Comb honey: Ross Rounds

You asked about Ross Rounds, so after years of avoiding them, I broke down and ordered a complete super three years ago. Until then I avoided them because I hate plastic. I’m not fond of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plasticizers in my food, or wispy sacks that defy time itself. But alas, in the name of experimentation, I gave them a try.

Although I knew the amount of plastic would be alarming, when the order finally arrived I was nonplussed. The frames are plastic, the rings are plastic, the circular covers are plastic and none of it nests together. It takes a large carton just to contain all the parts.

The wooden super that came with it was already modified. If you don’t buy a pre-modified super, you have to modify one. There are kits to aid in the process or, with a little patience, you can do it yourself. A full super holds eight frames of four rounds. There is extra space in both directions inside the super, which has to be taken up with follower boards, supports, and springs.

The frames and rings were easy enough to set up, although I’m sure I made every mistake possible in the first year. The directions remind you that rings must be in every hole (how obvious is that?) but sure enough, I left one out and never noticed. Never noticed, that is, until I went to harvest the flawless little section and had to trash it to get it free.

I prepared the super, carried it out to the hive, set it on its side the same way I do with square section supers, and everything fell out. Followers, springs, frames, rings, foundation—all of it lie piled at my feet, along with grass, mud, stones, and twigs.

But really and truly, the most irritating thing about Ross Rounds is this: they work like a dream. Remember, I was totally disgusted with the plastic, with the frames falling out, with having to use foundation, with everything. So when I finally got the super reassembled (this is maybe where I lost the extra ring) I tossed it on a hive that had no special preparation. In other words, I didn’t crowd the bees, I didn’t give them a new queen, I really didn’t do anything except put in on and walk away, knowing it wouldn’t work.

About three weeks later when I went to have a peek, I was astounded to find a full super. Thirty-two perfect little sections, exquisitely filled and snow white. I was dumbfounded.

Of course, the very first section I tried to remove was the one without the ring, but I didn’t know that, so I thought there must be some trick to getting the sections out. I reread the instructions three times before I understood what went wrong. That first section ended up on toast, but the rest came out remarkably well.

But there are other things I don’t like about the system:

  • The plastic covers don’t meet in the middle. Instead, they leave an irritating little space all around the section.
  • The labels designed to tape around the sections come with some kind of space age adhesive. If it accidentally touches anything, like the edge of your table or the top of a cover, it is never coming off. Not ever.
  • The top half and the bottom half of the plastic covers don’t quite line up. It is almost as if the plastic is wavy or distorted in places. So when you start wrapping the label around the circumference, it doesn’t always lay flat but veers off course. When that happens, you cannot back up and re-stick it. See above.
  • Even if you adore plastic, the ratio of plastic to honey in this system is high. A Ross section holds about 8 or 9 ounces of honey, whereas a square section holds 14 to 16 ounces. To me, it seems like a lot of wasted material per section.
  • Plastic items are usually inexpensive. But in the Ross system, the replacement parts, including the rings and round plastic covers, are egregiously over-priced.

On the other side of the coin, consumers seem to love the rounds. The finished and packaged sections have a fresh clean look. Best, purchasers can serve the honey right in the plastic case without having to transfer it into a dish or cut it out of the section.

The rounds also stack and store easily. I often keep some in my truck and give them away as thank-you gifts with my card attached. The hard covers protect them from damage and prevent leaks.

So there you have it: my love/hate relationship with Ross Rounds. I still don’t wish to expand my inventory of plastic parts, but I also can’t resist tossing what I have on a hive every year. It is hands-down the easiest section honey I ever made.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Ross-round-with-covers
Ross round showing upper and lower covers that don’t meet. This space is hidden with a self-adhesive label, but it is hard to get the labels to lay flat because the covers are warpy or irregular.

Comments

Dave Strickler
Reply

While not as easy as Ross Rounds, there are wooden square designs that do much of the same thing. You simply pop out (OK, they are not that easy that they “pop” out) the squares and transfer them into any case you want them in finally. Since the wooden squares are made to be replaced, they are easy to make (a box cutter knife and some thin wood is all you need), and cheap as well. The bonus for me is that they are all wood. I’m with you on plastic. The less the better.

Rusty
Reply

Dave,

Yup, wooden squares are my next post in this series.

Robert Williams
Reply

I had a little different experience with them. It did take a little to figure out how the system worked, but, then I thought it was a pretty neat system. However, though I put it on my strongest hive they never got filled. I had heard that bees can be hesitant to use those areas of the hive. I admit, it may just be my lack of knowledge of knowing how to get the bees to use them, however the whole season went by with very little comb building on the foundation and no honey at all.

Rusty
Reply

Robert,

That is disappointing. Did you mix them with other honey supers? I find it’s best if they don’t have a choice.

Robert Williams
Reply

You asked if I mixed them with other supers. Yes I did. I will try them alone this year, if I have any bees left after the winter we have had here in the Detroit area. Officially our coldest on record.

Aram
Reply

Rusty,

Are you about ready to place your sections or you are going to wait a couple of weeks? I still have not developed the “intuition” part of when to place them around here.

The weather man promised a warm spring, like last year. So far all my dates are lining up to within 4 days with last year.

Aram

Rusty
Reply

Aram,

I’ll wait until I see some drones.

Brian
Reply

Is the irritating gap between the top and bottom so that you can easily run a knife or fingernail around to break the seal of the label?

Rusty
Reply

Brian,

I’ve wondered about that, but it seems excessively wide just for opening . . . but I don’t know.

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