In this episode, we talk with Ben and Kimberly Carpenter of Hungry Bear Farms, current owners of Ross Rounds Honey Supers and Sundance Pollen Traps. Ross Rounds Honey Supers were created by Tom Ross several years ago, then the business was purchased...
In this episode, we talk with Ben and Kimberly Carpenter of Hungry Bear Farms, current owners of Ross Rounds Honey Supers and Sundance Pollen Traps.
Ross Rounds Honey Supers were created by Tom Ross several years ago, then the business was purchased by Lloyd Spears, who then developed the Sundance Pollen trap to increase his business. In 2017 he sold his business to Ben and Kimberly Carpenter, who run Hungry Bee Farms in New England as commercial honey producers, a bee supply business and now these very unique pieces of beekeeping equipment.
Ben and Kim do an excellent job in describing what a Ross Round Super is, and better, how to assemble, manage, harvest, and market Ross Rounds Comb Honey. Comb honey doesn’t have the built-in marketing advantage that a one-pound jar of local honey does, so initially marketing can be a challenge. Kim has developed several ways of introducing new customers to comb honey that you will want to take advantage of. Samples at farm markets, meat and cheese plates, and more will get folks introduced to these. And, she has several ways to use unfilled combs that will make you money.
Ben discusses colony management to produce Ross Rounds, what time of year, honey flows, population requirements and more to make a good product. Not difficult, but you’ll need to know the timing of honey flows in your area so you have the right population at the right time.
Lloyd Spear developed the Sundance Pollen Trap and Ben and Kimberly have perfected the techniques for collecting and marketing the pollen you collect with these. Days on, days off, and more are important, but not critical because these traps are designed to not collect 100% of the pollen that comes back to the hive.
Kimberly does a lot of collection and will check them at least once, often twice a day, to make sure the pollen collected stays fresh. Once collected, it is usually very clean, but is inspected, then frozen in open containers until sold. This dehydrates the pollen so it will not mold. Once you have a ready supply, marketing is easy to folks who claim it helps local allergies, athletes who look for the protein, and queen producers who use it raising queens.
Both of these devices can easily pay for themselves the first year you have them, so they are worth looking at as an added dimension to your business.
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
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Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong"; Musicalman, "Epilogue". Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
Kim Flottum: I'm Kim.
Introduction: Hey Jeff and Kim, today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.
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Jeff: Thanks, Sherry. Hey, you know, each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support to help make all of this happen and provide us the ability to bring you each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture magazine for continuing to presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribed to Bee Culture today. We also want to thank Two Million Blossoms as a sponsor of this episode. Two Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine dedicated to protecting all pollinators. Learn more in our season two, episode nine podcast with editor Kirsten Traynor and from visiting www.2millionblossoms.com. That is with a number two.
Also, check out Kirsten's new Two Million Blossoms - The Podcast also available from her website and from wherever you download and stream your podcasts. Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're really happy you're here. Hey Kim, I can't believe we're at the second half of summer.
Kim: Things are going okay though. The bees are looking good. I've got lots of full boxes. The garden is doing great. I'm eating tomatoes and cucumbers every day, summer squash, and I'm getting ready to pull some honey.
Jeff: Well, that sounds like a great vegetable garden, Kim. Pulling honey, that's my plans for the weekend. I'm going to be using a fume board and that's always been my go-to method. What do you use? Fume boards are great, but they are stinky and don't spill any of that on your clothes or on your shoes and track it into the house.
Kim: That's it exactly. Though sometimes when I'm in a hurry and I've got to get places fast, a fume board's the first choice, but not always the only choice, and the other way to do it is I will take a super and stand it on one end and blow the bees off from the top bars out the bottom of the box when it's standing on its side. It's fast, easy, and I can do it right in my bee-yard. I don't have neighbors I have to worry about where the bees go and how crazy they can get when you do that.
Jeff: How do you do that? Oh, you're using a leaf blower?
Jeff: [chuckles] I thought you were going [blowing air].
Kim: Oh, [chuckles] no, the blower works pretty good. If you got some help, you blow them out and bang, as soon as it's gone, you turn it back, you get it loaded on the cover and inner cover and on the two-wheeler and there's not a bee in there. I get over and then I load them up, take them into my car. I don't have extraction facilities in my garage or basement or kitchen, so I take them over to a friend's house. You remember Buzz?
Kim: I take them over to Buzz's place. I probably will bring four or five bees a super with me. It's essentially bee-free. Then a long time ago, he and I set up his honey house. I got a roller, like a grocery store roller right out to the front door. We unload them on the roller. He on Capsium with a Maxant uncapper, does a chain uncapper, flail uncapper, both sides at the same time. He throws them on the platform. I scrape them if they need any, I hand them to him. He loads them in the extractor, takes them out of the extractor, puts them back in my box. The two of us can do four or five supers in, I don't know, 15 minutes.
Jeff: Wow. I love Buzz's operation, he does have a first-class operation there.
Kim: He does, and he takes good care of it.
Jeff: Oh, he sure does. He really taught me a lot about maintaining high-quality standards. Buzz is a good beekeeper. Reminds me a lot of a beekeeper I worked with in Colorado, Al Summers. He did custom extracting and I'd just go and take my supers of honey to him. He put them in his warming room and he had a whole lineup of equipment that he would just set it up and extract the honey. I'd come back and pick up my buckets of honey, which I would use or sell or whatever, but it was a great system and I respect those guys. They do a fantastic job, far cry from what I'm doing today.
Kim: Yes. [chuckles] When we're done, I stay and help clean up the mess. Then Buzz gets all the wax cappings, him and his wife Nancy use them for candles and whatever. If he's short on honey, we'll share some of the honey, but he's usually got more way more than I do, so I'll take whatever honey comes out there. Some of it sits in the floating pail, but he's generous with his time and with his energy and with his facilities.
