A tale of two hives

I have two hives side by side and inspected both about 3 weeks ago. Both flow supers were getting filled but not yet capped off. I inspected this morning and one flow hive is ready to harvest (all 6 frames are capped and full) but the other hive the flows are almost empty. I dug into the second brood box of that hive and all frames in that box are full of capped honey. They moved all the honey out of the flow and down into the second brood box. I will harvest that box tomorrow along with the flow from my other hive.Any ideas on what went wrong? Should I put back the second brood box after I harvest it or should I put a super on it and get ready for winter? Also should I take the flow hives off after the harvest and replace with supers? Thanks for any suggestions.


Nothing really. Your bees are being bees. They have decided to start winter preparation, and one feature of that is that they move as many honey stores as possible down into the brood box(es). I suppose one might say that perhaps you waited a little longer than most beekeepers to harvest, so you got hit with the winter preparation behavior. Most beekeepers harvest by the middle of July, unless they have a local nectar flow later than that, from a late blooming crop of some sort.

I would put the second brood box back underneath the existing one. That will reduce thermal stress for the bees, and encourage them to clean up the sticky empty frames. I would not put the super back on at this time of year. That would just be an invitation for them to glue it up with propolis over winter.

I would definitely take the Flow super off after the harvest. If you think the brood box is very full, you could consider putting on a traditional medium super (if you have one), but be prepared to take it off if they haven’t done anything with it by September. Certainly you should remove the queen excluder at that point too., if you use one.


I have a similar situation and could use some advice. I started with two hives this year (new) but got moving a bit late in the season. The local beekeepers in my area are telling me to pull any supers by mid August and get started with Varroa treatment.

Problem is…although there is nectar in the flow super, it’s not capped. One of my two hives are being overachievers and may actually cap honey before I need to pull it. The other I am seriously doubtful. So I don’t know how to handle that situation.

  1. On the strong hive, if “most” of the cells are capped but there is still a lot that is not, do I crack the combs? Will that kill worker bees that are in the combs when I do this?
  2. On the hive that is definitely not going to complete the super this year, I have read forum posts about feeding back to the bees and letting them store it down in the brood box. But there appear to be two different methods. A. put it 30-40 yards away from the hive and let them clean it up. But they don’t say how to do this. Do they just lay it on the ground? B. Others say to slide the attic lid under it so it is now “above” the attic.

Back to the stronger hive, since it may be a 50/50 deal on what I get out of the hive would using one of those bee mazes help to get the workers out of that flow before I pull the cork and see what comes out?

Lastly, inspection of flow hive. Oddly the side observation window shows that the bees are finishing the outer frames before the inner. How are you inspecting the frames? Do you pull them? This seems almost defeating the purpose of the flow super.

Thanks for any expert advice.


You could, but with uncapped cells, quite a bit of honey may leak from the frame face. I would take the super off, and open it inside the (honey) house over a large baking sheet, to catch the drips. In fact, I took my Flow super off yesterday, and will be draining it in the kitchen today. Some of the nectar is very liquid still.

Cedar (inventor of Flow) says not, but some people have reported bee deaths.

The third method I described above. :blush: If you take the Flow super off for the bees to empty it outside, I would put it on one end, so that the frames are vertical, but the bees can get into the box from the top and the bottom. However, I agree with others that this is a very risky thing to do at this time of year, as it can provoke a robbing frenzy. If you really want to do it that way, I would strongly suggest that you have a robbing screen available for your hive. If you leave the super on one end like that, it will probably be empty in 24 hours. The other risk (in the US) is that skunks, raccoons and other critters may find it over night, and damage the frames.

I haven’t had much luck with putting the Flow super on top of the inner cover. My bees don’t treat the inner cover as the top of the hive. If I leave the hole open, they just go through it and do whatever they want above it, including building crazy comb etc.

You mean a bee escape? I use them and they work for me. However, lots of people don’t like them, or don’t have much success with them.

