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Harvesting uncapped flow frames in situ


#1

Apologies if this has already been answered, but I couldn’t find this by searching (although I’m sure I read something from @semaphore about this)!

We are now heading to Autumn in Perth & our bees have a full super each for winter & in addition a flow super with differing stages of drawing and filling. One of them is about 70% drawn, but about 80% capped of this & about 18% water - if that makes sense :). I will take photos next time I’m in, as this will explain it better.

We want to harvest this honey but I’m scared I will squash the bees that are working in the undrawn or uncapped cells. Is this likely to happen?

If it is I will remove the super before harvest, although this seems a very silly thing to have to do as my bees don’t like to draw out entire frames so this will be an ongoing issue into the future.

Cheers heaps,

Julia


#2

You can try putting the super above the inner cover and they may abandon it each evening to remain with the cluster. They usually see anything above the inner cover as “outside” the hive.


#3

I never killed a bee that was full body in a cell while extracting. They appear stuck and motionless after turning the key, but are quite all right and getting out after, often before closing up the cells again.
Wonder if anybody killed a bee yet during extraction. To me it seems an ‘overrated possible issue’.


#4

Great that you have not had problems as I can see this scenario happening a lot with our bees - and I’m sure it must have happened a lot to others too! I might try one frame and then remove it afterwards to look for casualties. The flow hive is really designed to work in situ (so the adverts say), so to remove or shift boxes seems rather silly & against the point. As this will be my first harvest I am quite untrusting of the system as yet so will be looking closely for a) leaks and b) squashed bees. I will report back :smile:


#5

I lost about half a dozen from harvesting four frames last summer. I ended up using a pair of my fishing forceps to pull them out of the cells. I did see a few that were able to wiggle their way out when I harvested too. As much as we don’t want to harm the bees losing that few I suppose is nothing to worry about.


#6

The main reason I got into bees when the flow hive came out was because of the claim of it not resulting in bee deaths (as I was told many years ago that hundreds of deaths were inevitable in standard honey production).

I obviously now know that was very naive of me, as we still haven’t managed to do an inspection without squashing a few. I am a believer in truly ethical farming, where excess is taken, but the bees (chickens, cows etc) are left unharmed to live as normal a life as possible. I’m still wondering if this ideal is possible in any aspect of animal use, but I will keep striving for it and improving my methods and skills to see where we can get to…


#7

the thing you read was my method for encouraging the bees to exit the cells: In my hives I have found that a frame can be 99% fully capped- except for some cells on the rear viewing pane you can see when you remove the wood cover. I found that if you turn the crank about 45% and jiggle it back and forth- the bees get agitated and wriggle out of the cells. You can then safely turn the key the full 90 degrees without any getting trapped in those cells. I also tap on them with my fingernails to warn them somethings about to happen… I think it would be a good idea to do this if you were cracking an entire frame that wasn’t fully capped- like at the end of a season.

The other option would be to use an escape board to empty the super of bees a few days before harvesting the frames. I wouldn’t bother doing this except maybe at the end of season emptying.

A last point; I fully understand your desire to not kill bees. I feel awful every time I squish one. However- I do think that the odd death is an inevitable part of beekeeping- and I am going to have to get more hardened to it. If you are overly cautious- i think you can actually end up killing more bees- sometimes the best strategy is to move quickly and confidently- when you hesitate you slow down and the likelihood of killing bees increases. Watching skilled experienced beekeeps - their movements are deft and certain and bee death is minimized.


#8

Thanks for that suggestion, I will try it with my bees. I totally agree that the super experienced bee keepers are able to minimise losses with their decisive skills. I will strive to emulate this and have as few a losses as possible. That said, I don’t plan on getting used to killing bees and toughening up any time soon, as my mission of no kill farming (however unrealistic) is ongoing and kind of necessitates my caring about all losses.

With that in mind I am very interested in the progress of your long hive as I think it will reduce me crunching bees moving supers around & of course save my back :grinning:


#9

I wasn’t suggesting you don’t care about losses- lossless bee keeping is my goal too. It’s just I hope the fear of killing doesn’t put you off getting in there. Currently I have a hive with chalk brood- and I think I should requeen it- but I can’t yet bring myself to locate and kill a queen! I have to get over that…

I’ll be installing the bees into the long hive tomorrow most likely-I also have high hopes that it will prove to be a more bee friendly design than stacked box hives- saving backs and bees. For instance if you wanted to use an escape board you’d only need to uncover a few frames- slide it in and wait. No boxes to lift!

Also the calmness and lack of disruption of the bees in this video is encouraging- I hope I can get away with glove free inspections like that one day myself:


#10

We don’t kill a single bee during the conventional harvest. Impatience and laziness kills bees, not harvesting honey.


#11

Something I understand now I actually have bees :slight_smile:

Hopefully I can get the flow frames working without any dying too - I will be a bit grumpy if I can’t after all the flow promotional videos!!


#12

…and no squishing between boxes when that 1 or 2 inquisitive bees want to come out the sides & double check on you.


#13

It’s a matter of perspective. Reality is, plenty of bees get killed or kill themselves daily for various reasons. That’s why your queen keeps laying eggs every day. Bee life is a risky life, all calculated by the colony. The difference is, you don’t get to see those bee kills.
I take great care to not kill any bee, but I stopped crying over each one that I couldn’t save. The bees don’t seem to show any emotion when they throw their drones out, kill a non performing queen or any other old bee who is beyond efficient time.
If you harvest your flow frames when they are fully capped there is no chance of killing any bee. This is the flow promotion. I had the viewing window uncapped once, and the 2 bees stuck in a cell got out alive. It’s not a major issue. You had advice above on how to extract your honey if your frames are partially uncapped. No reason to get grumpy for anything, except that your flow frames aren’t capped when you think you need to extract. That’s nature, you can’t blame the flow mob.


