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How much honey to extract / leave for winter

Hi I’m in Hovea/Parkerville area in WA and only moved here recently. Not sure how much honey I should leave in the flow hive over winter. It gets a bit colder than the coast here over winter. I have a lot of native trees around me but the eucalypts just stopped flowering. Grasstrees will flower in spring and don’t know how much nectar they will collect until then.

My super has 3 frames fully capped and the other 3 about 60% full.

Is there anyone from this area with advice? Should I harvest any of the fully capped frames?

Welcome Arthy, what are the store levels in your brood box? When we last discussed in Bunbury the feeling was about 50% of all frames should be left as stores for winter. I would be tempted to harvest the 3 full frames, but depends on your answer about your brood box stores.

Adam

Thanks Adam.

I checked on Sunday but only inspected two outer frames in the brood box. They had the typical arch of honey.

So I should aim at 50% of the volume of the hive full of honey - that’s 7 frames between brood box and flow super frames.

I am not sure that is really what @AdamMaskew meant, and I certainly would not be happy with that. I would want the brood box as full as possible, and perhaps half a super of honey if it is a deep super. Of course I am not an expert on your climate, and you may not need that much.

In my climate, bees need a full deep of honey as well as the brood box, but we have a long nectar dearth over late summer/early winter. I am always generous to my bees over winter, as it is a tragedy to lose them to starvation. You can always feed of course, but you have to notice that the stores are low, and that means weighing (or “hefting”) the hive and feeding in potentially inclement conditions.

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Ok, thank you for that.

I probably should have said that this is a new hive and I put the super on only a couple of months ago.

I am not yet familiar with dearth season around me. Maybe it is better if I leave the honey there for now and harvest in spring.

I do not want to starve my bees, inspecting the hive in winter is not recommended, and I do not have enough experience yet to tell how much stores are left by hefting the hive.

Will the honey still be ok if I leave it there? Will it crystallise and damage the plastic flow frames?

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Yes I did mean 50% by volume.

But as you say you can leave the honey on. Anything left after winter you can still harvest. It is likely you’ll be in a dearth about now for a month or two, there will then be enough flowering to tide the hive over till about July when you’ll get an increased nectar flow as the days warm and lengthen.

If you haven’t harvested honey this year I reckon you could take a frame or there part of.

Adam

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Thank you so much Adam.

My hands are itching to harvest my first frame. Maybe I’ll harvest just one then.

I was amazed that the flow frames filled up in a very short time, but nothing much happened in the last couple of weeks, so I was worried.

That information is extremely valuable to me because I wasn’t expecting to be in a dearth so soon, and for a couple of months.

Thank you again.

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My advice is based on my experience in a semi urban environment near Bunbury and correlating to what I have heard others near you say about there flows. There is nothing better than harvesting you first flow frame.

Here is a weight graph from one of my hives around this time last year showing what I said.

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Excellent. I’m also semi urban, and wouldn’t be surprised if I have similar flora to you in Bunbury. I have a substantial chunk of native bushland which comes alive around August - November, then January - February. Was hoping the urban gardens will make up for the native bushland.

I can see from your graph it will start to pick up weight from June. So is that right - 130kg in September? Including the weight of the brood box I assume. My hive is nowhere near that weight.

The scale is on a long lang with flow frames made of 32mm wood for extra thermal buffer.

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Ah! it all makes sense now.

That’s a very nice looking long lang. Thanks for sharing Adam.

Agreed, I’ll take one thanks @AdamMaskew :grin:
How much honey over winter? How much brood? :wink:
You on the western side of the scarp Arthy?
How many frames of brood are in the brood box now?

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1.How much brood?
Good point. I’d say 6 frames have around 60 - 80% brood last time I checked. Next time I inspect I pay more attention for a more precise amount of brood. But… should I expect brood numbers to naturally contract during winter?

2.How many frames of brood are in the brood box now?
This weekend I only inspected 2 of the frames. Before that it was 3 week ago and I reckon 4 frames had plenty of brood.

I think it is a good idea to start to take notes, because now that you asked me, I’m having doubts.

3.You on the western side of the scarp Arthy?
Yes, Hovea, between Midland and Mundaring.

This is my first hive I’m establishing, so I’m a bit green.

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Hi @Arthy.

