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Flows full but not 90% capped


#1

I live in central California and this particular Flow hive has 3 deep brood boxes with the flow box on top of those separated by a queen excluder. As you can see by the photo, these flow frames are completely full. However, on last inspection they were less than 90% capped (mostly about 75% capped). But, as far as I can tell, there is no more room for the bees to store nectar so I would like to harvest.

What would you do? I have thought about removing each flow frame and checking the uncapped honey with a refractometer. Should I just wait a couple of weeks longer? Will lack of storage space contribute to swarming?

I have a couple of frames that have started leaking around the cap…or at least that seems to be where the honey is coming from. Any ideas on the cause of that? They have not done that in years past. This is the 3rd year this hive has had the Flow frames, and FINALLY, they are using them.

Any comments welcome. Thanks


#2

Hi Louise, my Flow super has been in this situation since January but I am now going into winter and will leave it as-is for the time being. Have watched the honey ‘go in’ and then watched it ‘go out’ again.
You could harvest a couple of the most capped frames instead of the whole lot. You may find that the bees will cleanup the frames and cap the undrained frames using the honey that has been cleaned up from the freshly drained ones. Moving the drained frames to the outside can also help.
As for the honey in the channel, Did this happen you you pulled up the frames to inspect the capping? Anyhow, I wouldn’t worry too much about it… wrap a clean cloth around your Flow tool and insert into the channel and cleanup the honey as best you can (especially before harvesting). Hopefully the bees will have repaired the gaps in the cells that leaked.


#3

I know what you are saying Rod, about watching the honey go in and out again. I have seen them move it around in the past. Going into summer here in CA and leaving at the end of June for a couple of weeks. I just wanted to make sure the girls were all set before I go. So, perhaps by then I may have at least a couple of frames that get more fully capped. Don’t want to bother them too much so I think I will leave “as-is” until mid Jun anyway.

The leaky frame has been leaking even before I pulled out the frames for the first time. It has just gotten a bit worse over time. In reading up on other posts, I am wondering if I may have a slightly mis-aligned row of cells that is causing the problem, or a loose wire. I had some of my Flow frames broken down over last winter to clean out a “laying worker” issue. Perhaps I did not get it fully aligned. I have noticed a bit of honey on the bottom board at times, but not bad so will try to put up with it for now I guess. I’ll follow your advice on that.

Thanks again,
Louise


#4

Hi Louise,

I would have no hesitation in harvesting the entire lot provided you have seen the honey gradually building up by looking through the end windows.
edit. you could remove some of the frames to see if the honey shakes out . Sometimes bees don’t cap ripe honey for some reason.


#5

One thing that I have found helpful with encouraging capping is to put another (traditional) super on top. Sometimes the bees have trouble dehydrating the honey enough to cap it in the top super, and when you put another one above it, the extra space helps them lower the humidity and fan more efficiently. When I have done that in the past, the honey is often capped within a week.

The additional benefit is that if you are worried that they are running out of space, the extra super gives them options while you travel. :blush:


#6

Hi Louise, I wonder if you could harvest (completely) one of the 75 percent capped frames, and test that honey for moisture content with your refractometer? If it has too much moisture, you could freeze it, and if it is fine moisture wise, you can then use that information (along with other information) in deciding on harvesting the other frames and also for deciding on future harvests in later months or years.
I have noted from other posts, people reporting dry but uncapped honey in their Flow frames (after noticing the full appearance from the end windows like you), in fact in one case, a person found that the capped honey had a little more moisture in it than the uncapped honey - both were dry enough to harvest.


#7

The only problem I can see with this is the potential for leaking from the uncapped parts. I lost about 50ml from this when I tested it in my kitchen, but I guess it will depend on honey viscosity, temperature, etc.


#8

Hey, thanks to you both, Dan and Dawn, for these reassuring suggestions. It has suddenly hit me that we have been in “May Gray” and moving into “June Gloom” here on the central coast (in other words we have had a very heavy marine layer most days such that we get little sun and cool temperatures with high humidity). So your comments Dawn about the bees having a hard time lowering the humidity enough to cap the honey resonates with me.

In spite of the fact that adding another honey super on top of my already very high hive (3 deeps + Flow Box) I think I will strongly consider that, especially for the time that we are traveling at least.

Your comments about other posts with this same problem, Dan, are reassuring and I will watch things carefully and give them another fortnight to see if any progress is made before disturbing them again. Since they have never been so active in the Flow hive before, I have never had cause to even consider harvesting before July, so it may well be a function of the local weather conditions as mentioned above.

Again, thanks. I know I can always get good advice from this forum and many thanks!

