comb honey

How to make chunk honey without scaring the public

If the customer cannot see the comb chunks in the jar, he may be surprised to find them later. Pixabay

Chunk honey is nothing more than a piece of honeycomb submerged in a jar of extracted honey. For some people, it’s intimidating. For me, it’s perplexing.

Inside: Although chunk honey sells well at produce stands and farmer’s markets, it can cause confusion and dissatisfaction among customers. Read on for real-life examples.

A best-selling variation on cut comb honey

A step up from cut comb honey is chunk honey . . . or maybe it’s a step down. I’m not sure which it is because, even though I totally get the idea of comb honey, I am mystified by chunk honey. If you are not familiar with the term, chunk honey is simply a hunk of honeycomb submerged in a jar of extracted honey.

To someone with a more or less ordered view of the universe, this anomaly is upsetting. The comb is supposed to contain the honey, not the other way around. Think of a waffle cone submerged in a gallon of ice cream, a slice of bread inside a jar of mayonnaise, or a tortilla buried in a can of refried beans.

I am told by other beekeepers that chunk honey sells well, and I suppose that is reason enough to make it. On the other hand, not a day goes by when I don’t receive inquiries about it.

Actual comments from chunk honey customers

The following questions and comments were written by customers who were surprised to find a strange object in their jars of honey.

There’s something disgusting in my honey.

Will larvae crawl out of that waxy thing?

Can you eat the beehive inside the jar?

Why did they leave beeswax in my honey?

Will I get sick if I eat the comb thing they left in there?

After I threw out the wax stuff, there wasn’t much left.

Someone put part of a beehive in my honey. Should I report it?

Will bees hatch out of the wasp nest in my honey jar?

I bought honey with something in it. Can I get a refund?

Is that thing in the jar to grow a beehive with?

Don’t be discouraged, just be transparent

I’m not trying to discourage chunk honey, I’m just saying that there is a disconnect between those who put comb in a jar and those who take it out. I suppose if you weren’t expecting it, it could be off-putting, like finding a worm in your tequila.

Some beekeepers pack their jars with lots of comb and it is clearly visible. Others put in a small chunk surrounded by lots of extracted honey. It’s my hunch that it’s the latter type that causes most of the questions: If the comb isn’t obvious when someone buys the jar, it may turn into a surprise later—not the Cracker Jack kind of surprise, either, but the OMG kind.

12 tips for making chunk honey

  • Wide-mouth mason jars are easy to pack, but any type of jar will work.

  • A standard shallow frame is about the right height for a pint mason jar, which makes the entire process easier. You can just cut parallel slices as wide as the jar. For the nicest cuts, use dental floss.

  • Before you start, all jars and lids should be clean and dry.

  • For the best-looking product, choose sections of comb that are full, clean, and free of damage.

  • Whereas you have a hidden side in packaged cut comb honey, both sides show in a jar. To keep from damaging the back side, many beekeepers like to hold the frame upright while cutting the pieces out.

Chunk honey floating in a jar of extracted honey. Pixabay public domain photo.
  • Try to estimate the size of the chunks you will need, and then pack an experimental jar to see how it fits. Once you get it right, measure the pieces or use a cardboard template for the subsequent jars.

  • Hold sections on the cut side at the midrib. This prevents damage to the cappings.

  • Remember that honeycomb cells angle up from the center of the comb. Since the ends of the comb as well as the sides are visible in a jar, the orientation of the comb should be as it was built (up should be up and down should be down).

  • To keep the comb from floating, some beekeepers stick the comb to the bottom of the jar with a dribble of melted wax or by heating the jars and allowing the comb to melt slightly against the glass. This step is important for honey shows, but not necessary otherwise.

  • After the honeycomb pieces are in place (and cool, if you stuck them to the jar) add extracted honey to fill the jar. To reduce air bubbles, carefully pour the honey onto the inside wall of the container and let it run down slowly.

  • With chunk honey, it is easiest to freeze the jars after filling them. Since the jars take longer to freeze than frames, allow at least 24 hours in the freezer. Remember, freezing the combs is vital to keep wax moth eggs from hatching.

