Honeyflow.com | FAQ's |

Bees not making excess honey

I have had flowhives(2) since they were available in the states - 4-5 years now? I now have 4 hives. 2 flow hives - 3 brood boxes on one 2 on all the others. Each year I haven’t really been able to harvest honey in Spring or Summer. I knew they wouldn’t produce the first year so I didn’t add supers, just more brood boxes and they multiplied well that year. The second year I tried a Spring build up of bees by feeding them starting in February with protein cakes and sugar cakes, then sugar water when it wouldn’t freeze and they swarmed, so I’ve gone to letting them do their own thing. I shuffle the boxes in the Spring, but that’s it. Insulate in the winter. Sugar cakes in February and March. I check on them every 2 weeks or so in the Spring and let them do their own thing until late june early july when I’d expect to harvest honey. They never seem interested in using either the flowhives or traditional supers. I’ve tried flowhive hybrid combos of flowhive frames, foundation and foundationless frames. Foundation and foundationless frames in a traditional super. I did have half a flowhive frame filled once in the second year. They make honey frames in the brood boxes, on the outside walls in each box and there’s plenty of brood in the frames - everything seems to look ok as far as textbook looking frames, except the supers. Is it possible that there are not enough flowers for them to make excess? Is that even possible? Any ideas on how to have a better next year?

Firstly welcome to the forum where you will find lots of reading and information, tips and advice from the members here.
Have you asked local bee keepers or better still a local bee group about how they are faring with honey production from their hives?
My past Summer, mid November till mid March we missed out on the Summer rains and although there was heaps of flowering the nectar wasn’t there and so my bees didn’t make honey. That is a first for me here. I got good rain late March and soon the bees were back storing their excess.
Sounds like you have done everything right and tried a few options but nothing has worked for you there so I would talk with local bee keepers. Four years is a long time for no rewards for the bees or you. It must be frustrating.
Cheers

1 Like

I would be inclined to use one brood box with each hive. With all the effort your bees are putting into building up a second & third brood box, they could be producing honey for you. Just make sure that every frame in a single brood box is A1 for the bees to produce worker bees from. A properly worked single brood box will produce a strong colony that will produce lots of honey for you in a honey flow.

2 Likes

Hi Peter48 - thanks. It is frustrating. I have been reading here all along, this is the first time I felt the need to post - I guess out of frustration. I have talked to local beekeepers and there really isn’t a local bee group. The closest bee person is 35 miles away and she really hasn’t been able to help. I’ve been told we have a unique microclimate by an entomologist we know so that could be an issue. Our OSU extension used to have a bee inspector, but funds were cut and he’s gone and moved away, so right now I am going it alone.

Hi JeffH. My flowhives were just a brood box and the flow super. I added the second brood boxes in year 2 after they swarmed. The growth seemed to me to warrant it. The growth and the health of all of them would lead you to believe they’d produce, excess. I have had this setup for the last 2? 3? Years. In the Spring, I shuffle the boxes so the cluster is at the bottom and add new frames generally one or two as necessary. I have used both foundation and foundationless frames they prefer frames with foundation.

I guess my question really is can my environment be causing this? Our entomologist friend thinks it’s possible but told me to ask other bee people - . Our farm is about a mile off the road and we’re surrounded by about 400 acres of hardwood forest. There are fields where cows graze, but rarely are there flowers. I plant flowers each year to build up the flower supply and we have a raspberry field, but it flowers in the Spring. The flowers I have planted bloom in the summer and I have recently planted a bunch of fall bloomers like joe pye weed and asters. We grow melons - flowers there in late Spring. We grow tomatoes- flowers there. So I am at a real loss. Another thing I would add is that we have a very large hummingbird population. At any one time there might be between 15 to 20 at our feeders and flying about the gardens.

Any more thoughts? Thanks!