Jeff: Well, that's a real good way of several beekeepers or one or two beekeepers working together to share the cost of extracting, extraction equipment, especially when it's only used once a year.
Kim: Yes. Once a year by me because he'll do it. He's scaling down and he'll probably only do once a year. He'll pull maybe to pull supers twice. Back in the day, when he was running a hundred plus hives, he'd be extracting or uncapping and extracting every day for three weeks. He wouldn't do it all day every day, but he'd do it part of a day every day. As a super filled up, he'd bring them in, get them done and get them back on, that way, he won't have a whole bunch of empty super sitting around not getting used, but at the same time keeps them hopping.
Jeff: Well, back to pulling your supers, did you ever try using the bee escapes?
Kim: Oh, I tried them.
Jeff: That's been my experience too. [chuckles]
Kim: They work well if you have the time and the resources. You got to put them on today and then you got to wait and come back later tomorrow. That's okay if you're set up to do that. When I was working, that didn't work so well. Probably work okay now, but boy, this summer, when it rains every other day, you got them on and then you got to wait three days before you can get back to take that empty super off. I like going blowing and blowing them out and then getting them out of there right now. That way I know I'm not going to get delayed.
Jeff: The problem with bee escapes I found was that it does take so long, and depending on which type of bee escape you use, it can take really long. There are some fancy designs. They use multiple conical escapes. Early on when I first got bees, the first time I tried doing it, I used the bee escape and I just put that little one single escape in the vent hole, in the inner cover, and that was horrible.
Kim: Come back next month.
Jeff: Yes, or to a super full of dead bees. That's not what happened, but it felt like that's what could happen. I'm looking forward to pulling some honey this weekend and extracting and making it all work.
Kim: I got a good flow going on right now. My bee-bee tree's blooming and I'm looking at it and it starts at the top and works its way down. The bloom does, so when it first starts, you see bees at the top and then takes about a week to 10 days, depending on how cool it is to finish the bloom. They'll work that really well. I'm beginning to look at early goldenrod and milkweed.
Jeff: We're done with our flow here, and I have to be careful, it's not the entire Pacific Northwest, but in my little corner of the corner, we were done with our flow first of this month.
Kim: I was looking at goldenrod plants. I got a big field behind my place and-
Kim: -it's full of goldenrod. I was out looking at it and with the rain that we've had this year, these goldenrod plants are probably a foot to a foot and a half taller than normal. Because we had rain in July, I expect a bumper goldenrod crop this year. Check-in in a month and see if that works out but I expect it to be good.
Jeff: You better pull your supers and extract some honey and get those supers back out there.
Kim: I'm out of supers. Every super I got is in my hives right now. I got to do something to put all that goldenrod in.
Jeff: Well, you better call our good friends at Betterbee and order up some more supers.
Kim: [chuckles] That would be good.
Jeff: You and Jim had a great episode on European foulbrood last week on Honey Bee Obscura. I've never had to deal with EFB. It sounds like a pain to deal with.
Kim: I guess it can be. I've never had it, and the people that I know that have had it, on small-scale people, feed, feed, feed. European tends to be a stress disease. It shows up when your bees are under stress and the stress is usually food. If you get some food on there, it tends to go away. Now I'm out of my loop here because that's all I've ever done. I know you can treat it with an antibiotic but that's changed because of the veterinary laws. It's reduced stress and stress is primarily food. When you see symptoms of it showing up, of course, Varroa and the virus are going to add a dimension that I've never had to look at with European, so I'm not sure.
Jeff: Yes, once a colony gets stressed for one reason, it's susceptible to just about everything else that's out there too.
Kim: You'll see it with the new Nosema, too, cerenae, and again, it's stress and it's feed.
Jeff: Yes. Okay, on to other things, Bee Culture has their October event coming up this October one, two, and three, being diverse, inspiring leaders and beekeeping. That looks like that'll be a great program.
Kim: Yes, I'll be there, and sitting in the back of the room. I'm volunteering to shuffle speakers to and from the airport. Hopefully, I won't spend all my time in my car but I understand they're working to have it recorded. I don't know the details of that yet, maybe that'll work so if I miss something, I can go back and get it later.
Jeff: Here you go. Well, I look forward to seeing you there. I'm planning on being at least in Ohio either for the conference or to visit family that weekend. I'll make sure I'm there.
Kim: Good. Come on out, I'll buy you a beer and we'll sit in the deck.
Jeff: [chuckles] That'll be fantastic. Well, if you're interested in finding more information on being diverse, inspiring leaders, and beekeeping, check out the latest copy of Bee Culture magazine and/or go to Bee Culture website to get more information on who's speaking and other events. You'll be happy you did. One last thing here, Kim, for the last month, we've been providing transcripts of each episode. Hopefully, some of our listeners have taken advantage of that service and we'd love to hear from folks to see how they are using transcripts or if they are reading them as they listen to them. If they find them useful, we'd love to hear from you.
Kim: Yes, it'd be good to know. I find them useful mostly because when I'm putting things together afterwards, I can go back and read faster than I can listen. That works out well for me.
Jeff: I think I sound better when I read myself as opposed to listen to myself.
Jeff: All right, hey, coming up today, Kim, we have Ben and Kimberly Carpenter of Ross Rounds and Hungry Bear Farms. I've not met them before, so I'm really interested in talking with them.
