Saturday, February 5, 2011

Using the Capping Scratcher

I suppose everybody has their own technique when it comes time to scratch the honeycombs.

Dad and I learned a lot our first year about how to uncap.

Our first year we found using the scratcher to be difficult. It was damaging the comb. Damaged combs mean the bees have to spend a lot of time and energy fixing them.

I was not happy with the result. In frustration I turned the tool over and used it "backwards".

Turns out that was probably the right way to do it.

If you approach the comb with the scratcher tines down in a clawing motion, that's what you get--clawed combs.

With the scratcher faced in a scooping fork position you can just prick and lightly lift off the caps without too much damage.

Don't dig deep or the combs will get torn and ruined. A light scoop is best with the tines held parallel to the combs.

See the video (below) of Dad as he demonstrates.

A beekeeping friend made a point when he said, "You just need to put a hole in the comb." Good point. The cap doesn't have to removed entirely for the honey to come out--the extractor can take care of that part.

So why use the scratcher? If you haven't got an extractor yet and you're not cutting out the combs and doing the crush and strain method then you'd scratch the caps to remove them and then let the honey drain out.

Another use, and this is what we did, is when the bees haven't built the combs out past the edge of the wooden frames--so the hot knife can't get in there to cut them off.

Sometimes a frame will be a combination of both. First we use the hot knife to cut the caps and then for the uneven spots that the knife couldn't reach we use the scratcher.

Note in the video how Dad wipes the scratcher off on the wooden beam on the uncapping tank. Why get sticky fingers if you don't have to?

I'm sure the bees are glad we finally got it right. I'd hate to have been a fly in the hive that first year. I'm sure there was a whole lot of complaining going on.

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