I liked Jeff’s comment about the need for 3 brood boxes and I agree with him that it is probably to much brood area. Here, and Jeff lives about 13 miles away from me, we run single brood boxes and it works for our climates. I moved up here from a much colder Winter climate where I ran double brood boxes. I really can’t get my head around the need for a triple brood box.
A hive that is super sized in bee numbers doesn’t equate to more honey being produced if there is not enough flowering to support it.
Swarming will occur regardless of the size of the hive, it is up to your good hive management to control it and even take advantage of it. Swarming is a part of nature in bees.
Both Jeff and I prefer to use wired foundation in our hives, that way the bees are more likely to make worker bee cells and the honey comb is stronger during extraction as well as less bees needed for making wax to build out the frames.
The hardwood forest should have a flowering season but maybe not enough nectar to provide a big excess.
Yes, climate, and that it is changing will also make or break honey production.
Cheers

Hi Raspberry, working a single brood box requires a little bit of added swarm prevention. Swarm prevention & keeping all of the brood frames with a high %age of worker comb is all part of successfully managing a single brood box.

Do your hardwood species flower like our Eucalypt species do in Australia? A lot of Aussie honey comes from hardwood forrest.

Anyway good luck with it,
cheers for now

1 Like

Further thinking I would get back to basics by making the hives down to either single or double brood boxes depending on your climate. Maybe look at mass planting of a shrub that flowers out of the normal sequence of what is in your area so that it balances out and extends the season for you. But it would need a mass planting to have any effect.
Cheers

Hi Peter48 and Jeffh, thanks for the ideas. We’re heading into fall/winter. If I think I can successfully reduce the 3 tower down to 2 before winter I will. Then I’ll split some of the double broods in the Spring to see if that helps. Worth a try and makes sense. I’ve only had them swarm the one time. It was pretty impressive. Since then I shuffle the boxes in very early Spring and that seems to stop the swarm. That’s why I hesitate to go back to a one box setup, but it’s worth a try next Spring.

Some of the hardwood do blossom, we have tulip poplars and locust, they are Spring bloomers. Mostly hickories, oaks and maples. I installed a mass planting of native plants - summer and fall bloomers this year so we’re hoping that helps.

For now I’ll continue to be a bee keeper and not a honey harvester!

Thanks!

1 Like

How are you handling the Varroa mites? What are your mite counts? Sick bees don’t make excess honey.

I use triple 8 frame brood boxes on some of my hives and they are by far, my best producers. I can usually count on 100+ lbs from them:
In keeping bees this way, one must be willing to harvest a few frames of honey out of the upper most brood box so they don’t become honey-bound. Harvest them, get them right back on the hive, and check them every 10 days during the honey flow and harvest again if needed.

I use a queen excluder sparingly:
I try to keep it as natural as possible like a tree cavity, i.e. in the early Spring, the bees start filling the top of the hive with honey and they expand their brood nest downward: When it cools off, the bees gradually work their way back up, consuming honey and then the cycle repeats itself.

Don’t be afraid to place a super (conventional) between the 2nd and 3rd deep to get the bees to start working it.

Good luck!

I thought of varroa mites but that is not an issue. I use SHB traps and they are an issue, the traps seem to work, and what the traps don’t catch the girls seem to eradicate. Ants are another issue but not sure how to deal with. Not enough ants to be stealing excess honey.

100+ terribly jealous!

I do use a queen excluder.

I was unaware of top down movement. Will observe with remaining months. I haven’t ever seen that, but I feel my girls are odd at the very least!

Thanks for the thoughts!

How do you monitor for Varroa mites? What is your treatment threshold?

I guess we’re opposite: I don’t care or do anything about SHB because a strong, healthy hive isn’t bothered by them. A hive fighting disease or weakened by parasites on the other hand, will succumb to SHB.

1 Like

I’m following what @Red_Hot_Chilipepper is saying, if the hive is having heaps of SHB it might be an indicator of something more serious like varroa. Varroa is a lot bigger issue than SHB if varroa is in your region then treatment is a must, but on the other hand if the hive is strong and healthy then sometimes SHB traps are not needed at all if the bees can manage them. Just be sure that any squashed or dead bees are removed with inspections as that is where SHB will lay eggs. Not sure I have explained my thinking well but I hope you understand.

