Harvest Advice Needed

Hello All,

I am a 2nd Year Beek. Hive was doing wonderfully until last week when our temps went through the roof in Central Illinois. I was away for a week and came back to lower numbers. As I suspected, the hive had swarmed. My queen was gracious enough to have left me with several frames of brood. The bees have several frames of my flowhive super almost full. 2 are 3/4 capped. 3 are 1/2 capped. and the other 3 are 1/3 capped. All have honey.

I reduced the number of Swarm Cells, while doing so a Queen released into the hive. This was 5 days ago. Upon inspection today, there are no eggs just yet, and I couldn’t find the Queeny. They have not created any more Swarm Cells and seemed QueenRight in their behavior. Obviously, I will not know for sure until she is mated and lays some eggs/larva.

My questions are as follows:

  1. Should I harvest my honey this year? I am almost to the end of good nectar season. They have swarmed and I need to think about treating Varroa soon.
  2. Do the frames have to be fully capped up to harvest?
  3. What if I just take a few frames worth? How do I “return” the honey to the bees? It gets very cold here so I don’t want to winter with the flow frames.

Thanks in advance for all advice!

Hi Jo,

My initial thoughts are that if you intend to remove the Flow frames for the winter and want to give some honey back to the bees to get them through the cold months, you will need to get it out of the Frames.

Partially capped Frames can be harvested of course (in the sense that they will drain out) but the honey from them might not be dry enough to keep (out of the freezer) without fermentation. In relation to the 75 per cent capped, they could be considered for consumption but have you held the Frames carefully (hands underneath) and done the shake test? I would consider perhaps taking just a small portion of the honey from one of the Frames for yourself this year if ripe, but give almost everything back to the bees. Do you have a refractometer? I wouldn’t bother trying to eat honey from the less capped ones. Please get back to us on these questions.

I think you can put it in a feeder of some sort, perhaps a rapid feeder but I don’t feed my bees a lot of honey. Hopefully someone will suggest a feeder.

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If the new queen is only around 5 days old- she could have been out on a mating flight when you last looked int he hive. She should be doing them right about now. I think it takes another week maybe for her to start laying after that. Common wisdom is to leave a hive alone during this period as the new queen is fragile and you don’t want to mess up her mating flights.

if you decide to harvest the flow super- you can remove it from the hive and harvest it inside. Place it over a metal tray- at an angle and crack the frames.

Do you have a standard flow hive with the gable roof? If so you can feed the honey back to the bees over a month or two using a small jar with maybe 10 small holes poked into the lid with a nail. Fill it with honey and place it upturned over the hole on the inner cover so the bees can access the lid. The jar I use for this is a bit to small and would fall through the hole- so I cut a circle out of a piece of cardboard and jam that around the neck of the jar… Each time you remove the jar have a tile or similar ready to cover up the hole again quickly so each time you take the roof off it isn’t ful of bees. Feed them a jar or so every few days until you have fed it all back to them. A bee brush is good to gently brush any bees off the inner cover before putting the roof back on. This is a good and easy method and it won’t promote robbing.

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