Yes, I pull them. It depends on what you think the “purpose” of the Flow super is. For me, it is to have a convenient and easy method for extracting honey. I don’t think that its true purpose is to “avoid disturbing the bees”. After all, they know within minutes that their honey has gone, and within a day or two they remove the cappings and start repairing the cells. That must be quite a disturbance for them, even if you didn’t inspect! :wink:

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Wow what awesome help. Thank you so very much.

Two follow up questions.

  1. Robbing confuses me. If the flow is taken off the hive and moved in front or away from it how does this cause robbing back at the hive? Or did I mis something?

  2. If I do method 3 as you suggest what do you do with the nectar you collect in the honey house? How do you or do you give it back to help them get ready for winter? And…how do you get the workers out of it if you bring it into the house?

Thank you so much this has been quite helpful.

We all know that foragers are hard-working gals, however, it is in the interests of the colony for them to find rich sources of food which are easily available. Think about a super with uncapped honey in it, chances are it will be 20-40% water, whereas nectar is quite a bit lower than this on average. So even uncapped honey is an incredibly delicious food source to a forager.

Now consider this, a forager goes out and finds your super with no house bees guarding it. Whoopee, party time!!! She flies homes and does a bee dance which says, “Hey girls, go in this direction for a little way, and there is TONS of free food!!!” Problem is, the dance is not terribly accurate, so the bees rely on smell too. Soon hundreds or thousands of her sisters are flying out in the direction specified. It so happens that your hive is in about the location. With the promise of free food, they are fully in foraging mode, even to the point of robbing if needed.

After all, remember that foragers only eat enough honey for energy before they leave the hive to get them to the nectar source. One way trip, unless they find something! So they are motivated to get the food and get home. If your hive is in the line from the foraging hive, it will have a huge target painted on it and the surrounding area.

From the Flow frames, I collect each frame into a separate jar. I have a refractometer (less than $40 on Amazon, make sure it is for honey), so I then test the water content. Less than 18.6% water is ripe honey. More than that, and it either gets frozen and used quickly, or fed back to the bees.

Use any bee feeder that you would use for syrup. I like pail (bucket) feeders, but many people don’t. It would work in a mason jar with perforated lid, a baggie feeder, a Miller hive top feeder, or just about any liquid feeder you choose. :blush:

Now that is an excellent question. We actually used a bee escape to clear the super. However, it was a very hot day, and both my husband and I were over heating. So he put the super on an outside table, with an inner cover on top. Unfortunately the hole in the inner cover did not get closed tightly enough to keep the bees out. We went inside, turned on the air-conditioning and downed a glass of water. By the time we got back to the super, the air was thick with bees! :open_mouth:

So we did something that I never do, and I hate doing. We brushed the bees off, and I walked to the back door, continuing to brush. I had an empty Flow super inside the house, and I put the frames into this one at a time. Not ideal, but it worked, and I don’t think we killed any bees. I got about 4 bees inside the back door, but that room is dark and the door is glass, so the bees flew to the door and I let them out. :sweat_smile: Not ideal, but manageable.


Ok that was really funny. Thank you for your time. Got my questions answered and this has now given me a strategy to work on. You write well. Thanks again.

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Quick update: I harvested the flow hive last weekend and got about 3 gallons! I was so impressed how easy it was. I made a header so I could do 3 frames at a time and it worked great.


That’s fantastic! Congratulations! Is this the first season of that hive? I got started this year and two months late to make it harder.

I decided to harvest early on my weak starter hive. I need them to store below in the brood boxes for winter and they aren’t the over achievers my second hive are.

Despite the fact the flow frames looked nearly empty, we surprisingly got 6 quarts of honey out. Light flavor strong of peaches. We have no fruit trees in the area so we are stumped on that. Since we did harvest early, the combs were not capped. Moisture was 19% so we froze the excess. I did decide to put the flow frames back out for the bees to clean up. No robbing around the hive I put the frames 20 yards away. The bees cleaned it in 48 hours quite nicely. They are in the freezer now to kill any potential bugs like wax moth…then to storage for the season.

I’m looking at your setup. I know the collection tubes are BPH free and I see your bucket is Food grade. But what about the plumbing in-between? Special? Food grade? BPH?