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Happy Busy Bees - 1st Year Hive - Should I Extract Honey or Add Another Super?

July 23, 2021

Hi, I am first year beekeeper and have heard not to extract honey the first year so they have plenty to eat during the winter, (I live in Wyoming, USA). The bees have been very busy the past 3 weeks (see photos), do I need to buy another super, brood box or extract honey so they don’t fill up and have no place to make more honey? Or do I need to do a combination of the three options? Thank you for your assistance.
Audra

Hello, and welcome to the community!

Looks like you’re in the honey!

What’s your current set up? I’m assuming you have a single deep brood box with a queen excluder and a flow super?

Even though there are some side discussions about multiple flow supers, this really isn’t necessary in most circumstances because you can just harvest the honey before they run out of space. This is different than in a traditional langstroth hive set up.

The honey in the flow super will need to be extracted one way or another before winter… it can’t stay on the hive for a number of reasons, including: crystallization, abandonment of the queen below the queen excluder, or brood in the flow frames of you remove the excluder.

I’m guessing that your local climate leads most beekeepers in your area to overwinter with (likely wrapped/insulated) double deep brood boxes. This is really the question that needs to be answered before deciding to put the flow super on. With a traditional honey super, you can always just decide to leave it for the bees, but this isn’t the case with the flow frames.

If it is indeed the case that you need a double deep setup, then ideally you would have put the second brood box on instead of the flow super but that ship has sailed.

Do you have access to drawn comb that you can put in a second brood box? Ultimately your bees will need to draw frames for a second box, which is energy intensive. You can feed them back the honey in your super or you can feed them sugar syrup/candy/granulated sugar. But even with feeding, they may not be inclined to draw a full box of frames at this time of year.

You might be able to overwinter your colony in a single deep but that may be challenging in the cowboy state.

I hope that helps. Let us know what plan you come up with and maybe we can help more.

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Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

I totally agree with @chau06, if you don’t have double brood boxes, that should be your priority. However, you will be very unlikely to fill a second box this year when we are so late in the season.

I have another reason that you should take your Flow super off by the end of next month - propolis! If you don’t take it off, most colonies will gum every gap with sticky propolis resin, then your Flow frames may not work at all for harvesting next year.

One further thought. What are your plans for Varroa mite treatment? With a single brood box, they are going to be very vulnerable, and you need to have a plan. :wink:

Oh, and another thought… With your climate, you will likely need to “winterize” your hive. Do you have plans for that? :thinking:

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Thank you for your information! I appreciate it! I do have a single deep brood box with a queen excluder and super flow. I will try to get a second brood box and see if they settle in as fast as they did the first one. I will try to find some drawn comb as well. We plan on insulating the hive for winter to help out with cold temps here in Wyoming. As for mites, they were treated in spring and I also fed sugar water with spearmint and lemongrass essential oils. I’m not sure if that helped early on or not, but they sure loved the mixture and ate it up. I’m checking on the bees and haven’t noticed mites yet. I need to treat again after honey collection, is that correct?

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Hi Audra! Is your beehive surrounded by water to keep the ants out? If so, what a good idea, I think. I am a first year beekeeper also and am dealing with ants.

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Hi @Tiawest65,
Yes, I put the bees up on cinderblock and surrounded them with water to keep ants and crawling bugs out. Like a moat :slight_smile: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: I had read about ants being a problem so I wanted to try this to see if we could head off a problem before it started. So far it has worked great! I give them fresh water every day when I water my garden. They throw all of their dead out everyday so I clean the water with a fish net so the water is nice and clean and they have plenty to drink, The wasps share the water too, I wasn’t sure if that would be a problem, but so far the wasps don’t bother the bees and the bees don’t bother the wasps. I have not seen any wasp nests in my yard so I’m not sure where the wasps are living, but they come to the watering hole! Let me know if you try this and have any tips or tricks. I did put a log in the water so the bees can climb on something if they fall in trying to get a drink. They use the log quite a bit.

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The essential oils aren’t effective.

By the time you see mites by just looking at the bees, you have a full-blown infestation. You should do something more to check - sugar roll, alcohol wash, or at least drop counts (although the latter is unreliable, it is better than visual inspection of the bees). Also, be on the lookout for “crawlers” or bees that are unable to fly.

You can use formic acid during the honey flow and some on this forum are using oxalic acid soaked sponges but OA with honey supers on is officially unapproved.