Kim: Well, they were a commercial honey producer and they had a bee supply store operation and they were able to acquire Ross Rounds & Sundance Pollen Traps when the respect of people who had them before retired and sold out. One of the things that I've worked with, I'm a strong proponent of pollen traps, and their pollen trap is one of the better ones, and, of course, Ross Rounds if you like comb honey. I like comb honey. It doesn't do well for a crop here for me because my spring crop isn't fast enough, but where you can get a good honey flow in the spring, Ross Rounds is the equipment you want to use. Let's get them on board.
Jeff: Sounds great. Let's do, [chuckles] let's get them on a show, but first a quick word from our great friends at Strong Microbials.
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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of beekeeping information and offers and all sorts of cool stuff. Well, welcome back, everybody. We'd like to welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast Ben Carpenter and Kimberly Carpenter of Ross Rounds and Hungry Bear Farms. Welcome.
Kimberly Carpenter: Hi .
Ben Carpenter: Hey, thanks for having us.
Jeff: Yes, you bet.
Kim: Ben and Kimberly, it's good to see you again. For years saw you at meetings, every meeting I went to, there you were, but there haven't been any meetings, so it's good to see you again. I hope life has been good for you.
Ben: Yes, it's been good to see you. We haven't seen you in a while.
Kim: Yes, well, Jeff, as you know, Ben and Kimberly run Hungry Bear Farms which is a bee supply store and essentially a commercial beekeeping operation and dealing with Ross Round supers and Sundance Pollen Traps. Both of those things are things that I encourage people to use as often and as strongly as I can and now I get to talk to the people who actually make them. Welcome aboard, guys, it's good to have you here. Ben, give me a little bit of background on how you got into Ross Rounds, they started with Tom Ross, but you got involved. Give me that story.
Ben: Yes, so Tom Ross went through the process many years ago developing the Ross Round Comb Honey System, went through different revisions, imperfections, and during the time, there was a few other people Cabana and a few other manufacturers trying to create a similar system. Tom's system ended up winning out for several reasons and so he ran it successfully for many years and then when he decided he wanted to retire if my memory serves me correctly through Richard Taylor he met Lloyd Spear who's a New York beekeeper out of the Albany area.
Lloyd purchased the rights and the patents and the molds and the business essentially from Tom Ross and he ran it from about 1990 through 2016. In about I want to say maybe 2013, 2014, our retail store operation Hungry Bear Farms was purchasing items from Lloyd, and Kimberly out of the blue just said, "Hey, if you're ever thinking of retiring and getting out of the business,--"
Kimberly: Call me. [chuckles]
Ben: Yes, "Call us." One day out of the blue in late 2015 we got a call from Lloyd and essentially he was putting the business up for sale and had emailed it over to us and a few other people that were interested, and through 2016, Kimberly and I worked hard to basically seal the deal with Lloyd and get our business and the appropriate facets that it's needed to be to go through some acquisition with the bank and things of that nature. That all took place and we took ownership of Ross Rounds and Sundance Pollen Traps on January 3rd, 2017.
A fun little side note with that whole thing, this amazing little story, so it took us several months to go through this deal and not because of Lloyd and not because of us, but just because of that's how the nature of those things go. I had a truck I didn't really care for and I had a private offer on this truck in June, so I sold the truck and ordered a new one and we were working through this deal and the new one came in in September and I didn't want to risk the bank stopping anything. The dealer sat on this truck from September till the day we closed on the business. October of 2016 was the deadline to sign up for the American Bee Federation and we still hadn't closed with Ross Rounds.
We had a signed agreement, I felt pretty good about it, so we ended up fronting the money before we bought the business legally, signed the dotted line. We fronted the money for a booth at American Bee Federation and we bought all the pamphlets and brochures and stands and signs and all of this stuff we acquired and still trying to work with them. The bank had already approved us, but they're just dragging their feet doing the paperwork and stuff they need to do, so this all goes on until January 2 of 2017. We have already basically invested in a truck and all the shell stuff and all this other stuff. We signed on a Thursday, drove out to Albany, which is four hours away.
We signed the deal, it was like 9:00 AM in Albany, drove the half-hour to Lloyd's facility. Lloyd had closed the facility and was wintering in Florida, so he left the key to the place with his attorney. We got the key when we took over, we drove there, he had everything set aside that we were supposed to take, we loaded our truck and trailer literally to the brim on Thursday afternoon, drove the four hours back home, Friday, unloaded it, sorted it in our warehouse, so the business was operational, picked up my new truck Friday afternoon, was in that new truck with all the show material Saturday driving to Houston and we pulled into Houston Monday morning at 09:00 AM for the show. Well, it was Galveston, close enough.
That all took place in literally a couple of days.
Kimberly: A lot of coffee. [chuckles] It was crazy but it was fun. [chuckles]
Kim: I could believe it. Well, when you took over, you also had the Sundance Pollen Trap. Where did that come from? Was that with Ross Rounds?
Ben: That's a great question. Yes, it was with Ross Rounds. That was a product that Lloyd developed with his time at Ross Rounds. He put it together, did the trial and errors for it, the blueprints, worked tirelessly on making sure that that was a perfect system, and got that developed and launched it to the market himself during that timeframe. It was just part of Ross Rounds when we purchased it.
Kim: Okay, so Lloyd developed the pollen trap. Tom Ross developed the comb honey box super. You ended up with both of them, that's not a bad deal. Comb honey is not common, and it should be a lot more common. When you look at the honey price sales in the journals, comb honey, a Ross Round comb, I want to say it's something like $11 a pound compared to liquid honey. My question is why aren't more people making comb honey?
Ben: There's a lot of misnomers with comb honey, a lot of people get intimidated by it. I guess rightfully so in a way. A lot of people feel they don't have a market for, or they don't have an outlet to sell it to get their money back. They've had bad experiences trying to do it or other people have had bad experiences and had been vocal about it. Quite frankly, there's really no reason that any beekeeper couldn't make comb honey in general.