I differ to Ed on this, a bee hive is different from a natural wild hive, regardless of it being a Flow Hive or a traditional in that we extract the honey. The honey is all that we are wanting, plus the wax in a traditional frame, but by using a QX we are taking the honey and not causing the unnecessary death of eggs and larvae which is stopping the full potential of bee numbers in the hive. Every one of my hives when I put a super on a brood box is fitted with a metal QX,
Cheers

1 Like

In my experience, my single and double brood chamber hives need a queen excluder; my triples do not: I have used an excluder on those hives (triples) but not for honey production.

1 Like

I’ve seen pics of triple brood hives of course, over here it is all singles, but before I moves up here the Winters were so cold that doubles were standard. But triples !!! I guess your climate is really bitter, or is there another reason behind it?
Hope I explained what I thought your thinking was about varroa ok.

1 Like

My thinking on Varroa was exactly as you explained:

Our winters are cold: We usually range from the mid 20’s Fahrenheit at night and into the 30’s/40’s during the day. We always get a stretch of single digit lows with high’s in the teens.

But that’s not the reason for the 3 deep hives:
This is my 6th year keeping hives this way and the results are the same each year: The 3 deep hives are way far ahead of the smaller hives coming out of winter. I only have my own theories on why this is the case each year but I’m not about to give them all up in favor of single or doubles.
I also like that I never have to feed a 3 deep hive.

I did start experimenting with singles this year and so far I’m not liking it. I need more time to form my opinions and more practice at managing these hives. I think I will end up having to feed these hives so they make it through winter.

2 Likes

I use apivar strips in the Spring because I don’t want to take any chances. I just do it. I remove the strips before I put supers on. Wouldn’t mites destroy the hive? They all have plenty of bees, brood and honey frames. They just don’t fill the super’s frames. They have survived Ohio winters, we insulate the boxes.

SHB traps contain a max of 20 when I remove them. I have traps in each box. Maybe I’m just paranoid about them. The SHB population grows as it get hot and then subsides in the fall.

1 Like

It is not for me to advise on Varroa treatment as it hasn’t got into Australia yet. In 1990 Sydney held the Olympic Games and a flight of African athletes brought in infected fruit with SHB and it has now in our Eastern states.
SHB is a part of keeping bees here now, their number does fluctuate between Winter and Summer as you say. A really strong hive in my apiary manages SHB without traps but if I do a split I add traps as a part of doing the split just to make it easier on the bees. I also have perimeter traps set up external of my hives which catches heaps of them before they get to the hives. I still find some sprinting about in the hives so I squash them. It would be ideal not to have SHB, but also very unrealistic.
Cheers

You really should do mite counts: Alcohol wash is the most accurate, especially with the humidity levels here in the east.

Right now is the best time to check for and deal with the mites (if needed).

I start in mid-July and use Apivar if needed and then use OAV around Thanksgiving and again on Ground Hog’s Day. The latter two are broodless periods (except for my 3 deep hives) for the most part so the OAV works really well and the bees go through the winter and into Spring very healthy and can build up significant numbers. When the maples bloom in early March, the bees can take advantage because they have the workforce to do so.

SHB traps are usually baited with an attractant so I don’t bother attracting more SHB’s into the hive for the sake of trapping them.

1 Like

Please tell me what your perimeter traps are! I use Cutts Beetle Blaster in the boxesimage ![image|300x240]

My traps never get like the photo, I use cheap veggie oil.

Red hot chili pepper: I don’t know what OAV is and I’ll research alcohol wash. I read about capturing about 10 bees in a jar and sprinkling I think powdered sugar and the releasing them but that sounded like pissed off bees and maybe a clue. I just thought Apivar once a year was good enough. We’re a bio-diverse farm so I have to watch what chemicals I bring on to the farm - bees aren’t my only concern sorry to say! But I’ll look into what you’re suggesting!

I use the same beetle blaster traps in a hive when I do a split as a matter of course as a split will weaken a hive for a few weeks. Any cheap cooking oil will drown them once they are chased into it. Normally I don’t use traps in the hive if they are strong, sure there is a few SHB but that is not a drama.
I’ll PM you a video for you to watch about the traps I put around the boundary of my hives, That is where I catch by far the of the SHB. Good hive house keeping is also very important, any dead bees are a magnet for SHB to lay eggs in them.
Cheers