I am new to beekeeping this season… I received 3 bee hives as gifts. They are longstroth style with 3 deep boxes each. The description says that the top boxes are for the optional flow frame system (not included) and that the middle and bottom boxes are for brood. I also received 60 wax-rite 9 1/8” foundation frames. I live in New England (USA) and had some questions to get advice on if possible.
Do I need 2 brood boxes per hive for wintering or can I have the bottom boxes for brood, middle boxes for foundation frame honey, and the top boxes for flow frame honey?
Responding because I want to follow this thread as well. But my understanding is you need between 40 and 60 pounds of honey for them to survive through the winter. Therefore, a brood box and then another brood box for them to store honey in would likely be appropriate.
Hi Chris, welcome to the Flow forum. With your New England climate, as @Martydallas says, you are definitely going to need two boxes for brood. Commercial beekeepers may be able to get away with just one, but they feed all winter, which is quite a bit of extra work. They also have the expertise needed to know when to feed and how often. It takes time to get that kind of feeling, and even then they will lose hives.
We have several active Forum members in your sort of climate - not exactly New England, but close. @Red_Hot_Chilipepper is in New Jersey and @Eva is in Pennsylvania. Although south of you, they both use double brood for overwintering, if I understand correctly.
I would suggest that you join a local beekeeping group and see if somebody will mentor you. It can be very helpful for learning quickly and doing the best for your bees. They are quite easy to find using Google.
That system would be fine if you are going to crush and strain, or if you manage to borrow or buy a centrifuge and uncapping knife for your traditional frames. Both of those extraction methods are messy (but can be fun). The choice is yours.
I am inclined to agree. I have extracted honey from hundreds of traditional frames over the years, and in my experience, there is no question that Flow frames are much easier. Others have problems with flooding and leaking, but we have never had that issue in the last 3 years. I think it depends on how carefully you open the frames, how many keys you have to open them evenly, how full they are etc. With proper care, I truly feel that the Flow method is vastly superior for my purposes.
Flow has published free detailed instructions on how to modify a deep box for their Flow frames. It does involve using a scrolling jigsaw or similar equipment, but it really isn’t difficult.
If I knew your nearest big city, I could give you a list. Otherwise just enter that city name and beekeeping into Google, and I guarantee that you will find something within 50 miles of you. Here are some examples that I found with a few simple searches. Of course, New England is a big area, so none of them may be near you:
Normal beekeeping practice is to remove any honey supers at the end of the season (about August, unless your region has a fall nectar flow). They stay off all winter, until around March of the new season the following year. In fact, it really helps the bees to have one less box to heat and patrol over winter, so it is all around a good idea.
The Flow super should be treated the same way. In tropical and some sub-tropical climates, the Flow super can be left on, because they have little dribbles of nectar all year round. If you do that in a seasonal climate, the bees will put propolis all over the Flow frames to reduce the drafts. Propolis is a sticky resin, and really hampers the Flow mechanism, so I absolutely do not recommend leaving the frames on over winter.
I just extract directly into 64oz jars. Usually need 2 jars per frame when the frames are full. I like to keep the honey from each frame separate, because they often have subtly different flavors and it is fun to compare them with each other.
A big bucket like that would work fine, but you would have to jar the honey within a month or two anyway, otherwise it will crystallize and set solid in your bucket. Then you will need a warming system to make it liquid again.
Here is a video, so that you can see exactly what we do:
You may well not get a harvest in the first year anyway. If you are building up a new hive, they often need everything to grow and overwinter in the first year.
Thank you, I understand. So in the brood boxes do the bees choose how much living space and how much honey space?
As far as the flow frames go I was thinking about taking them out in fall and placing in foundation frames simply because I do not think the plastic would do well in our temperatures as it can get +/- -20 F day or night.
@o01Chrism Dawn is right, and I’d add that using the Flow super box itself over the winter could be problematic. You might see propolizing around the back door and key access areas or on the viewing window, so I’d recommend using a regular box as your second brood box. Plus, it’s nice to just store your Flow frames in the Flow box for the winter.
They do indeed. The normal practice is to start with one brood box. When it is 80% or more full, and every frame is well-covered with bees, you can add another box on top. Depending on the nectar flow, the bees will either fill this with just honey, or they will allow the queen to lay in the center frames of that box too. She will usually leave an arc of cells above the brood, which the bees can then fill with more honey or pollen. When you have double brood boxes, you will see a kind of football shaped area of brood spread across the two boxes, and around it, they store food. As winter approaches, Tom Brady steps in and deflates the football, so that they store more and more honey. In your climate, the colony will probably go broodless by late October or early November, and the empty space will be used for as much honey as they can make by then.