#14

I’m not crying over bees, just striving for optimum bee keeping :slight_smile:

I’m just not sure that it is feasible for my bees to cap every cell prior to harvest as it doesn’t seem to be their style. Perhaps grumpy was the wrong word, but I would have thought this scenario would have been considered by the flow team and as discussed above hopefully the ladies will be able to survive an extraction without harm. I will use the great tips given to me above and see how we go.

I think it is important, though, to objectively look at all technologies/ technique from every perspective and question what may not work so well in order to think about ways in which these issues can be improved. This forum can get a little bit evangelical about flow hives and any questioning of them (regardless how valid) tends to be shot down - quite funny as we spend a large amount of time criticising traditional beeks for not being open about the concept of flow and doing the exact same thing! Discussion is the key…


#15

I can very happily report that we harvested our first flow frame today and all went very well!

Before we harvested we checked the frame and it was about 80% drawn and of that around 70% capped.

Being a little paranoid, we took it very slowly putting the flow key in the left, middle then right of the slot and turning to 45• before repeating and turning the key to 90• - my theory being that the gradual moving of the frames would give any bees that were in cells time to get out.

We harvested in a lot of increments, probably about 10cm at a time and about 5 minutes apart. All in all it took about an hour, but we had no spillage at all, no bees squashed, and no one even bothered coming around the back to investigate.

We got around 1.5kg from our mostly filled frame and moisture content was 17.5% using a refractometer. The honey is really delicious (though we might be a bit biased :slight_smile:) and likely pure Marri as that is really all we’ve had around here for the last couple of months. Tomorrow we will harvest another 3 mostly capped frames.

All in all it was an awesome process and went without a hitch. I’m sure we could have probably done it quicker, but my main aims were to avoid spillage and squashing, both which were achieved. I am officially, finally a believer in the simplicity of the flow system. It took a while for the bees to get there, but it was certainly worth the wait :slight_smile:


#16

Great stuff Jingles, it’s certainly satisfying getting some reward friends m the investment. No more buying honey now. :wink:
We did ours 20% at a time and marked 1/5 increments on the lever. Timing from one increment to the next was measured by maintaining the air gap at the top of the tube which meant the bottom reservoir never over filled which would cause spillage within the hive.
When are you thinking of removing the super?


#17

I have no idea when to remove the flow super, and not even sure I need to. I was hoping someone on this forum would make that decision for me :slight_smile:

As this particular hive has an awesome queen and temperament I will be removing it, but they are still very actively foraging at the moment (although no more honey had been added to the flow super). I read somewhere that the bees start to cluster when the temp is below 10•C, so I guess when we get a very cold snap of low night time temperatures I would start worrying.

I’m guessing we have a month of warmth yet???


#18

@Jingles three weeks ago I harvested my 9 frames (flow super + hybrid super) with the intention of removing the flow super. The colony was still far too big to “squash” back into just a single super and brood box, so I’ve still got both supers on top of the brood box.

As I mentioned in a different thread, I’ve just returned from two weeks away and it seems I’ve got an outside frame on the flow super partially capped - which was unexpected to me. Although the weather is cooling and we are heading into Autumn, the weather is still warm during the day (mid to high 20s) and depending on where your hive is located there might still be a number of things in flower.

If your colony is still strong I wouldn’t worry too much about removing the super - I’m assuming you aren’t going to drop back to a brood box only?? If that was your intent I would be inclined to keep the flow super in place, keep your fingers crossed for a final strong nectar flow, and leave whatever nectar/honey the bees bring in to tide them over until Spring (this could also allow you to get an early harvest in spring if we have a good winter). If you’re concerned about our oh-so-cold West Australian winters (:grin:) consider a mat on top of the flow frames and insulate the hive just a little. If you are concerned about our nights getting cooler I would suggest you reduce the entrance size.

Finally, I’m with you - I think we have at least a month of warm-ish weather and it will only be late May/early June (at the earliest) that we leave our bees in peace for our long long long winter of about 6-8wks (yes, I know we suffered through a sh!tty winter last year that never seemed to end…but by world standards it was very mild :smile:)


#19

This is similar to what happened to us last season: at the end of Autumn in May we drained the flow frames and removed the flow super. I took out each frame and shook all the bees down into the brood box- which was absolutely teeming with bees afterwards…

Just over two weeks later we did an inspection- and unfortunately found about 3 or 400 hundred dead bees in the roof (we had that hole uncovered). At the time I thought perhaps there had been some type of pesticide poisoning- but upon reflection- I now think it was related to the removal of the super and overcrowding in the hive. I can’t be sure of course- but nothing like that ever happened before or since and it seems too coincidental to be a coincidence…

that hive is only run with a single brood box- and the entire affair made me wonder about removing the flow super at the end of each season. How can all the bees fit into the brood box? Perhaps if we had waited another month the number of bees in the hive would have declined as the weather got colder and we could have safely removed the super…

However:

This year- our plan is to test leaving the flow super on over winter. I think in our climate (Adelaide) the winters are mild enough that we can get away with that. Also - in Adelaide there are generally a lot of fine and warm days even in the middle of winter and bees continue to forage. Like you our plan is to add extra insulation inside the roof and reduce the entrance size. Hopefully it works.


#20

@Semaphore we can compare notes for Perth and Adelaide on this approach at the end of winter. Colony size permitting I’m intending to reduce to 1x hybrid super and 1x brood box for winter. My hive is up tight against my house so I think it benefits from radiant heat; as such I’m not inclined to add any insulation at this point and the only other changes I’ll make are the reduced entry and flashing on the roof again to help prevent water ingress due to rain.