Jeff: Let's talk a little bit and distinguish what makes a Ross Round a Ross Round versus a typical comb honey for listeners who aren't familiar with the Ross Round.
Ben: The Ross Round is basically a system, it's a plastic frame that has four perfectly round four-inch circles in the frame, that you split the frame in half, put a sheet of thin surplus wax foundation in, and you put it into this specially designed wooden super that hold several of these frames, no other frames, the super only holds the Ross Round frames. The bees then draw out that fencer plus foundation inside those round circles and put honey in them and cap them and do their job like they would in a normal super, however, it's now in this round shape. Once those rounds if you will are completed, you can then remove the super off the hive using any of the normal techniques to remove a normal honey super off.
Remove the frames out very carefully, split them in half, and you will have four round sections of comb honey attached to this, then surplus, and it's double-sided. If you remember to do it, which is kind of a requirement, there's going to be these white rings, we call them section rings that fit inside those round holes on the frame, and they were already installed typically when you get the kit. Those will actually slide out and that's what allows the honeycomb to be attached on the side, is those rings, and the frame to then slide off and be removed.
Essentially, the kit is a way of putting a container in the hive and allowing the bees to create honeycomb and honey in this container that then is harvested and sold directly to the consumer. You're not really cutting any honeycomb open, you're just trimming the excess wax from around the outside of that ring. It's one of the most natural ways of selling honeycomb. If someone calls you and wants some honey that has not been pasteurized or handled or whatever they term that they want to dub it, comb honey would be that, and so the Ross Rounds just makes that a little bit more simpler and cleaner.
Jeff: The Ross Round also has the ability, after you take it out of the frame, you have tops and bottoms that you can enclose it in, correct?
Jeff: It's ready to packet, it's already three-quarters packaged by the time you take it out of the frame.
Ben: Essentially, once you split the finished product off the frame, and you have the four sections sitting there, you run a very sharp knife around the outside of those white rings trimming off the excess then surplus foundation, and that creates this round double-sided honeycomb, and then the tops and bottoms that you refer to slide over the white rings and they're notched so that they all nest together appropriately, and then you take your label and wrap it around the sides of that cylinder, and that seals the top and bottom together and seals the unit and makes it ready for sale. Essentially the container the bees did the work in is what the end consumer is getting.
Jeff: That's really great. It's a nice finished product too.
Kim: It's an excellent finished product. I remember when Richard Taylor started experimenting with it with Tom, he was writing about it in the magazine, even after I became editor, and he sang its praises forever and for good reason. I just looked at the most recent Bee Culture magazine and one of those frames, one of those frames holding four rounds, will make you $44, that they sell for $11 a piece, so you're putting seven frames in, I'm not quick on math, but one super will then make you seven times $44 and why more people aren't doing this is way beyond me, I can't figure that out, but for those who do, it's $11 a piece. There's money to be made out there.
Now, you mentioned something, and I have to agree with you to a degree, is how do you sell it? Because almost 50 years ago, everybody ate comb honey, today almost nobody eats comb honey. When you're at a farm market and you've got this sitting there, you're going to spend half of your time telling people how to eat this, which is way unfortunate. Is there some way we can teach the public how to eat more comb honey? [chuckles]
Ben: Yes. I'm asking Kimberly if she wants to talk about one of the things that she did in a little jar for some of our wholesale accounts.
Kimberly: If the customer is unsure about buying a whole round comb because we sell ours retail here in upstate New York for $15 apiece, and if they don't want to spend $15, and they just want to try it, I have some comb that I take out of the hive and put in these little tiny 1.5 on sample jars and they can try that for $4 or $5 bucks. Usually, they try a bit of that and they decide, "Oh, yes. I definitely want to buy the comb." I usually tell customers that have never had comb honey before is, "If you want raw, pure honey that is straight from the hive as best as it can get apart from just standing in the hive and eating it, this is what you want."
A lot of people are into the charcuterie boards with the meat and the cheese and the fruit and nuts and everything. Having that round comb honey in the center of those boards and being able to dip the cheese and the fruit in it is absolutely amazing. You'd be surprised how well some of the cheeses go with it, the salty and the sweet. We've done a lot. As far as educating customers, this is really good for you, it's great for your allergies, and it also tastes great, and we've had a lot of good response from that.
Jeff: I liked the idea of the samplers, the small samplers of the comb honey, which would be a great way to use your incomplete frames or incomplete cells that you just cut it up into little bits and you can make it into chunk honey with a little sampler of honey or even just like you said, provide as samplers. That's a great idea.
Kim: Kimberly, send us a photo of that jar with a piece of honey in it so people can see how you are referring to this. It makes things a lot easier to understand. Then there's the second question, of course, can I eat the wax? [chuckles]
Kimberly: You can definitely eat the wax, although we just tell people it's chewy like you're eating bubble gum or candy. You can either spit it out or you can swallow it, whatever, it's not going to hurt you. Everything in the hive is edible, just like the beeswax.
Jeff: I was thinking if you eat the wax, you can cut down on your use of Metamucil, I think is what--
Jeff: No, I really didn't read that. I'm just making that up.
Ben: Yes. Let's back up for a second. Go back on the marketing. One of the things that Lloyd told me and Kimberly when we bought and doing some of our own market research, if you will, on the marketing, is some areas some beekeepers are going to be fortunate and they have a built-in market for comb honey. They have consumers in the area already looking actively for it and other areas don't. You may have to go into an education campaign, give away some samples, give away some recipes like the charcuterie board idea. I'm not a big fan of blue cheese, but I had blue cheese with a chunk of comb honey, I think that's all I ate for four days, it was amazing.
