Topical Tips – Oil seed rape honey – a blessing or a curse? – by Malcolm Wilkie

Comb I have cut up

A frame I have spun and then cut in two to show you how much honey is left in the comb

In my opinion, after having tried to extract 13 supers of the bloody stuff, it is definitely a curse. My bees are right next to 6 or seven fields of oilseed rape and ,of course, they have been busy taking advantage of this bonanza.

Traditionally one waits for the flowers of rape to start to go over before taking the honey and extracting it. However I knew I had a lot of capped frames and so on Tuesday I decided I would have to do an extraction. The disadvantage being that they are still going to collect more of the stuff and I will have to do another extraction in a week or two. Now I knew that the problem with oilseed rape is that it granulates in the frames. What I did not know was that even when granulation hasn’t fully taken place the honey still will not spin out of the frames. Below are two of the frames that have already been spun and ,particularly in the top frame, the honey just won’t come out! Even in the bottom frame about 40 to 50% of the honey would not come out!

The trouble for me is that the honey in those frames is going to set rockhard and that means that those frames won’t be able to be used by the bees later in the season to collect me another crop. That’s what I mean by a curse! We all know how costly it is for the bees to draw out wax and once one has drawn comb that is a real blessing. How annoying to find that all of that has been destroyed by this crop of honey.

The other problem is that I was unable to pass the honey through a double sieve because of the granulation that was present already in the crop that was coming off the frames. This means that I am going to have to put my honey buckets into the warming cabinet and once I have warmed this honey I will then be able to pass it through the finer part of my double sieve. Of course I had no idea about all this until I spoke to our honey Queen. I had also unwisely and in desperation used a spatula to try and pass the honey through my coarse sieve. This means in some buckets there are fine pieces of wax. If only I had been a bit cleverer and when I decided to use a spatula I had then put the sieve over a fresh bucket and then kept back that honey for my own consumption! Easy to be wise after the event!

I asked Helen what I should do with these frames. To be honest smashing them up and warming them gently in the oven just didn’t seem an option. After all there were 13 supers of the bloody stuff! What I have done, and I don’t know if that is a good idea, is that I have cut up some of the worst offending frames and put them in buckets. I intend to give this back to the bees when there is the June gap. Let’s hope they will be able to lick it all out at that stage!

(Combs cut up to put in a bucket to feed back to the bees)
The difficulty for me does not even end there. With rape you really need to soft seed in order to get an acceptable granulation, so I will have to be using my warming cabinet and using some of last year’s soft set heather honey (what a shame! ) to turn this crop into something more acceptable for sale.

A curse or a blessing? Definitely a curse!!! I may have 160lbs worth of honey but I wish I hadn’t got it.

Malcolm Wilkie 9th May 2019

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