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Bees are emptying flow frames, what to do?


Hello everyone,

As stated in the topic: the bees were hard at work filling our six flow frames, some cells are even capped looking through the window on the side, but since about a week or so, they are busy emptying the frames.

Circumstances: weather has been mostly dry and warm, only one or two days with a bit of rain in about 4 weeks time. There are still flowers around. Water (little streams within 500 meters and morning dew) aplenty. We are in the middle of the middle of France, in the country-side with woods and fields surrounding us.

I have seen a lot less activity at all our three hives.

I think it simply has to do with availability of nectar at this moment, and at the same time, I am not sure if the colony has gone down in numbers, for whatever reason.

I’m wondering what to do: harvest the flow frames now and start feeding them, even though they are not full yet? (We do not plan to leave the super on the hive throughout the winter, so harvesting will take place at any rate when getting ready for the winter).

Ideas are welcome :slight_smile:

Here’s an image of the flow frames from the 24th of July:

And here’s one from the 10th of August:


Video: Transferring 1st colony into flow frame hive in France

Take the frames out and check to which extend they are filled and capped. And better harvest them outside the hive, so no bees will get stuck in open cells when the frame parts move. Colony size will shrink from now on, summer peak is over. They’ll start throwing out the drones very soon or already have begun.


Even though they are no longer capped, the honey in the cells is clearly ripe because the bees did cap it a few weeks ago.

I would be inclined to harvest the honey in situ and then give the bees the opportunity to clean up what’s left.


It depends on who needs the honey most.
You or the bees.
No disrespect intended
My point is that if the bees are eating the honey or moving it down to the brood box in preparation for winter perhaps it would be best for them to do so. Honey is better for bees than sugar. I try to feed mine as little as possible for that reason


I’d definitely open the super and check how capped they are. My bees keep moving the nectar/honey around in the cells at the end of the frames even when the majority of the frames are capped. I wouldn’t take it as certain that because you’ve seen a drop in the end cells that the bees are emptying out the super.

What have you got below the super? Is there much honey below, have they got space to move the honey down?

A good indication of what they are doing from the end is the interface of the nectar/honey with the air. It’s to do with viscosity and surface tension. In your top photo you’ll notice that in many of the frames the interface is almost vertical - this will be honey. The lower picture looks almost all to be nectar in comparison.


That’s why the stored it… for later.


Thanks for all the replies!

@AngoraAngy - I’m going to do a check! B.t.w. I was under the impression that bees couldn’t get stuck in the cells, even when the frame parts move (don’t know why, must have read it somewhere). The shrinkage of the colony-size seems to have gone rather abrupt, which got me a bit worried (although the decrease of activity happened at all three hives sort of at the same time).

@sciencemaster - those that I have seen that were “losing” honey had not been capped yet.

@Dee - That is one of the main reasons we haven’t harvested yet.

@Dunc - Very interesting to hear your experiences with bees moving nectar/honey around! I’m going to check the flow frames and check out the brood box as well. Also thank you for your explanation about the difference in viscosity between honey and nectar. I’m going to take a closer look at that from now on.

@Michael_Bush - I didn’t realize “later” was starting already in the beginning of August. I thought the bees’ activity (and colony-size) would stay high(er) until late August.

Thanks again, folks!


Cedar says that is true, but I guess it will depend a little on the size of your bees… :blush:

Summer nectar dearth can really hurt your colonies:

You can get a refractometer for under $40 here from Amazon or eBay to check on the ripeness of the stores. More accurate than “eyeballing” viscosity.

The colony may stay strong, but the queen is decreasing her laying. So once they have reached the end of their 6 week life span, there are not as many new bees hatching to replace them.


Later is when there is no nectar coming in. It could happen at any time.


I think you possibly read/saw a mention that the bees can’t get trapped in the cells when they are operated: IF the cells are fully capped. I seem to recall reading/seeing that somewhere. Makes sense too.


Update on WA spring. I just checked on my hive in Perth my colony is going gang busters. 1.5 boxes of brood. Plus queen cells.


Time to AS then :slight_smile: …


When I redrained my Flow frames to store them a week after my harvest, bees absolutely got caught in open cells. Most were able to free themselves when I closed the cells though.


Thanks a lot for the additional information, folks!

I checked the flow frames today by taking a couple of them out of the super (see image) and they almost all are around 95% capped. Cells near the back window were not capped (and this is where I did my checks earlier: through that window). This has given me the false impression that the flow frames might not be ready to harvest.

They seemed to be “juggling” around with the nectar/honey on the extreme outer back edge of the flow frames, as suggested in a comment earlier in this thread.

We will probably harvest 5 of our 6 frames, as the sixth is -at least at the side-window side- hardly capped at all (what is it with these windows? :wink: ). The sixth can then be used by the bees if need be. However, I would not be surprised if the bees would start to re-fill the flow frames after we have harvested them.

We’ll see!

@Bobby_Thanepohn - what did you do when you found out the bees got caught. I suppose you immediately closed the cells again so they freed themselves? After that, how did you re-drain the flow frames and made them storage-ready?


@CampingLaChassagne - I opened the frames, drained any newly stored nectar, pulled the entire super and then removed the frames. That is when I saw stuck bees.

I closed the frames and almost all the bees were able to free themselves. I had to help a few.

I moved the frames about 50 meters away from the apiary and let the bees clean any nectar that was left on them.

After dark, I put the frames back into the Flow super and then stored everything in 2 large plastic bags. I did not wash the frames.


I’m not sure if you’ve read the posts about leaks during harvests… the lack of capping on the end of the frame near the outlet allowed honey to leak into the hive when i drained mine. The recommendation seems to be to only open a third of the frame and let that drain before opening the next third.


Thanks a lot for the additional replies.

@Bobby_Thanepohn - quick question: why didn’t wash the frames? They were clean (enough)?

@Dunc - I read up on the harvesting recommendations, cheers for putting this to my attention!


@CampingLaChassagne - I did not feel the need to wash them. The bees did a great job of cleaning off any residual honey. I also did not want to remove any wax! I think leaving the wax on the frames will give be a great head start next Spring.


Ah, yes, of course!

b.t.w. we are harvesting as I type this, pretty exciting! :slight_smile:


Awesome news!
Many pictures are required.