Beekeepers in Southern California, specifically the warm San Fernando Valley- Can we keep our supers on year round? Or should they be removed and stored in the late “fall” and put back on in March? Anyone keep theirs on?
Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!
Well, I am south of you and also have warm winters. However, we also have long nectar dearths. During those periods, bees seem to switch from nectar collection to propolis collection, and proceed to seal up everything they can with it. That includes Flow frames.
I don’t leave them on until late fall, because our nectar flow is over by early July. We don’t get any significant nectar until a few months after the rainy season starts. There may be a bit in December, from eucalypts in urban areas, but the main flow doesn’t start until around February with citrus, avocado and succulents. So unless you are willing to take a risk in cleaning off propolis (very hard work and gums up the Flow mechanism), I would take the Flow super off in July or August.
I also run double brood boxes, because I don’t want to leave the super on, and the bees need the food…
OK so I have only just installed a package 21 days ago, am waiting for them to fill out the first brood box and I plan to add a second like you (I was advised to do this by locals here) then when they fill out the second brood box (I’m guessing sometime late summer if all goes well) Then would I just need to wait until late Feb/March 2022 to add the super? if yes, then you’re saying I should take it off in July/Aug 2022? (I have MANY flowering plants around and they have filled out 5 out of my 7 in 21 days with brood/honey stores)
Well, if you have a hive scale that proves that you have continuing nectar flow, you could leave it on. However 95% of apiaries west of the Sierras and south of San Francisco have a nectar flow which ends around July. My mentor has bee raising bees commercially here for over 50 years and does migratory pollination. He takes his last harvest around Independence Day. Obviously you know your local forage better than I do, but the general advice is harvest in July, then lock down for winter.
They are your hives, so it is your choice. Just sharing what I have experienced and been taught.
One more thought for you. The vast majority of people think that FLOWERS mean NECTAR. That just isn’t true.
Plants produce nectar to bribe insects to pollinate. They want the insects to pick up and transfer the pollen. There is no direct benefit to the plant from producing nectar, other than pollination. When the weather is dry, the plants still make flowers, and pollen, but the nectar supply can be almost negligible. The plant wants to live and pass on its genes, so it is willing to use whatever means available, including a bit of short-changing. The insects/hummingbirds are fooled into visiting the flowers anyway, but they don’t get a meal. Meanwhile the plant gets pollinated.
I try to think like a bee when I am working with them, but I also try to understand the plant point of view. Biology is complicated and that is part of the joy of beekeeping. Hope that helps.
OK understood- But don’t you just look into the window of the honey super and see that they remain empty starting in July and use that as your guide as to when to remove your super?
Nope. The windows are very misleading. You need to lift the frames or weigh the hive.
I have never had more than one harvest per season from our Flow frames in 5 years in San Diego. Your foraging area may be very different from mine, but compared with other places that I have worked with bees, the nectar dries up very fast as the summer warms up. Your experience may differ, and I look forward to you sharing it.
Very interesting discussion…
Those frames are so tight together- Do you use Bee-Quick on cardboard to get the bees to exit below before pulling your super flow hive frames out to see if they are all capped before each harvest?
I don’t. It really isn’t needed. I just remove the Flow key cover, put the J-hook of a hive tool under the screw end of the frame and lever the frame up while putting 2 fingers into the plastic key access cover. If I lift straight up, the frame comes out pretty easily.
The remaining frames can be inspected by sliding them across into the empty space, so that you don’t have to lift them all if you don’t want to. Just slide and inspect the frame faces in the gap you created.
I’m assuming the outer frame(s) first- what percentage of capping are you looking for per frame?
Yes, outer first. Fewer bees on that one, usually. I prefer at least 90%, but if it late in the season, I would still harvest at 80% capped and then test the drained honey for water content with my refractometer. If it was less than 18%, I would consider that shelf stable.