It is easy to learn. Every inspection check how much honey do you have and after putting hive back together lift hive by a corner just a bit. It helps to create a mental connection between amount of honey and weight. Empty hive is surprisingly light.

Do not worry about this. You always can feed sugar syrup to bees.

So do it! :grinning: Nothing stops you from harvesting everything in the super, provided honey is ripe. Remove empty super from hive for the winter and feed them without any delay if brood box is short on honey.
If you don’t want to check and feed them often during the winter, there is one more option. Replace flow super with another box filled with waxed frames and feed them 2 parts sugar to 1 part water syrup. Prepare as much as your feeder holds, then another portion as soon as it is empty. Feed syrup equivalent to 8-10 kg of dry sugar in total. Don’t use queen excluder. We still have one or two warm weeks ahead of us, so bees will be able to build combs and fill it with syrup. Check hive weight around middle and the end of the winter to see how they go. Leave this box on next season and see how much do you like to run double brood box colony.
I know this advice is very different to those above. But the very first honey is not something to ignore :wink:

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This is the first time I’ve come across this idea of “fall comb buildout” on all the beekeeping forums I’ve watched since forums came into existence. And it gets me quite intrigued as it reminded me of 45 years ago when I first started beekeeping with 2 hives. I was into expansion mode and desperately trying to get my foundation combs built out for the next year. A commercial beekeeper said I could have all the bulk bees I wanted from one of his yards so I took a number of his powerful colonies and shook them into 2 stacks of foundation supers…queens and all. There was a field of volunteer canola nearby in bloom even though the season was over. We got a week or so of warm weather and they built out every comb perfectly…not a cell of drone comb. Later I reduced them to 2 boxes and wintered them on white comb…a no no in this part of the world. I don’t know how many queens per hive survived but they wintered perfectly…no pollen reserves…and produced a 200kg crop the next year. Of course I was too inexperienced to appreciate what I had actually accomplished.

So fall feeding using foundation can work just fine under the right conditions…but there has to be full boxes of bees. There is very little in the literature about “fall comb buildout”…thanks ABB for jogging that pleasant memory.

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Yes, I forgot to mentioned that. Thank you. @Arthy’s “6 frames have around 60 - 80% brood” made me thinking about reasonably strong colony for single brood box setup.

Well, I think the majority of beekeeping literature written having commercial beekeepers in mind and thus discuss more proven and safer schemes. This is completely understandable, production is not a place for daring experiments. A small time hobbyist may afford more “radical” beekeeping if there is a will to do so. But still we move in the wake of commercial beekeepers, read same books and pass same safe advice to forum newcomers. Yes, it safe and proper. Reputations remain intact :slight_smile: But after so many repetitions it becomes a bit boring…

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Thank you for your thoughts ABB and Doug1.

Very interesting you said that because I was expecting them to wind down now, not build more comb if given the opportunity.

It is good to gather all this info and have more options, even if I am a bit overwhelmed. I’ve already made some mistakes with this hive and want to thread carefully.

I don’t think I can harvest the full super yet though as on the other frames there is a lot of uncapped honey. One particular frame is 90% capped on one side, 90% uncapped on the other, so I can’t harvest just one side.

Yes.
I’ll assume it’s an 8 frame brood box and all the frames are drawn out. The outside ones should be full of honey and the adjacent ones honey, pollen and perhaps some brood. This should be enough for winter as there is some forage for them during the cooler months. As Dawn says a heft test is a good guide, and as ABB says you can always feed if necessary.
Whether you leave the super on over winter is up to you, I will be removing mine for maintenance and having the extra space to maintain isn’t ideal.

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This is correct. The size of the colony is going to contract. But bees could be provoked to build more storage comb before that. Again, there is no guarantee that they are going to do it. Even in same conditions different colonies do different things. An example: I have two hives standing side by side. One colony expresses no interest in building more combs than they need. The other, given a chance, builds combs like there is no tomorrow.

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Thanks skeggley.

Yes it is an 8 frame hive. Frames fully drawn, but the outside ones have some brood on them. They were just honey at the time I put the super on, I guess they rearranged the furniture once the second storey went on.

You say that you remove the super over winter. Do you do this when it gets down to a certain temp or starts raining, or do you go by month, or any other triggers? What do you do with any honey that is uncapped. Mine is quite runny and will drip out of the frame if I’m not careful when inspecting.

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