You might have to do a little bit of education there. The other thing too is I don't want to pick on any one segment, the older crowd seems to remember what comb honey is, and so sometimes you can make connections there with the older folks that want to share some memory with their grandkids or anybody really. There's also different segments of the population that have certain beliefs that are looking for comb honey as well. You might have a local community that believes one way or sect , if you will, I don't want to get into names and things of that nature, just trying to keep it-
Ben: -generic, but they're actively looking for comb honey. There are built-in markets out there for comb honey. If you just can't find them, then just start doing some of your own footwork. Kimberly and I did this several times, if you're invited to a party, bring a charcuterie board with some comb honey, and make sure you've got extras because people will buy them. Okay. That's one of the secrets you can do and a way to educate them. If your friends know you're a beekeeper and you're bringing that to a party and they eat it, they're going to be excited to try it, they're going to think it's pretty cool. They're going to want to buy some, and then they're going to tell their friends.
Just do some grassroots, what they call guerrilla marketing if you will. Then be excited about it. I have an extensive sales background and how you talk to consumers about products is a lot of what makes them buy or not buy. If you're excited about the product and relaying that to the customer, they're going to buy it too. If you run a farmer's market, you go to a farmer's stand someplace like that, where you're interacting with the direct purchaser, be excited about it.
Kim: Well, there's always, I'm going to say a catch, not catch, but what are the tricks to making good comb honey from a beekeeper's perspective? What do I got to do? What should I do? What shouldn't I do?
Ben: When we got started with this, one of the things we heard out there from a very good beekeeper who's experienced, he talks a lot about comb honey production, he says you need a honey flow and you need population. If you're trying to make comb honey and you're not successful, those are the two things you really need. You need a lot of bees, so high population and you need a good strong honey flow. Thinking hard about that and broke it down past that, and in my mind, what you really need is a hive that has the ability to make wax because what do they have to do? They have to draw that foundation out.
If they're not going to draw the foundation out, you're not going to have comb honey. What makes wax? Nurse bees. Nurse bees coming out of that nurse bees phase in their life are now hitting the wax phase in their life. If you manipulate your colonies to have a large amount of nurse bees just before a major nectar flow and you throw your Ross Rounds on, then you're just setting up yourself for success. Part of the major thing that you need to make any comb honey, it's not just Ross Rounds, it's any comb honey, you need that ability to produce wax.
If you start reading some of the different techniques out, there was a technique, I believe it was called the Killion's method, don't hold me to that, Kim, I believe it was called that though, where they actually run queenless colonies. They removed the queen from the colony and put their comb honey system on. That's one trick. Another producer out of Canada who was very successful on a large commercial scale would build colonies up to two or three deeps of strengths and then shake all the bees down into one deep and put two or three Ross Round systems on. He's basically consolidating them down, forcing the bees up into that area.
Because he shook that amount down, not only does he have population, but he's going to have a large amount of nurse bees that don't have anywhere to go now entering that wax phase of their life. There's several little tricks out there. Those would seem to be the most popular ones. A lot of people do run a single deep or single brood chamber colonies and use that as the base for creating comb honey or honey, in general. There's several little tips there that help.
Jeff: You bet. Thanks, Ben. Hey, let's take this opportunity to take a quick break and hear from our friends at Betterbee where I know you can get your Ross Round equipment and Sundance Pollen Traps.
Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Beekeeping Today Podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to our supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Kim: Well, it sounds like my experience with making Ross Rounds follows that exactly, and we have a good strong spring and early summer flow. If I put a Ross Round on mid to late summer, they wouldn't even touch it. A big population and a strong honey flow. That means that you got to know when your honey flow is and be able to back that up and have enough bees ready when the honey flow starts, but that makes common sense on beekeeping anyway. If you want to make a lot of honey, you got to have a lot of bees and you got to have a good honey flow.
Jeff: And managing the swarming tendencies at that same time.
Ben: Yes. Let me just jump in if you will. Kim, you talk about late summer putting that on, and ironically, that's when I put mine on here in Upstate New York. I'm out of the norm with this. A lot of people do try to get those fast and furious honey flows in the spring. Then just like you said, Jeff, they end up with some swarming issues. You're trying to condense the colony down and let the population build up into the comb honey system then you get congestion and you get swarming, right? My bees at that time have just hit the ground back in New York from Florida, late April, early May. They're not at the strength yet to put the comb honey system on. I let them build up in that first box. I throw a second deep on.
Usually, by that time, we're getting through the middle of June, and then they're starting to look for some more room. Here in Upstate New York, the next honey flow that happens after middle of June is the basswood that typically fires right now. We're in a major basswood flow right now. What I like to do is get my Ross Rounds on as basswood hits. The basswood flow stimulates the wax glands and gets the comb built, but it doesn't feel the comb typically for me, but they got the wax there. Then the next flows, which are semi-strong here is going to be like your Knapweed , your purple loosestrife, things of that nature here in Upstate New York.
Usually, what happens for me is the basswood makes the wax, the other nectar sources are then filling the comb, and I don't have 100% success rate doing that, but I do have about a 65% success rate doing that. If I manage it more, which is another benefit of the Ross Rounds, not only can I move the frames within the system, so normally these will work in the center of the box, I can start those two frames or three frames and work in those, I can actually go into the system and pull those three frames and put them to the outside, putting empty foundation in the middle during those net strong nectar flows when they're building wax and get them to put the wax on there, so I can manipulate the frames.
If I do that more then I can increase my success rate with the Ross Round system that time of year.
Kim: Well, that makes sense. You explained that quite well. I can see looking at it the way I explained it, looking at the way you explained it, we've covered a lot of parts of the country except probably the desert southwest for making comb honey. Here's the deal, I still got partial-- They didn't cap it, they didn't draw it out all the way. What do I do with those that I can't sell?