  • If your honey is very dark or tends to granulate quickly, you should state on the label that the jar contains a honeycomb. If the customer can’t see it, he may not realize what is in the jar.

Have fun! I hope you enjoy the process.

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  • If you want to enter chunk honey in a honey judging contest, I believe the rules will stipulate that the cells most be oriented “uphill.” I don’t know the actual terminology, but I think the comb is supposed to be the same orientation as the bees built it.

      • I blame it on my trackpad… that thing has a mind of it’s own. I swiped right on past three whole check points! Anyhoo… thanks for another great post. I personally love the look of chunk honey, but I have had a couple jars crystallize on me, and then the whole point is lost.

  • Those questions crack me up! Funny, I never would have thought of chunk honey as any different from comb honey. But now I get it. I guess that’s the way I grew up seeing it. It does seem to me, tho, that it’s a good way for someone to experience just a bit of comb rather than a whole block. You know, like getting your feet wet. But then, I can assure you, my universe isn’t nearly as ordered as yours is. 🙂

  • This may be a simpleton’s question but why the freezing step? Is it because of possible wax moth larva, which could cause a real unpleasant surprise?

    • Hi Larry,

      Yes, wax moths and hive beetles. Because this is a series, I didn’t want to repeat the same info over and over again, but I did add a link to the freezing article. Also, from the previous post:

      All comb honey should be frozen after harvest, a practice that will kill all life stages of wax moths and hive beetles. You can freeze the combs before packaging or after, as long as it is done within a day or two of harvest.

      If you freeze the entire frame, be sure to wrap it in plastic before freezing and then leave the plastic in place until the comb is completely thawed. In this way, condensation will form on the outside of the plastic instead of on the comb. You can freeze after packaging as long as your outer packaging is something that will not be damaged by condensation.

      The length of freezer time needed to kill moths and beetles depends on how cold your freezer is. Any creatures living in there need to freeze hard. Overnight is about right in most freezers, but many people like to go two nights.

    • Nan,

      Interesting tidbit: the so-called worm is the larva of a moth Hypopta agavis which lives on the agave plant. It was added as a publicity stunt back in the 1940s. The things I learn while writing this blog!

  • I have honey with combs that I purchased last year. I got a lot and have 11 pints and 2 quarts. They are all in mason jars stored under the staircase inside a small closet inside my house. I just took them out and one of the quarts top has “pushed up” and the wax looks melted inside. The others look a little melted too. Is my honey still good? What should I do to save it all. Or is it ok like it is. I have been told honey never goes bad, what about wax honey? HELP!!!! lol

    • Mona,

      Honey won’t go bad if it’s properly cured, but it sounds like your comb honey had uncapped cells. If some honey was uncapped, that means the water content was too high for storage, which would cause fermentation. (I’m assuming that tops that are “pushed up” describes fermentation, my best guess.) I don’t know what you mean by melted, however. Beeswax melts at about 144 degrees F, and I doubt your storage is that hot.

      Your honey should not be changing like that. I have twelve-year-old comb honey that looks exactly like it did on day one. Next time, buy your honey from a different place and make sure all the cells have caps over them.

      • This is interesting – I was told by an old beekeeper that if the bees have started capping a frame then you can feel pretty sure that frame is OK. An extra check is whether the honey comes out when you shake the frame – it shouldn’t. Your response here seems to suggest that you shouldn’t use it unless every cell is capped – have I been given misleading advice?

        • Lesley,

          It’s a marketing thing. When people purchase comb honey, they generally want it capped. That’s very different than deciding when it’s safe to extract.

        • The bees will store (and cap) some nectars at quite a high moisture content. Here in Florida, many fall flows are “wet” and get stored around 19-21% (golden rain tree and cabbage palm are a couple I know of). A refractometer is a good investment to confirm your honey won’t ferment. I had a fully capped frame that tested over 19% moisture. There are many opinions on what to do to reduce the moisture or uses for wet honey. That is a new topic for further discussion

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