I totally agree with @Eva. That would be an unnecessary heat stress on the bees. Bees warm the hive year round by vibrating their wing roots. That takes energy = honey. Warm air rises, so if you make them heat 3 boxes, when they only need 2 boxes, they are using at least 50% more energy than they need to. Plus, they never draw comb over winter. It is just too cold for them to work the wax. Take the super off, it is the best thing for them and you.
It would work, and it might be best for you. My only thought is that you would then have blended honey from all frames, which in my region makes the honey less “boutiquey” if you are trying to sell it. I can get $20 per pound for single frame honey. Blended honey would be closer to $10. If you never intend to sell any, or you don’t mind the lower price, that is totally up to you.
I just saw the video that you sent me. Really I was thinking of the bucket idea for faster harvest but really I am starting this on a budget. I see your method works well. You collect in big jars then pour into different size jars?
To be honest I do not think people around where I live would even know if the honey was blended or not. Where do you live. Most bee keepers around here that have their honey sold in gas stations and small stores only sell at $0.50-$1.00 per ounce.
I would love to get around $20 a pound but would be ok with around $10 a pound. Even Walmart here does not sell honey raw or not for more than around $10 for 1.5 pounds of honey.
Though I do have one bakery all ready interested in buying honey from me and I do not even have a sample for them yet.
Also I have one co-worker who does maple sugaring and though I do not have a honey sample for him yet… he wants to trade me ounce to ounce honey to maple syrup.
I do. One frame makes about 9 jars of 12oz sizing, which is what most people want to buy when it is special “ultra local” honey. I sell on www.nextdoor.com and I usually run out within 24 hours, even at my pricing level. I live in southern California, and we have a lot of health conscious people who want raw, unfiltered honey, direct from the beekeeper. They are willing to pay a premium to know that it has not been adulterated in any way since leaving the hive.
He is getting a great deal then, so you should think carefully about taking him up on it, unless you are awash with honey that you can’t sell elsewhere.
Welcome to the forum o01Chris.
You have received great advice from the others but I’m going to put it out there. I’m assuming you have not got an original Flow box, Flow being a brand name not a generic term. You haven’t got your Flow frames yet? At $259 plus p/h for just three genuine Flow frames you’ll be tempted to buy cheaper copies make sure you do some rescearch before you do.
All ready selling your honey? Be careful, building a colony able to produce excess honey stores often takes more than one season more sometimes so you can’t bank on it.
Mate, read up on bee husbandry, watch as many YouTube videos as you can, beekeeping ain’t no walk in the park out your way, it’s hard work, time consuming and costly.
Not trying to put you off just making you aware.
Hi Skeggley, I appreciate the concern but relatives are getting the flow frames for me so how or where they purchase from is on them. Obviously I recommended Flow Hive Frames directly but since I am not buying I can only suggest.
As far as the honey goes I have not sold any or made any promises yet. I helped get the bakery ready and also worked at the owner’s house. As for my co-worker he fully understands that I may not get any honey this year and may not get a lot in the future.
Here it cost more per year to make maple syrup than honey and my wife uses honey and mayple syrup in cooking and baking so it would be a win win situation.
If necessary I can dedicate a whole deep honey super to the bakery, a whole deep honey super to my co-worker, and still have a whole deep honey super for personal and or business use if everything went as well as possible best case scenario.
This is not my only source of income nor will it ever be so I will just be happy learning and doing my best and seeing how everything works out.
Thank you for bringing a voice of reason to the table.
It’s hard to put an exact time frame on things sometimes. Last season was my third, and the first time I was able to put my Flow super on and harvest it. The bees began storing nectar again, but never filled it much less capped it for a second harvest that would typically be late September/early October in my area. Given the less-than-booming nectar flow in September another full harvest was unlikely - so I emptied the frames and let the bees clean them out before storing them then.
When I’ll put the Flow super on a colony this season depends on when population meets nectar flow & vice versa - that is, IF my bees survive this last cold snap we’re having
Point being, there are many, many factors to work with in beekeeping, as @skeggley explains. And they can change every year