Jeff: Again, another big benefit in the rostrum system, specifically, is that you can get into those frames. The system's not taped together, it's not locked together. You can get into those frames. If every one of those sections inside the Super isn't complete, if all of them aren't that way, then you can either let the bees rob that nectar back out, and you have that wax, keep the Super clean for the winter, and then put it back on that they're going to have a jump start on that Super the following year.
If some are capped, you have access to harvest those. Let's say in a 10-frame Ross Round box, there is eight plastic Ross Round frames, let's say the middle two were done and completed and capped, you could actually take those middle two right out of the system, harvest those sections, sell them, reload it, and you have a system that can go back on the bees. The ones that didn't get capped or finished, like you were saying, Kim, you can either let the bees ride back out or save somehow and the bees can then reuse it the next year.
You do have access to every section within that Super to be able to manipulate, use, harvest, whatever.
Kimberly: To that point, I just want to add something real quick. The ones that they don't completely finish, I've been selling them as seconds or thirds, if you will, on our store. Instead of $15 apiece, I sell them for half that, just for people that want to try a half comb that's not fully done. It's maybe like the ugly duckling of the comb industry, but it's still a honeycomb either way. Those are going to sound crazy too. It's not like you have to give up and say it's not going to work or anything like that.
Jeff: You could also chunk them out, put them in a jar and fill them with liquid honey. You could chunk them out, sell them as samples. You could give them away as samples. If there are some capped cells on there, you can utilize them somehow.
Ben: Yes, that'd be great at a farmers market table, you could take those, cut them up, and put them out there, right in front of your display.
Kim: Talking to Richard Taylor quite a few years ago about what to do with unfilled cells, he discouraged people from trying to overwinter them with some honey in because you get crystallization. He was in upstate New York too, so I imagine you're going to run the same kind of issues if you tried that. If you're down south or you can keep them at room temperature, perhaps that wouldn't be a problem, but it's a gamble.
I think what you are suggesting as a much better idea is selling them as partials or cutting them up and using them as samples. They're not going to go to waste. You might make some money on them at the end of the day. There you are, Jeff, Ross Rounds, how to make them and how to sell them.
Jeff: I've always been fascinated. Well, Kim, I like gadgets. Not to say that the Ross Round is a gadget, but it was atypical of anything else that was in the bee supply area, and so I've always been fascinated by it. I never felt like I could produce good comb honey, so I've never taken that step. It's possible. It's possible.
Kim: Now's the time.
Jeff: No, I pass this time. [crosstalk]
Ben: Hey, you just jump into it.
Jeff: Yes, I think maybe for next season.
Kim: Next year. Okay.
Kimberly: We might have some new products coming out next season, but we're not going to tell you what they are, Jeff.
Jeff: Oh, really? Oh, no. You tease us--
Kimberly: We're not done here yet but we've got some stuff up our sleeve, so you have to wait till next season.
Jeff: All right. Well, listen for it first here, folks on Beekeeping Today podcast.
Kim: The other thing you guys are involved in, of course, is the Sundance pollen trap. I'm an incredible advocate for trapping pollen and selling it to people and making money. My first choice is always to be able to sell it or to give it back to bees. An interesting thing just came out, a research out of Tucson, that the pollen that's produced in the spring is the pollen bees need in the spring, and not in the fall. We're going to explore that with Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman coming up here real soon. Once you hear that, it makes sense.
Kim: If I'm trapping pollen and I trap pollen in April, May, and June, I should probably sit on it until next April, May, and June.
Ben: I wouldn't recommend sitting on it, maybe freezing it. Sitting on it? But I wouldn't recommend sitting on it.
Jeff: There's your problem, Kim. Thanks, Ben.
Kim: Freezing it until next spring and then using it then. The basic questions that people ask on pollen traps is how long do I leave them on? How long do I leave them open? How often do I close them? What's the schedule for a colony so that you don't deprive it of pollen, but that you get as much as you can?
Ben: I'll say two things on that then I'll let Kim talk about it too. My standard answer back to somebody on that is develop some sort of program. What I would suggest is three days on, three days off, four days on, four days off, five days on, five days off, something of that nature so that when the trap is on, it's stripping the pollen that's coming in, and when the trap's off, then the hive is receiving that pollen back. You could supplement with some pollen depending on what you're using that pollen that you're stripping for. If you're selling it as an alternative good like honey, then you could supplement the hive with artificial pollen so that you're not stripping all of that during the growth period or whatnot.
The other point too is our traps are unique. We intentionally didn't design them. I'm going to speak for Lloyd on this, to strip 100% of the pollen coming in. They strip anywhere from 85% to 90% of the pollen coming in. You want to be careful there. I've seen some people take the traps apart and replace things and, "Oh, we've got better pollen yield, better pollen collection now." What you're running into is you're stripping 100% of that pollen or such a high percentage that you're hurting the hive.
We have one university specifically that buys our traps and never shuts them off because the hive is still getting pollen. That's a pretty powerful statement in my mind that, yes, you can leave them on and leave them off, you can run that program, but if you forget, it's also not a big deal. At the same token, I would put a little asterisk footnote there, just watch the colony, make sure you're not really hurting them and sending them back. Do you have anything to add to that, Kimberly?
Kimberly: Yes. I use pollen traps really heavily on our hives because I collect a lot of pollen to resell and also feed back to bees. Some of them I did experiment myself leaving them on the whole season. Keep in mind, you're putting the pollen traps on the colonies that bring in the most pollen. They're packing it away on several frames, and they have so much of it, it's an overabundance. Those are the colonies you're putting it on in the first place. Even if you do forget to turn the trap off, and it's on, they're still going to be bringing more pollen in over and above what's getting caught in the trap because they still need some for them, because those are your heavy pollen collectors, so you really have an advantage there.