If you don’t already have a beekeeping book, you should get one, even beekeeping for dummies is a good quick read through.

If you do an alcohol wash and don’t meet the treatment threshold, a good time to do an oxalic acid treatment is when the colony is broodless, in addition, as the season goes on, the temperatures will allow for easier application of formic acid.

These are more of a nuisance and the bees can take care of the inside of the hive if they are strong. Maybe your moat works out ok as a watering hole but in Ohio, that looks like a mosquito factory. Your wheelbarrow/cinderblock/water setup is going to be in the way when you have to wrestle apart boxes and take everything apart…

Also, as good as the bees are at flying, sometimes they will splash down because they are tired and full of nectar from a foraging trip.

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Hi Audra. Do you get cold winters? If yes best to remove the flow super as crystallised honey in the frames after being waxed and capped isn’t great.

Traditionally some beekeepers leave a super on over winter as extra food to what’s in the brood box.

You don’t have to. Feeding after honey harvesting helps and having dry food supplement on the hive over winter is esdy enough to do and effective.

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Thank you @chau06. I appreciate all of your insight. I have been reading about the soaked sponges for mites. Interesting, it will be good to see how all of the trials come out. I will treat with formic acid since honey is on. I give them the spearmint and lemongrass in the sugar water, they really enjoy it as a treat.

The moat seems to be working well so far. They do like the watering hole and I haven’t had any trouble with mosquitos - I put fresh water in daily. I think mosquitos here in Wyoming are more of a problem when the water is still or stagnent. I have a log in the water for the bees to crawl up and get out if they fall in or splash down. They use the log quite a bit. The wheel barrow hasn’t been a problem in taking the boxes or roof off yet, I think it’s at the right height for my husband and I so it’s made things easy as I can set the roof on the handles of the wheel barrow when I take it off to check on the hive.

I will definately look for bees that aren’t flying. I’ve not seen any that can’t fly yet, but I will make sure to look for that! Thank you for the heads up. I appreciate your help!

Hi @HappyHibee,
We do get cold winters here, I will remove the flow super. Thank you for your advice.

I will get some dry food for the bees for after harvest and I’ll put their sugar water out. Thank you!

Hey! I am in northern Colorado so we have similar climates! So far I have learned that you are correct, you need to have 2 deep brood boxes and just let them have all the honey. If I were you I would pull that flow super off now and harvest and keep it off until next spring. then give them another deep with no excluder and feed them so they can build it up before winter. I’ve found that both beecastle and hover fit pretty well ontop or under the flow brood boxes. The quicker you get that box on the better as I have understood after reading a bunch about it

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Don’t put sugar water out. Put it in. You’ll only encourage robbing with open feeding for prolonged periods. That can lead to cross contamination from other bees and lead to disease transmition.

Wet food inside after harvesting if no further flow. Then dry food before winter kicks in fully.

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@JesseH2O thank you for your information and advice! I ordered another brood box for my flow hive and it should be here before the week if finished. I’ll get it going like you said and harvest and remove the flow super. I appreciate you letting me know which brands fit with flow hive as well. I can use that information in the future with new hives.

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@HappyHibee thank you for this advice. I’ll feed this way after removing the flow super and adding the new brood box.

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The circular flat feeder off Amazon barley fits under the roof, but it does fit. Dawn does a 3/5 sugar/water ratio. If you use that feeder make sure to check on it after the first day so they don’t get stuck when the syrup gets low.

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I would have ordered a flow brood box but they were out of stock when I needed it. The boxes aren’t as thick as American boxes so we’ll need to winterize them really good I bet we get a rough winter this year. Where in Wyoming are you?

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Just to clarify, that is 3 parts water to 5 parts sugar… :wink:

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Thank you @HappyHibee and @Dawn_SD I’ll order the flat feeder from Amazon. Thank you for the ratio, I was doing 50/50 water and sugar, then added lemongrass and sprearmint oils. I’ll make a 3/5 ratio. I use the raw organic cane sugar, is there a better sugar or is that alright? The bees loved it, but if something is better for them I’ll switch.

Yes, I agree. I predict a cold winter as well. I am in Thermopolis, WY so we are a bit warmer than many places in the state being a Hot Springs and we are down in a bowl for lack of better words, so we are protected from many storms. All that being said we are still much colder than Australia. :slight_smile: We plan on making an insulated box for over the hive. Do you have a proven method for your bees on insulation?

Thank you for your advice!

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