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Harvesting honey after bees have died

Hey everyone,
My bees died of starvation over the winter. (I’m in Northern Ireland, cool, damp winter).
I have 2 super frames with some capped honey and some loose nectar.
Do you think I can harvest the honey and if so how do I drain off the loose nectar first?
Also can I collect the wax easily from the capped honey?
I’ve harvested honey and wax many times from traditional hives, but I’m a Flow newbee!

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Hello @Caroline16. Welcome to the Flow forum. So sorry that you lost your bees. I will try to answer your questions, but I would like to say first that most cool climate beekeepers take the Flow super off over winter. Also, it tends to be normal to use double brood boxes, to avoid starvation or abandonment of the queen below the excluder. I don’t know what you did, but I just wanted you to have that information.

It will depend on whether it is crystallized or not. Just lift a cap off one cell, and stick a cocktail stick in the cell to see if it is crystallized. If not, yes you could harvest it in the super in the kitchen over a baking tray to tilt the frames correctly and catch the drips. I have done this quite successfully, several times now.

If you want to drain off the uncapped honey first (it isn’t really nectar, as the bees have mixed it with enzymes and started the honey process :wink: ), I would suggest borrowing a centrifuge and spinning very gently. Do NOT spin hard, as the frames may fall apart with the centrifugal force. I don’t know what size other hives you have (National, Langstroth etc), but Langstroth frames will just about fit into a National size centrifuge. You may have to move a few attachments, but it just about works in ours. Be very careful when you start the spinning, as the frames may catch on supports etc as they shift under force.

The other option is to buy or borrow a honey refractometer. They are very cheap on eBay and Amazon. Just make sure it is for honey, not jam or wine. If the honey is less than 18.6% water, it is perfect. If less than 20%, it probably won’t ferment, but you can’t sell it as honey. More than 20% and I would freeze it. It is still safe to eat, but it may ferment. Having said all that, at the end of the season, bees often leave ripe honey uncapped, so I would tend to go with the refractometer option. Plus it is a lot less hassle than spinning carefully.

Not easily, no. After harvesting, you could scrape the cappings off the frames with a spatula, or something blunt, but you need to be careful not to damage the plastic of the frames. If you don’t remove them, the bees will during the next nectar flow that the super is on the hive.

Hope that helps. :blush:

Thanks for your thouough reply!
I had left the super on as food, in hindsight should have taken it off, I’ve always taken supers off other hives over winter.
I have the cartridges turned upside down and some uncapped honey is running out but I’ll have a go with the extractor and refractometer and see how I get on. The honey is not crystalised so can I harvest it from the flow via the usual way - cranking open the frame and letting it flow out?
I’ve never heard of freezing honey until now, I plan to use it all myself over the next few months.
Thank you!!

Absolutely you can. I only do it in the kitchen to avoid spilling into the hive when the frames are not completely full.

Works brilliantly for preserving “wet” honey and also for preventing crystallization. Believe it or not, freezing prevents honey from going solid. :blush: