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Flow frame harvest; minimising issues with spillage

So, I’ve read alot about people’s experiences harvesting their flow frames and decided on the following approach. It was quite successful and relatively easy. It also seemed to mitigate most issues with bees being attracted to the flowing honey.

Pre-harvest I spent alot of time reading the forum and discovered that a number of folk harvesting for the first time had suffered significant honey seepage through the bottom of the flow frames and into the hive - killing countless bees. I concluded the same as a number of people and figured it was largely due to the collection chamber overflowing at the bottom of the frame, so the first thing I did was split the frame in fifths when I turned the key - and have patience.

Only opening 20% of the frame each turn did test my patience at first but it did prevent any significant spillage. Where the frame was full in each section opened it helped ensure no overflow issues, and where that section wasn’t full it just meant I opened the next 20% sooner. I opened each additional 20% once the honey flowing through the tube had reduced to filling about 1/3 - 1/4 of the tube volume.

From the image you will also notice that I used a clearer board with the roof slightly cracked. I took this approach because I had no idea how long the harvest would take and it has been quite warm. By the end of the harvest (a few hours later) nearly all of the bees and vacated the super and moved back to the brood box/other super.

The second roof that I used under the super was for extra precaution. It did isolate the super I was extracting (and thus meant lifting the super…) but it did ensure any potential spillage could be easily cleaned. I found insignicant spillage during the harvest itself, but because I didn’t wait for the collection chamber to fully empty before shifting to the next frame it appears that the bottom of the frames did still weep.

At the end of the harvest I had about 100mL spillage ontop of the roof from 2 frames, which was easily cleaned. Checking the frames 12hrs later and it would seem that the bees have emptied nearly all of what honey remained in the collection chambers. And this leads me to ask this question:

Q1. What are others doing about the residual honey in the collection chambers? Do you wait for it to fully drain before stopping?

The other thing to perhaps mention, is that I’m collecting the honey in a foodsafe plastic bucket. I’ve got two lids - one in perfect condition and one that I’ve cut a 25mm hole in for the drain tubes to slot in. I will start draining multiple frames so will cut additional holes, but I will be covering the holes if I’m not harvesting multiple frames to avoid issues with bees being attracted to the flowing honey.

Perhaps it is just my bees but I’ve discovered that so long as I do not disturb the brood box with a complete inspection they pretty much leave me alone while harvesting. However, if I attempt to harvest a full brood box inspection…well, that’s a different story!

End note: I use a hydrometer to check the moisture content of the honey. As a result, I’m nearly always going to be taking a look inside to some degree before I harvest. Thus, I don’t mind lifting the super and sliding the roof underneath to act as a drip tray.


I drained anything that was left in the frames into another bowl. (Brought frames into my house so that they could warm up and drain completely). I then used a thin aluminum foil pan to put the excess honey back into. I put a few pieces of wood into the pan so the bees could walk out into the pan without getting stuck in the honey. I placed the pan on top of the inner cover but under the roof. This allowed the bees in the hive to grab the leftover honey and move it back into the hive for the winter. The honey that was left in the frames was the small amount that the bees had filled back in the frames after the last main harvest. I tested it with a hydrometer and it was nowhere near ready. Hence my reason to feed it back to the bees.

PS. I like your idea of placing something underneath while harvesting. I know the bees will clean up anything that leaks but if it is bad then it will not create extra work for the bees to have to remove all that drowned in honey.

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What is the spacer you have between your flow frames and your brood a box?

There is no spacer. Between the brood box and the flow frames is a queen excluder (currently plastic). If you are talking about the metal strip you can see that’s the strip that goes across the opening to support the flowframes.

If you mean what is between the flow super and the hybrid super that is an inner cover and a second roof I’m using as drip tray during extraction.

I put up this video of my first extraction on a couple of other threads. I dealt with the overflow issue in a somewhat unusual way because I guess every beekeeper has unique problems. I found my hive stand was no longer level and I’m certain that is what caused my little overflow problem.


we haven’t done this yet- but- apparently if you are concerned about cleaning the channels you can squirt warm water in there with some kind of apparatus and lit it clean the tubes and flow back out.

The Flow frames are cunningly designed as we all know. One of the design features is a tiny space inside the cap for residual honey to ooze out and be cleaned up by the bees. Pure honey is antibacterial. It probably isn’t sterile but it will not go “off”.

I would be very concerned about cleaning out the flow channel with warm water because the diluted honey residue might decay or go mouldy. Sure if you’re dismantling the box and storing the Flow Frames then a thorough cleaning might be a good idea. However, if the frames are going back into the hive, then I would trust the design to allow the bees to clean things up.

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LOL I see you labeled the photo I should’ve looked closer. Yes the 2nd roof is what I was trying to figure out what it was.