I would still encourage people to alternate it. If you don't need that much pollen, why leave it on all that time and take it from them? The colonies still will grow and be robust and you shouldn't have any issues. It's the strong colonies you're putting it on, you're not putting it on the subpar barely making it kind of colonies. You have to keep that in mind.
Jeff: Would it be fair to say you wouldn't put a pollen trap on the same hive that you have your Ross Round? Would it make a difference?
Kimberly: Well, Ben will maybe disagree with me, but I have a few colonies that I have pollen traps and Ross Rounds on because they're just so overflowing with bees. They're great pollen collectors, and they're also really good comb builders. I have both of those on at the same time and those colonies are doing great. You can't do that to every colony, but you have those perfect colonies that you can do that with some time. It is possible, you just have to choose your colonies correctly.
Ben: Yes, I would agree with that. If you're trapping pollen, you're trapping pollen, if you're making honey, you're making honey. It's two different things.
Jeff: Let me jump back to the Ross Rounds again, and comb production. Basic question, we don't need to spend a lot of time here. Is there a race of bee that is better for comb production? Do you like Italians better for the Ross Round, the comb production, versus Carniolans? Does it make a difference or no?
Kimberly: I don't think it makes a difference because we've got a plethora of different varieties out there.
Ben: Yes. As far as comb honey production, I don't think that you're going to see a difference. Where you might see a difference is a certain type of bees' natural instinct to swarm. Again, you're building those colonies up for a high production numbers of bees and they're sometimes making them congested. If you have a certain style of bee that likes to swarm, then you might run into some more issues versus a different one that doesn't like to swarm. It depends on, I think, more of the swarming instinct rather than the colony-building instinct.
Jeff: Very good.
Kimberly: If you do get swarmed, catch the swarm and put a Ross Round super on top of it and they fill that out like crazy, so it works great.
Jeff: There's hope for my bees yet, Kim.
Kim: You mentioned that you trample out a pollen that you sell in your store. Packaging, cleaning, how does all that work?
Kimberly: Essentially, with the Sundance pollen traps, the pollen that we get is very clean because of how they're made. When you take the pollen out, you have this little drawer, you take it out every day ideally or every other day and you're going to find hardly any debris in there just because of how we've built the traps and how they function. Any of the debris in the hive will not fall into those traps whether you're using a bottom-mounted trap or a top-mounted trap. There's very minimal cleaning that you have to do to the pollens.
I pretty much take it out. I collect a little bucket of it every day, bring it back in, use a cookie sheet or something just to sort through the miscellaneous bee legs that might end up in there. Then, I will put it in an open container or open jars in the freezer so that helps to dehydrate it if you will and keeps it as fresh as possible. I always keep it in the freezer or tell people keep it in the refrigerator but the lid has to be on for storage. Especially in the refrigerator, you don't want anything molding because it's that perfect temperature where that could happen.
Selling fresh pollen like that with the lid on, it's great for your allergies. It hasn't been dehydrated in the dehydrator. Sometimes, we use that and it gets really grainy and sandy and it doesn't taste very nice whereas fresh pollen when you get it right out of the hive, every granule of pollen tastes different. Some are very sweet, some are bitter, some have no taste. They're all different colors. You can definitely tell the difference between fresh pollen from your local area as opposed to the stuff that's in some of the stores. It all looks the same and it's brown. It's probably from overseas and it's grainy and doesn't taste real good.
When our customers have allergies, they buy it religiously all the time and swear by it. It definitely helps them. I even take it. Oddly enough, you can actually give it to your pets too like your dogs if they have allergies. I have customers that buy it for that as well.
Ben: You should start off small with them. Don't take a giant tablespoon. Start with one kernel and make sure you don't have some sort of reaction. A few other points that Kim said that I just want to reiterate is we need to check those traps on a daily basis would be strongly encouraged, maybe even twice a day.
In the South where have small hive beetles, you're collecting a major protein source that pests like and you're leaving it in an area where the bees can't defend it. It molds. It can absorb moisture and mold. If you're selling it as a consumer product, you need to have some due diligence there to make sure that you're getting a clean product and so checking the trap daily, maybe even twice a day would be advisable for that.
Then the other point Kim said is to put in the freezer with the lid off. You're basically freeze-drying it, right? Your freezer environment is dehydrating basically. By leaving the lid off, you're allowing that moisture to come out as part of that process, not trapping it inside the jar.
Kimberly: That being said though, I do have a special freezer and refrigerator for that. You don't want to be storing your pollen that you're selling people in the same freezer where you freeze your onions or your garlic.
Kim: I'll give you guys some information that I've just discovered. There's a new book out called Honey Bee Alchemy. It's put out by IBRA. It's got a lot of the chemical properties of pollen and one of them is that it's a fairly strong antibiotic, something I've never heard before or never seen proved before. You may want to get a copy of that book and find out more about pollen then use it as a selling point. What have we missed on pollen traps and comb honey?
Kimberly: I was going to say, a lot of queen breeders will use the pollen traps that are collecting the pollen so that they can actually take the raw pollen and they have a deep frame that's got a drawing comb. They actually pack that frame full of the pollen granules and put that next to their frame that has the graphs on it with all the nurse bees and everything.
That's why they have that protein source right there. They can make more royal jelly because of all the pollen you're just getting out. A lot of queen breeders will use that. I use that in our apiary. That gives you a good boost if you're making queens having that pollen available instead of throwing a patty on or something.
Kim: I've seen queen breeders do that now that you mention it.
