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Honey reducing - not increasing... mid summer


#1

Hi there,
New beekeeper here - Received my nuc one year ago - strong hive, lots of bees. I live in Australia in NSW.
I put my super on about November and they started filling up with honey almost immediately.

About 2 weeks ago there was a good looking amount of honey coming in to the flow. It’s been hot and the bees have been bearding for about 2 weeks most afternoons. After checking in with a few different sources and advice I harvested about 1/5th of the frame that was doing the best just last Friday. (mid frame in the photo). You can see in the photo how well it was doing 2 weeks ago.
After harvesting that single jar we have had a severe heat wave for three days where we are. (according to the media Saturday registered the hottest day on the planet in 10 different places in our state!!).
Checking in the observation window now - 2 weeks after the photo (and 3 days after harvest) all the 5 frames with honey left (via the observation window at least ) have reduced considerably - I’d say halved. so…
Observations…
Quite a few ants - which I have been trying to get rid of with cinnamon - since the harvest. Could ants have taken that much honey?
Lots of bees going in the back entrance which I have written about before (because of faulty SBB) - but also advised not to be too concerned. - But now thinking of actually sealing up that back slot in case those are robber bees?
OR - do bees take from other cells to fill up harvest hives? There is definitely honey coming into the cells that were harvested on Friday. I thought the heat wave may have forced them feeding?
Would appreciate thoughts from you lovely people :slight_smile:
Thank you
Katie


#2

My bees keep shifting honey between frames, especially when a flow is on.
Have you taken out the flow frames to check?
This heat doesn’t seem to bother them as much as it does me. They love the sprinkler on though.
My window looked similar to yours, but they keep teasing with their honey shifting, and my frames look emptier than 1 week ago, but overall I think there is more honey in them.
I guess they bring in lots of nectar, deposit in empty cells, then empty full capped cells and mix it with the nectar.
I trust them and just watch. Maybe they mix the current nectar with something more beneficial from last month, or the other way round?
I am reluctant to check the flow frames, especially using smoke, they will suck up even more honey, and what I check today will have a different honey content tomorrow.
I will harvest my frame 3 tomorrow or so. Then the shifting frenzy will start in earnest. But they will have plenty more space again.


#3

Thanks for the reply - will keep a close eye on them.


#4

The question to ask yourself is
"Is there nectar coming in?"
If there is no income then the bees will eat their stores.
Is it too hot and dry for the plants to be producing nectar, is there a dearth?


#5

What part of NSWs are you in? You currently have scorching temperatures, and while bees like the heat/warmth they don’t like to be cooked by it…

(unrelated, I find it interesting that you can see the honey in the frames. The ‘drain side’ of the frame is always the last to fill on my frames. I only see the nectar/honey when I do a full inspection.)


#6

I reckon the bees wouldn’t like the heat, but maybe @JeffH has a bit more info as he is in hot QLD. Where are you in NSW, it’s not listed on your profile.


#7

The bees cope with the heat alright, they just need access to water. My bees are bringing in lots of honey at the moment after a bit of a dearth. It’s been very hot around here. Sunday was our hottest day this summer.


#8

We had 42 degrees C in the Byron Shire hills last weekend, and the bees were out foraging fast. Different colored pollen coming in and heaps of nectar. Observing that I deduct we had a relatively slow time in Dec/Jan. Not a total dearth, just slow.
My flow frames 5 and 6 were nearly empty before, but are filling fast now. That’s why I think the bees keep mixing the capped honey with the nectar coming in, coz the new honey stored looks ready.
My mentor said the bees shift honey when a good flow is on. Nothing to worry about at this time.
I wish I had permanent scales under my hives.


#9

Thanks @Webclan @jeffh and @Faroe @SnowflakeHoney for your responses. There is a lot of activity and I observed them several times over the weekend watching closely with binoculars for ages - not much pollen coming in but I suspect they were bringing a lot of water back to the hive. Will keep regularly observing and see if it builds up again reasonably quickly.
thank you all again
Katie


#10

Here is a photo from this morning so you can see the comparison from two weeks ago. I harvested about 1/5th of the third frame from the left on Friday.


#11

Hi Katie. There you go. Frame 6 is a lot more filled, and frame 3 you harvested partly, is getting full again. The cells behind the first look quite full too.
To understand what the bees are doing, you would have to inspect the frames every few days, or harvest and bee happy. And then perhaps check for water content.
Or are you waiting for all frames to fill up first? I intend to harvest one or two frames at a time only, if it’s possible. Received my first nuc 11 weeks ago and I am real happy I can harvest already.
I expect if only harvesting 1 or 2 frames, a lot of honey shifting will happen.
We need to consider also that we really only see the first two lines of cells through the window, so it could well be they leave the Centre of the frame alone.

Of course robbing could be a possibility, but apart from a few ants you didn’t notice anything?
You can see if a bee is full of nectar when she approaches the entrance. They sure look heavy and sometimes need another ‘run up’ to make it onto the landing board. Else you would have to shake a frame face down (above your box) to see if nectar comes out. Just in case you need to check if the bees bring nectar.
Scales would be sooo useful, one for each box. Have to look into that.
Cheers from the Byron hills.


#12

Thanks @webclan - Will keep a close eye on it all. Thanks again for your replies. (katoomba NSW).


#13

Hi Katie,

I can see pools of honey behind the drainage caps in most of your frames. Perhaps the heat is causing the frames to leak into the hive. I did my first harvest of three frames just the other day and when I tilted the hive back for drainage noticed exactly the same thing on frames that are taking a long time to fill and I have never harvested from them…

Cheers, Paul


#14

Hi Jeff. Is it common for a queen to stop laying when it gets very hot? Like you we have had 40 degrees and moderate bearding on the really hot days. I saw the queen this morning and she looks fine and active but little or no recent larvae on inspection. Ken


#15

Hi Ken, not that I know of. I don’t know what’s going on there.


#16

If the heat coincides with a nectar or pollen dearth, the queen may stop laying for a while. Nothing available to feed to the new babies. :blush:

In the hive, I doubt that the temperature gets much above 35C, even when it is hotter outside. Bees will fan and evaporate water to air-condition the hive down to the temperature that they need. Of course, it can get so hot that they can’t achieve this. @adagna lost a hive to Arizona heat last year when the daytime temperature got to over 50C.

Having said all of that, there is some concern that shipped queens which are exposed to high temperatures during shipping (shipped in high summer, for example) are much less fertile than those which have not been shipped. They tend to lay less good brood patterns, and may only lay for a year or two.


#17

Thank you for comments


#18

Is there a possibility the colony swarmed and you’re looking at a new/virgin queen?


#19

mmmmm good thought but numbers do not appear to have diminished. Still seems a happy little hive so I will reinspect in a few days and see what they are up to. Thank you


#20

a friends hive swarmed a month back and the swarm took a massive amount of honey with them- leaving entire combs that were full empty. Luckily he caught and re-hived them easily.