comb honey how to

How to cut comb honey

Whenever I bake cinnamon rolls, I always slice the delicate roll of dough with dental floss. I wrap the floss around the dough and pull it tight like a ligature. The result is a clean cut that doesn’t compress.

Lately I’ve started using this same technique for cutting comb honey. It seems that a knife, no matter how sharp, compresses more than it cuts. In addition, the surface of the blade gets so sticky that it tears the comb, even on the first cut with a clean knife.

Why dental floss? I find many uses for dental floss in the kitchen because it is so strong. For example, I always use it for trussing the Thanksgiving turkey, even if it’s green and minty. It holds up well in the oven and keeps the bird together for the duration of a long roast. Plus—and this is important—my dentist gives me a free sample every six months of a type I never use for its intended purpose. I buy my favorite brand and stick his in a drawer—miles of it, last I looked.

If you don’t have dental floss you can use thread. Regular sewing-weight thread is so thin it’s hard to handle, but button hole thread works well. You could also use the kind of wire you use for strengthening Langstroth frames, or you could try fishing line.

To cut the comb honey into pieces, I put the frame of honey on a cooling rack and put that on top of a baking sheet to catch the mess. First I cut the comb from the frame and let it drip for awhile. Then I slide a piece of floss under the comb, line it up to the size I want, cross the ends, and just pull—slowly and steadily. It makes an amazingly neat cut with no jagged edges and a minimum of honey loss.

Then I slide the pieces apart just enough for the honey to drain. After a few hours the dripping is done and you can move the chunks with a spatula and package them anyway you want. Give a piece to your dentist, just don’t tell him how you did it.


Start by cutting the comb as close to the frame as possible.

Start by cutting the comb as close to the frame as possible.

Gently remove the frame and let the comb drip for a few minutes.

Gently remove the frame and let the comb drip for a few minutes.

Carefully slide the floss under the comb, being careful not to catch it on the wax.

Carefully slide the floss under the comb, being careful not to catch it on the wax.

Pull the floss up and cross it.

Pull the floss up and cross it.

Pull steadily on the crossed threads to gently cut the wax. Once through, your thread will pop out the top.

Pull on the crossed threads to gently cut the wax. Once through, your thread will pop out the top.

A nice clean cut. Let it drain for an hour or so then package.

A nice clean cut. Let it drain for an hour or so then package.

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  • Rusty,

    Excellent Post. Do you have an archive about encouraging comb honey production. I guess there is school of thought that the best comb honey is made by feeding extracted honey back to the bees. Thoughts, experiences?

    • Aram,

      Just when I thought I’ve heard it all . . . feeding honey back to bees isn’t producing anything, it’s just repackaging it. Maybe.

      I only produce section comb honey (and a tiny bit of cut comb). I’ve thought about doing a series on it, but it is a challenge to write. (Actually I’ve started a couple times but didn’t finish.) There is only one way to produce perfect section comb honey and that is to raise rip-roaring, in-your-face, over-the-top, not-especially-friendly, boisterous and rambunctious colonies. They do the rest.

  • That is indeed a very cool idea. And dental floss comes in such a convenient dispenser, too!

    (I’ve read that people in northern Alaska have the highest per-capita consumption of dental floss, because practically everybody carries some around as a convenient source of string).

    • Tim,

      That is funny, but it gives me an idea. I’m going to throw a couple rolls in my truck . . . it might come in handy.

  • That’s a stroke of genius. I’ve used dental floss in exactly the same manner to cut various types of pastries. Why not use it on cut comb? Perfect. Brilliant. I won’t bother with a knife again. Thanks.

  • How about standing the frame up on it’s top, putting the dental floss through the edge of the comb, and cutting the comb free from the frame with it? Would this produce a cleaner edge too?

  • Intriguing, I’d never thought of using dental floss in the kitchen. Must give this a go! Now I just need a nice summer so that my bees can actually produce some excess honey this year…

  • Very cool way of doing it. Being very new at beekeeping I’ve got some questions. What kind of frames do you use and how are you attaching the foundation to the frames? I have wire running the length of my frames but I can see from the photos that you don’t so I’m curious what your technique is. .