Louise


#9

What Dawn says here is gold: The bees need a place to put more honey because when they dry the honey in the Flow frames, it shrinks and they’ll take some more and add to it until the cell is full of dried honey:
When I place 5 honey supers on my hive, I hope to harvest 3 supers and maybe part of a 4th.


#10

Thanks for the confirming comments. It is always a treat to get input from people who share their experience in bee behavior. I’ve definitely seen my girls moving their honey stores around, but didn’t really understand it. Think you all have convinced me to go ahead and add that additional honey super on top of my flow and then watch the behavior.


#11

Hi Dawn, when you extracted your partially uncapped frame (and I am assuming it appeared full when looking through the window on the back of the hive), what was the moisture content of the honey from it? If it did not appear full from the back and was only 75 percent capped, I guess the answer is less relevant.


#12

Hi Dan, it was the end of the season, and I wanted to take the super off so that I could treat with Oxalic Acid vapor for varroa. According to our hive scale, the nectar flow was over for the season. None of the frames appeared full from the back, but my bees love to leave a gap of 1 or 2 uncapped frames around the edge, even when the rest of the frame is fully capped.

We actually took all 6 frames into the kitchen and drained them separately. None were fully capped, and I would say the two most capped were about 80-85% capped. The others were 50% or less. The most capped frames yielded honey of 18 to 18.5% water. The other four had honey with 19 - 24% water, if I recall correctly.


#13

Thanks Dawn, I had actually anticipated your reply as I began to recall what you had previously written about your harvests… I knew you would have tested them :grin: . I must get my own refractometer and do some testing for myself.

I am interested if anyone has moisture tested Flow hive honey from frames that appear full from the end window, yet have reasonable portions of uncapped honey in them. This would include any frames appearing full from the end window, yet with the (often) big uncapped arc the bees leave for the queen to lay in in the centre frame/s.


#14

Some of mine were less than 90% and the highest I saw was 19-20% water. Some were probably only 60-70% capped. Most were 18-18.5% water if I remember correctly.

I stored most in the fridge but what I stored in the pantry kept just fine. No problems.

Joe


#15

Thanks Dan…exactly what I wanted to know.


#16

Well, here is an update, Dawn. Your suggestion seemed to have worked. It was just about a week ago that I put the additional honey super on top of my Flow box and starting yesterday we harvested all of the Flow Frames. We did a visual check of several of the frames first, and they were 90-100% capped. One unusual one was about 80% capped with the very enter 20% completely devoid of nectar. I’m wondering if they moved it up to the honey super?

Anyway, when we looked at the honey super before having a peak at the Flow frames, we noticed that they had already filled and capped off some of the inner frames. My question now is whether or not I should remove that honey super…or will they just refill the Flows?

I learned two other things from this process. In my initial question I mentioned that I had some leaking from the ends of the flow frames. I discovered (after researching the problem on this forum) that it was due to the opening under the cap that is designed to allow honey to flow back into the trough being clogged with beeswax. I cleaned all those out which resolved the problem.

The second thing I learned today was that when the Flows are filled as mine were, I need to only crack about 1/3 of the frame at a time and let that drain out before continuing on and cracking the next 1/3. My trough overflowed which caused somewhat of a mess on the bottom board and wasted a considerable amount of honey. The girls ultimately cleaned it overnight; but I will change my method next time.

The photo below I found interesting and would like any comments on it. Yesterday we drained the 2 frames on the left. By this morning, the frame on the far right, which had been completely full, was partially emptied by the bees. What did they do with it?


#17

Hi Louise, if the flooding is bad enough to make a mess on the bottom board, & SHB’s are in your area, the hive will be very vulnerable to SHB damage during the period of the bees cleaning up the mess as well as themselves. While the bees are busy doing that, it gives the mated beetles a chance to lay eggs in the brood.


#18

Hi Louise,
Hopefully the bees were able to get all the honey that dripped out. I guess they will use it so it is not wasted to that end. I did an experiment last year and tipped some honey in the hive from a jar. There was such a big puddle on the corflute from such a small amount. I was intrigued. I think I only tipped out about 50ml. I use a small home made extractor sometimes, and do try to salvage what honey I can at the end but some always ends up having to be washed down the stormwater drain unfortunately to clean the extractor properly.


#19

Luckily, don’t have that worry with SHB…at least I have never seen them. I did read about that concern though.


#20

You know, that bottom board was COMPLETELY clean in the AM…you would never have known there was anything ever on it. I was amazed. I did see them bearding up outside the hive and some in a cluster, cleaning one another off. It made quite a mess and I am very happy to have found a discussion about this issue and have a plan for next time to avoid it.