Leaking frames during harvest

I have been using the frames for a few years now. Every time I harvest, I notice honey oozing from the hive base which has wire netting and diatomaceous earth for beetle control. The bottom of the hive is inaccessible by the bees. When I check the bottom tray it is full of honey.
This year I remove the super and place it on a table to find out what happen during harvest. As soon as I start, honey start leaking from the capped cells. I collected the honey on a tray. I got close to a half kilo jar for 4 frames
This is serious design fault as I cannot use the flow hive as intended, that is to reduce harvest time. This takes me longer than conventional frames. I am going back to traditional frames.

There are a number of threads with troubleshooting tips on harvesting and preventing leakage into the hive - and some strong opinions (shockingly).


It seems that some of the common ideas relate to hive tilt and opening the frames in segments but there are some contributors that harvest remotely.

If you can post more details about your situation maybe the brain trust can figure out a solution.

Does the honey seem to leak more toward the back or front of the hive? Can you describe your set up and your method for harvest?

I try to avoid honey spills onto the brood & bees as a hive beetle mitigation strategy… However

You said that the bottom tray was “full of honey”. I assume that was after harvest. I think a good idea would be to sanitize the bottom tray before harvest so that honey spills, if any, that drip into the tray can be used for human consumption.


PS. I don’t think the leaking issue is a “serious design fault”. That is if my theory is correct. My theory is that the leaking will occur more often with wet caps than dry caps, due to the surface tension of the wax cap, which is adhered to the honey. As the honey moves, it will tend to drag the cap with it, thus causing the caps to separate, as in this photo.

Therefore if my theory is correct, no improvements in design of the flow frames can stop this from happening.

As beekeepers we need to work out how we can work with this situation so as to achieve the best outcome for our bees.

Double cheers

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have you been inserting the key the full l;length and harvesting the entire frame in one go?

we have reduced leaks a great deal by inserting the key 1/4 of the way at a time- turning- then waiting for 25 minutes or so before putting it in another quarter and repeating. We also only harvest 2 frames per day- and frames that are not adjacent to each other. the bees are quite good at licking up leaking honey- if you do the harvest in increments you give them the best chance to keep up with the leaks- not get overwhelmed- and stop the honey from reaching the base. Using these methods I gave had no adverse outcomes to the bees- or visible leaks of honey.

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Thanks for the tip. I will also replace the diatomaceous tray under the screen with a collecting tray to give the bees time and access to the spill and clean it up.

I totally agree with your analysis of the leaking cells. I have actually observed it. Its not really a problem occurring due to opening too many cells at once but more of what’s happening in the old capped cells, newly capped cells and cells that haven’t been capped at all when the key is turned. You can actually see the cell caps oozing honey where they have been fractured. Cracking too many cells at once generates another totally different problem, one which I have also observed. The channel at the bottom of the frame cannot handle the volume of honey that has been released causing a bottleneck at the exit. The honey backs up and flows out of open cells and down into the brood box. You can also see if the harvest tube is totally full and if so this also contributes to honey backing up and compounding the overflow situation.

How do you manage this?
1.make sure the honey is capped as much as it can be and there is some consistency in the capping wax. If not take measured to prevent the honey from reaching the brood box when you crack the cells.
2. Make sure you only crack enough cells to produce a flow that does not completely fill the harvest tube . I go for about 1/2 to 3/4 tube level and crack only enough frames to sustain that level. It’s hard not to put the accelerator down and crack more . :joy::joy::joy::joy::honeybee::honeybee:

In my honest opinion

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Hi Dennis, did you make your observations through the viewing window?

I know what you mean by “it’s hard not to put the accelerator down”. Completely off topic, however I recently did a lot of mulching & shredding of sugar cane, as well as other stuff. I had a bucket of cut-up pine to use to help push the wet stuff down so that I could effectively keep the accelerator down.

I removed a frame and put it on a holder that I made . I made sure the angle for harvesting was correct then keyed about 4” at a time to watch what was happening. I’m fairly sure if the capping of the cells is close to 100% which would also ensure strong seasoned capping and the release of honey was carefully controlled the problem of honey leaking into the brood area would not occur. Patience is the key word I feel. Don’t harvest too early and don’t let the honey level get any higher that 50% in the harvesting tubes.I could be wrong but it’s the method I’m employing and so far, touch wood, no”eating.

Hi Dennis, I have a theory that wet caps will rupture before dry caps, no matter how fully capped the frame is. I came to my conclusion after studying the frame that @heron shared a photo of. This is the photo, which as you can see is fully capped, at least the part in the photo.

If you look closely at the photo, you can see the capping rupture on every moving segment, plus you can see that the caps are wet. My theory is that surface tension of the cap on the honey causes the cap to move with the honey, once it starts to move, resulting in the rupture.

A dry cap wont have any contact with the honey, thus allowing the honey to move without disturbing the cap, resulting in no rupture.

Hi again Dennis, I have a couple of photos to share from my current robbing:

This first photo shows absolutely dry caps. Not a wet cap to be seen. I doubt if caps like these would rupture on a Flow frame during harvest.

This second photo shows absolutely wet caps. Not a dry cap to be seen. These are the sort of caps that I suspect would rupture while harvesting from a Flow frame.