    • David,

      I use shallow frames for comb honey. Shallow frames are small enough that you don’t need to wire them for extra support. Wedged top bars hold the foundation in place, or I just use starter strips. I always use wire for mediums and deeps, whether I’m using foundation or not.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months and must thank you for the insights you’ve provided.

    I recently completed my top-bar hive and I’ll be receiving my package of bees on Feb 28; I know all about maintaining the hive but I’ve got a few questions about overwintering and being I live in Vancouver BC we share a climate. How much honey can you harvest out of a top bar hive? How much honey should remain for overwintering?


    • Ahmad,

      I don’t think I can answer your question. My top-bar hive thrives with very little attention from me, but I don’t harvest honey from it. I use it mostly as a source of queens and bees for my Langstroth hives. Sometimes, too, I start a new Lang by taking a shook swarm from the TBH. I figure that my TBH has a volume of about 2.5 deep Langstroth boxes. I like to overwinter my Langs in 3 deeps. So it seems to me I need a full TBH for overwintering, which is what I do.

      However, every TBH is a different size. If I were going to harvest honey from it, I would do it progressively. In other words, I’d take out 2 to 3 combs and wait for them to be replaced. Then I would take 2 or 3 more. That way I wouldn’t take too much. Alternatively, you could take out some combs and keep them intact until you find out whether you need to give them back. This is more difficult in a TBH because, without frames, the combs are very fragile.

      Remember, too, that you seldom get harvestable honey from a first-year package on new wood. They have a lot of work to do to build all the comb they need to live on. In subsequent years, after the brood combs are already built, the colony is much more likely to produce a harvestabel crop.

  • How do you store the cut sections? I would rather not have to buy the little plastic squares? Plastic wrap seems like it would get messy after you open it up to take off a chunk to eat.

    • Toby,

      Do you mean for selling or for using? Lots of people sell it in small styrofoam trays wrapped with plastic wrap. How the customers deal with it at home is up to them. For my own use, I put it in one of the glass food storage containers with a plastic snap-on lid.

    • Mary,

      If you want to move an existing Langstroth colony into a top-bar hive, you would have to cut the combs out of the frames and tie them onto the top bars of the tbh. Alternatively you could cut the Lang frames to fit into the tbh, if that is possible. It depends on the geometry of the tbh, but none of this is easy. Why not consider a long hive instead or just start a new colony in a tbh?

  • On the comment about feeding honey to a comb building colony I was wondering if anyone had tried feeding extracted honey to get the hive to finish out incomplete sections or frames. Trying to get maximum cuts out of a frame, often have incomplete edges or sections.

  • You can also use foundation with wire running through it, clip wires at processing, touch ends to a battery and wire instantly heats up and then pull wire out. Works great, no mess.

  • How clean should you leave frames when harvesting honey by cut comb, or do you leave a strip for bees to build to on next round.

    • Gene,

      Good question. I scrape my frames down as far as I can, leaving almost nothing. However, I don’t know if that’s best. I’ve been thinking of leaving more and then not using a starter strip, but up till now I’ve been afraid that they have too many choices if I leave the wax in place. You know, you get the main midrib, but you also get all the little cross-strips. It’s the little cross-strips that worry me.

  • Gene,

    I do cut comb on medium frames, I cut it out “incompletely.”

    I have left about a 3/4 to 1 inch strip of honey on the top of a medium frame. I then cut at an angle on both sides so the top is about even with the bar and the bottom, (1 inch from the top bar) is almost to the mid rib. Somewhat pie shaped if looking from the end. I then extract what is left in , and place in with the wet frames for cleaning.

    I get 85% of the comb then 90% of the remaining honey from extractor. The big help Is that I do not clean and remove the wood strip and place starter strip in. it is ready to re use after cleaning. I started doing it out of being lazy. I mark the top of the frame with a “CC” in permanent marker, for cut comb so I know the ones I have set up for this. I normally do not place them in the 1,2,9,10 positions, in a super, as these outside frames at times are not filled all the way. I like them in the middle to be more completely filled. I mix extract and cut comb frames in many supers. With 1 or 2 in each super they tend to be of different flavor. If you find in your location, you prefer super 1 or 2 or 4 then next year place more cut comb frames in those supers. Seasonality, you your area is different than mine or anyone else, its trial and error. I have not found any undesirable but some have really interesting flavors. There is a minty flavor in late June that is really nice here.

    Good luck.

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