crystallization, until removed for market.
Suggestions for Assembling and Using Ross Rounds™ Equipment:
The ideal height for a round section super is 4 1/2 inches. When converting supers to make round sections, it is helpful to cut the height down to 4 1/2 inches, which helps to avoid burr comb. Old style wood section supers 4 3/4 inches high can be used without cutting down, but to avoid burr comb, remove them from the hive as soon as the sections are finished.
The thickness of the follower-boards and blocking can vary, but use blocking that gives a 1/4 inch to 7/16 inch bee space between the follower and the inside wall of the super. Adjust the end followers so that the round section frames fit snugly, but can still be easily moved from side to side. It is very helpful to buy a fully assembled Round Section Super first, so you can see how it goes together and use it as a model.
Several USA bee supply manufacturers list the 4 1/2 inch high round section supers, and kits that contain the necessary interior follower-boards and super springs. The proper foundation size is 4 inch x 16 1/2 inch "thin surplus". There are different ways to efficiently place rings and foundation in the frames. One way is to insert a hive tool in the slot at the end of the frame, and twist slightly to separate the halves. Open the halves like a book and arrange a table full of the open pairs. Take a handful of rings, and place a ring on each cavity, positioning the ring with the notch side down, and the wide parts of the rings next to each other along the centerline of the frame. Do not bother at this time to seat the rings in the cavities - simply position them as accurately as possible while working fast.
Continue until there is a ring on each cavity of all the frames. Then, using two hands, adjust each ring to fit down flush in the cavity. If the ring is positioned properly, it will fit down snug and flush without force - if resistance is felt, re-position the ring correctly. Visually inspect the table full of frames to be sure there is a ring in each cavity; you will be sorry later if you miss one! If all is in order, lay a sheet of foundation on every other frame half, close the halves together, and place the frames in the supers.
Again inspect the work, looking down on the frames to see if there is a white ring on both sides of each cavity, and that the frame halves fit tightly together. If all is in order, the supers are ready for the bees. These inspections take only a few seconds, and save you time and money. The bees will put honey in the cavity, whether or not the section rings are in place. People have been known to put a super on the bees with no section rings in the frames, but seldom do it a second time; the second inspection mentioned above will keep you from doing it the first time.
After filling the frames with rings and foundation, place them in the super. Insert the loose follower board, force the frames tightly together with a hive tool, then use three super springs to hold the loose follower in place and force the frames together.
When harvesting, place the filled frame on a table, insert the corner of a hive tool in the end foundation slot, twist, and lift off the frame half. Turn the sections flat on the table and lift off the other frame half. When enough supers have been emptied, separate each section from the sheet of foundation, and trim excess foundation with a small knife. Arrange rows of sections, place covers on one side, turn over all sections, and place the other cover. The sections may be labeled at this time, or better, just before being sold, as some buyers want them unlabeled, or with their own special label. In any case, if you are in a wax moth area (and most of us are), seal the covered sections in plastic bags, freeze at 0 degrees F, and be sure to let the sections warm up to room temperature before opening the sealed bag.
Some beekeepers refill the frames with rings and foundation immediately after they are emptied at harvest, and place them on the bees for a second or third filling. Even if your area will not fill a super twice, immediately filling the frames with rings saves some time in handling, but be cautious about inserting foundation a season ahead, as cold beeswax is very brittle and may crack if moved and supers filled with beeswax need to be protected from mice and dust."
When harvesting, unfinished sections can be grouped in supers, and returned to a strong hive to finish, provided nectar is still available. This is a good reason to harvest as soon as sections are filled and sealed, as this usually leaves time to finish the culls into good sections. Some people have finished unsealed sections by placing them back on a strong hive, and top feeding them with liquid honey, but this does not always work, and it is probable that more have failed than have succeeded. It is much better to harvest promptly, and get any culls finished while nectar is available.
Another Approach: An Article from BEE-L, the discussion list for bees, here it is below:
"Using Ross Rounds for Section Honey
by Joel W. Govostes -
Make sure the supers are the correct depth. The comb honey supers sold by manufacturers are usually a bit too deep (maybe this has already changed). You should have about 1/4 - 3/8 clearance above the frames across the super, and 1/8 inch or so beneath the frames. If you have more, the bees will often build a lot of honey-filled burr-comb between the supers, which can be a mess when you try to harvest the supers.
The bees can construct and fill the combs pretty fast during a good flow. (After all, the super is only going to hold about 16-18 pounds of honey, total.) So keep an eye on them, with weekly checks anyway so you can stay ahead of the bees. I used to produce the rounds exclusively, and it worked out pretty well to add the next super when about half the sections on the hive were becoming capped over.
If you are in the midst of a good nectar flow, and they have made good progress on the first super of sections, you can raise it and put the next one underneath it. This can help reduce travel-staining on the capped sections, and gets the bees to occupy the newly added sections immediately.
There are lots of detailed and somewhat complicated methods for section comb honey, but as a beginner you don't really need to go for them. Here is what will usually work very well:
The first honey super or two added are extracting supers (shallow or medium) with frames. This would usually be in May in the Northeast, for comparison. When the main/major nectar flow begins (here that's June, with its black locust and clover flows) give them a round-section super *underneath* the extracting super(s) which are already becoming filled. In this position, the bees will start work on it quickly.
When all but perhaps the 4 sections at the corners are completely capped, try to harvest them ASAP, so the cappings will be nice and light, for the most attractive package. Then you can place any unfinished sections into the next, newly fitted-out super, towards the center, and they will be completed for harvesting next time around.
It is much better to use clear covers on both sides (IMO), when it comes time to pack and label them. Some comb-honey producers put a clear cover on the best side, and an opaque one on the other side (bottom). To me this isn't nearly as interesting and attractive than a section packaged so that the customer can see both sides clearly.
Any sections which are only partially filled or finished can be dealt with thusly: Cut the parts containing honey out of the combs. Put these cuts in a wide-mouth jar, and pour liquid honey around them. This chunk honey usually sells well. If you warm the liquid honey to about 140 degrees first, and let it cool before pouring it in, this will help retard granulation.
Finally, when fitting out the super, make sure the rings go in the frames the right way. I'm not sure about the Ross rings, but some of the rings from another manufacturer had little dimples on one edge, which had to be oriented right or the ring would not go into the frame right.
Good luck with this - people seem to really like the round sections; they also make great gifts. I have sold them to people making gift-baskets as a Business, and they are an ideal regional product for such uses.