Ben: Something else with the two products that's unique for bee products is if you look at the number of beekeepers out there, the vast majority of them are probably hobbyists. You're spending money on a hobby and you're not necessarily making even or making a profit on it. Pollen traps and the Ross Round comb honey system are very unique in that they have the potential to pay for themselves in the first year of use and maybe even be profitable in the first year of use. That's a pretty powerful statement there.
Again, I'm going to a 10-frame Ross Round system that holds 8 frames. 8 x 4 is 32. You have 32 sections of possibilities there to get finished. If you're successful and you sell each of those for $10, that's $320. The Ross Round system right now is averaging about $100. Some dealers sell it at $120 and include a few more things which is totally worth the extra $20. That's your average cost for it. If you subtract that from $320, you're still $200 in the good. For a product that you bought that year, that's pretty impressive.
Kim: Okay, I'll take two. How's that?
Kimberly: With the Sundance pollen traps, when you're collecting pollen, I sell 1 pound of pollen for $25 retail. I've heard that I'm low. I'm going to have to look at that more but I have no problems selling pollen all day long in the glass jars. It's very little work for what you're doing.
Ben: Yes, very little for that. If you take that and you do some math, $25 for one pound, I did some research and the average hive produces 66 pounds of pollen. If you were to just strip six pounds of that 66, times 25 in your $150 if I'm doing my math correctly in my head, the trap is going to run you anywhere from $80 to $100 depending on where you get it. That's pretty easy to get your return on investment there.
Kim: See. I knew there was a good reason to use those, Jeff.
Jeff: That's great. Really good. We really appreciate you being on the show today. I think the topic of comb honey and the pollen collection is something we've touched on a little bit in the past but it's always worth a return visit this time of year. As we're thinking about this year and what we've missed this year and looking forward to the following season, I think it's always good to investigate whether comb honey production and pollen adding those to what we're harvesting from the hive is always a worthwhile thought. I appreciate the time you've spent with us. The tease that you gave about new products coming down the road, we look forward to hearing that.
Ben: Yes. I'm not going to tell you whether that's going out of Ross Round or Sundance or Hungry Bear.
Jeff: Maybe it'll be in time for Christmas. We'll have to have you back so people can plan their Christmas list.
Jeff: Well, Ben and Kimberly, we really enjoyed having you on the show today.
Ben: Yes, thanks for having us.
Kimberly: Yes. Thank you.
Kim: It's good seeing you again. That's Ben and Kimberly Carpenter of Hungry Bear Farms. Sundance pollen traps and Ross Round comb honey. Thanks, guys.
Jeff: Thanks again, guys.
Kimberly: Thank you.
Jeff: It's fun having Ben and Kimberly on the show. Like I said, the comb production and Ross Round specific have always been a keen interest of mine.
Kim: I've tried before, and of course I knew Richard Taylor way back when. He was the proponent of the Ross Round system. I got to know it and Tom Ross fairly well back when he came out with it. The other half of that equation though, of course, is the pollen trap. I've always been a strong advocate for people trapping pollen because it's free food for you or for your bees or for both of you. Their trap is I'm going to say the best in the market.
They're good. They've explained everything well, marketing, and packaging, and management, the whole thing. It was a good time, good people.
Jeff: I meant to ask them on the pollen trap, is this Sundance Pollen Trap, is that underneath the hive or is it attached to the front of it?
Kim: Yes, it's underneath.
Jeff: Underneath. All right.
Jeff: Very cool. I've not tried pollen trapping ever. One of these days I'll have to try that as well.
Kim: Pollen trap and a nuc in your bee yard. Everybody should have a pollen trap and a nuc in their bee yard. You got a nuc, you got a bee supply store, and you got a pollen trap, you've got free food. That's just basic common sense management.
Jeff: We ll, there you go, folks. That about wraps it up. All you need to know right there. A nuc and a pollen trap. There you go. Well, that about wraps it up. Before we go I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars in apple podcasts, wherever you download and stream the show, your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker, even better write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any page. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today podcast.
We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at www.globalpatties.com. We also want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of our podcast. Check out their full probiotic line www.strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank Better Bee where you can find all these products we talked about today and it's joining us as our latest supporter. Check out their full line of supplies www.betterbee.com, and finally, and most importantly we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today podcast listener, for joining us on this show. Feel free to send us questions in the comments, questions at beekeepingtodaypodcast.com. Love to hear from you. Anything else, Kim?
Kim: Just one thing, Jeff, don't forget Bee Culture's October event is coming up. Check out their webpage and get registered. There's not room for everybody.
Jeff: Thanks a lot, everybody.
[01:02:01] [END OF AUDIO]
2016 EAS Master Beekeepers, Owners of Hungry Bear Farms, Ross Rounds & Finger Lakes Bee Company, LLC
We began our hobby farm in 2008 located in the beautiful Finger Lakes of NY State. Just off Canandaigua Lake, we are in the valley nestled at the base of a hill surrounded by woods and wildlife. In 2010, we started a beekeeping supply store to help out the local beekeeping club since there were no supply stores close by. Little did we know the journey that decision would take us on. There have been a lot of ups and downs like with any small business starting out but we've overcome many challenges together and have continued to grow by leaps and bounds each year.
In 2016, we finally reached a goal we have been working on for several years and both received our certification of becoming EAS (Eastern Apiculture Society) Master Beekeepers. Additionally, that year we were in negotiations to purchase the Ross Rounds & Sundance Pollen Traps company from long time owner, Lloyd Spear and that came to fruition on January 1st of 2017. Along with purchasing Ross Rounds, we also formed our parent company, Finger Lakes Bee Company, LLC.
It has been an exciting journey since that day as we've continued to not only grow our bee supply business as Hungry Bear Farms but also now to continue growing the Ross Rounds business.