Lots of honey in the bottom tray

I just finished harvesting honey for the first time this year. It was a late spring. I notices two things. First, after finishing up, I pulled the bottom tray out and saw lots of honey in it. See photo. What on earth would cause that? I’m assuming its coming from the frames in the brood box. All of the honey frames up top appeared to be closed up.

Second, is it normal for the bees to swarm the front of the hive while I’m harvesting in the back? I don’t recall this happening last year when I was drawing off the honey. Also see attached.

Thanks for your help.

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Holy dooly, that IS a lot of honey. Based on other photos that were posted several years ago, it appears that honey can leak out of the sides of the frames after the wax cappings rupture. It’s obvious by the second photo that wet caps rupture. I don’t know about dry caps.

It appears that a lot of bees beard outside while the flooding occurs, We think that bees do that while other bees carry out the cleanup.

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This just happened to me too. The bees started to come out when I started to take honey. I initially thought that the bees had decided to swarm. I continued to take honey. The bearding just got worse.

When I cleaned up, there was a LOT of honey in the bottom tray.

Now there are many bees bearded outside the hive. I’m hoping the cleanup crew is taking care of the inside and things get back to normal soon.

I’d really like to know if I’m doing something wrong. I’ve never had this happen before. The frames may have had quite a lot of honey and perhaps I should have taken honey a week or so earlier.

Did you open the frames in 20% increments, waiting 10-20 minutes between each opening to avoid flooding the Flow channel? Like this…


I didn’t. And I will try what you suggest next time. Thank you for the recommendation

The channel never appeared to be flooded, however. The honey was very thick. Low water content - probably related to our drought conditions this year in Hawaii. Could this also have been a factor?

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I just harvested again this past weekend. Because we live in an area that gets freezing weather in winter, I’ve been told that the plastic honey frames need to come off and be stored. As an aside, I find this disappointing because one of the big selling points of a flow frame is that you have minimal disruption to the bees when harvesting honey. So this isn’t the case if you live in a cold climate. Anyway, imagine pulling each honey frame out and shaking the bees off, etc. and then placing the frames nearby until you finish getting all of them off. My frames were not at all full this second time, and some of the frames had uncapped chambers. Nevertheless, I had to get the bees into a secondary brood box before it got to much later into the season. There was honey dripping and it was messy.
I took the entire honey super and frames into my house, placed a cookie sheet under and proceeded to open the frames. I didn’t get much, probably two large mason jars full of honey. But I also had about 3/4 cup of honey that landed on the cookie sheet.
You might pick up from the tone of this message that I’m having some misgivings about the flow frames. Either I’m approaching beekeeping all wrong, or I am roughly on the right track and this is just what I will have to deal with.

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I almost never do that. I put a bee escape board under the Flow super before or after harvesting, then 2 days later, take the super off. Usually there are no bees in the super, or just a couple at most.

When harvesting off the hive, the most leakage I have had is about 3 tablespoons (50 ml). Having said that, I try to do a lot of prevention each season:

  1. I always make sure that the Flow frame wires are properly tightened, before putting the Flow super on the hive. This helps minimize frame flexing when opening sections of it
  2. I always open the frames in 20% increments, and make sure that the Flow harvest tube is never more than 2/3 to 3/4 full during each harvest
  3. I always check that the frames are 80-90% capped before harvesting, to avoid having honey run out of empty cells back into the hive, and not into the harvesting channel

In my apiary, the Flow frames work well. I am happy with them. I do take them off over winter, not because of freezing, but because of propolis. The bees liberally apply this from August onwards, and it makes subsequent harvesting difficult to impossible. Also, if your bees cluster (mine don’t, but yours likely will), you need to remove the queen excluder. If you don’t do this, the queen may freeze if the cluster moves up into the super. If you do this, and she starts laying early (happens often), you may have brood and cocoons in the Flow super, which makes harvesting difficult and/or very messy.

Just my 2 cents’ worth :blush:


Sometimes this is warranted, but isn’t strictly necessary before removal in time for winter. You can just harvest on the hive as usual (following Dawn’s excellent protocols) then allow the bees to clean up the empty frames for a day or so before storing.

Though it can create a risk for robbing you can do this by placing the whole super & frames on its side in the yard nearby. There might still be a few bees inside it at dusk, but do your best to shake them out before you rinse & store it. Robbing can be a problem so I do it by placing the under cover on top of the brood box and the Flow super on top of that. Top it with the roof and wait a day or so, then remove & proceed with rinsing and storing as usual.

I think that learning beekeeping AND the nuances of using the Flow system in a region with cold winters are both challenging, and more so when doing it all at the same time. But it can be done, or I wouldn’t be here :sunglasses:. Even with these nuances, In my experience so far, Flow harvesting is still wayyy easier and more straightforward for my scale & purposes.


The hive looks pretty much the same this morning with lots of bearding outside.

Any ideas of next steps? Let the bees do the cleanup? I hope that I don’t lose the hive.

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Have you inspected inside the hive? I would, just to see what is going on. Look for dead bees, a flooded hive floor etc. If you don’t want to do a full inspection, at least pull out the core flute slider or the bottom tray again. Rinse it off thoroughly. Bees hate having wet feet, even if they are standing in honey. That might help a lot.

To answer your other question about drought, I don’t think that would have been a major issue. It is more likely flooding from opening the whole frame at once and getting an airlock, plus perhaps not waiting long enough for the frames to completely empty. If the honey is really thick, it could take 6-8 hours to drain each frame - I would start late morning and close the frames late afternoon or early evening to harvest as much as possible. Then it won’t leak back into the hive. :wink:

I also only drain maximum 2 frames per day on the hive. Then the bees don’t get overwhelmed with honey leaks!


Just curious because the only time I have seen Cedar remove the flow frames was when he suspected that the Queen had squeezed herself inside the super and started laying. Is he just making things look pretty for the video or does he look inside the super for general capping first? Also, I thought that the wax cappings were broken when the frames are opened with the key so surely any uncapped honey will do the same as the rest, with the issue being water content and volume that is affected. I don’t know - I am having similar reservations about the process - it seems to be way more complicated than what it says on the tin!

I cleaned the tray thoroughly. I think there are slightly less bees outside today compared to yesterday, so perhaps there is improvement.

I never had this happen before. I’ll slow down the opening and limit the number of frames in the future.

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There are too many bees clinging to the outside of the honey super and the brood box for me to be comfortable doing a full inspection. They are very mellow where they are, but I don’t think they would be happy with a hive inspection right now.

Yes, thanks Dawn for the details. I’m checking the tightness of the frames. So I’m good there. I don’t know what a bee escape board is, but I could look into that.


Usually a couple puffs of smoke when you go to put everything back together is all it takes.

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I had my first major leakage the other day and freaked out thinking I had done something terrible. The bees bearded for 2 days till the clean up was done