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My experience of using Flow frames without an excluder

Any place that has a winter season (50f and below) will have extra management duties when using Flow frames. After that initial harvest it now becomes a crap shoot as to whether or not the bees will fully fill and cap the frames again. Some years they might and some years they can’t. If they do that’s great but now will there be enough forage after that harvest to stock the brood nest for winter survival. If they don’t you’re left with a bunch of partially filled frames of open nectar/honey. A decision must be made to either drain the frames and hope it was dry enough not to spoil, or drain the frames and feed it back to the colony so they have enough food to survive winter.
After my initial harvest I put the wet frames (mediums) back on the hives and let the bees attempt to refill them. After the fall flow I check each hive and make sure they have at least 60 lbs. of honey stored for winter. Any hive that has extra goes to nucs or hives that didn’t put enough away. Only after that is done do I take some fall honey for me.
I wouldn’t let the bees winter on the Flow frames because late winter/early Spring the cluster will be at the top of the hive and that’s where they will start their brood nest. They will gradually move down as the season progresses backfilling the places where brood hatches above.
That’s how hives work in my neck of the woods. (NJ)


Thanks again,

I was expecting someone to give me instructions of draining the un-capped frames and methods of pasteurizing the honey so it can be stored for the winter months and used later. Since the winters in my area will be below 50f will it be OK for the frames to sit out until the spring and temperatures get over 50f. That could be 4-5 months but since the flow frames are a sealed unit they could possibly be stored in a freezer or just a cold room. It would be nice to know just how many options people have for dealing with partially filled frames.

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Maybe put the flow frames ABOVE the inner cover when the season is winding down and the bees will move all nectar/unfinished honey to the two/three brood boxes below. Usually frames above the inner cover are regarded as outside the hive by the bees so they’ll simply rob them out. Once the bees are done with them store them where they will be safe from mice and other pests.

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That’s way beyond me and my knowledge with a maybe or try this or that it seems like nobody really knows at this time what needs to be done for the different seasons keepers have in their location. My idea was for people to drain/store some the flow hives for the winter (do an inspection/cleaning) and place a fresh new box for the winter months on top for the bees.The fresh box would have an assortment of frames (regular langs) for what bees would need to survive the winter therefor freeing up your flow hive super from the hive completely. You would remove the excluder and let the bees winter in your top box without any worry about having the flow hive super getting brood into it. It would be completely removed from the functional hive and easily inspected stored and then replaced in the spring with the excluder added. I hope that makes sense it’s just me trying to suggest/add an idea from the information I have soaked in from the material I have read/viewed.

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If the nectar is not capped then it is not Honey ie more than 20% water!! If it is not capped it it still needs to mature and evaporate. That is fine if the weather is warm enough, but if uncapped nectar is left too long it can ferment and smells. Uncapped Nectar can/will absorb moisture an is more likely to ferment

The bees will only cap mature Honey

Except heather honey can be up to 23% and it is quite normal to extract OSR honey before it is capped.


Good point, we still need to take care of our bees, that is why I don’t like the idea of storing the honey out of the hive but in the frames and risk them catching pests or disease and then put it back in. There has to be a different way.

Initially it was my intention to use an excluder when I get my Flow Frames, but I do anyway on other hives as well. When I harvest honey I’d as soon not have eggs and larvae in the honey so when I bottle it up for selling I only have to strain it a couple of times to get the wax and bee parts out. I have found that after I get done extracting, I scrape off the residue wax with a bit of honey juice in it and put it in small tubs and sell that as well. These small tubs do have some bee parts and pollen in them and they sell out real fast.

I do have a question regarding the removal of Flow Frames. When I lift capped frames out of the hives for inspection or whatever it is I’m doing in the hive, I use one of those metal lifters. Will I be able to use one of those on the Flow Frames or will it break the plastic. In my opinion it doesn’t seem like a good idea to remove the honey unless the cells are mostly capped and you wont know that unless you pull them out to check visibly. So when I do this can I use the lifter tool?

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Not sure I would be in complete agreement with you Valli about it not being honey. I have a friend that has been raising bees most of his life, but since retirement he has kept just backyard hives and he prefers to pull his frames of honey before they are capped. I have had very tasty samples of his honey and it taste, looks and smell like honey, so I think it’s honey. Even though the ph balance is wee bit higher, it’s still honey. He doesn’t sell it and he doesn’t want to mess with the wax which is why he does that.

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The ph difference may be a fermentation/aging thing. I imagine that the honey transforms slightly after being capped an in an anaerobic environment. Has your friend done a brix test on capped honey vs his uncapped honey? That seems like it would be the best indicator if it was ready for harvest not necessarily a cap.

When I visited a commercial honey house most of the frames were not fully capped. They are measured for moisture content with a refractometer (sp) and dried if needed.

Then they can average it out but in the UK there are rules about moisture. Also big companies will often heat the honey denaturing it


That is the beauty of beekeeping. It’s a cheap hobby where one can experiment with what works for them in an attempt to achieve the desired results.

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In all honesty I don’t think he cares that much about it. He’s 88 years old and was raising bees long before some of us were born or were just infants. He said he did check with a friend of his who is a commercial keeper with 4,000 hives and the friend told him it would be fine to extract as long as he didn’t try to sell it. Anyway he extracted about 200 pounds out of one hive in his backyard and it’s as golden as ever, but he gives it all to his kids and other friends. I don’t think they keep it around long enough for it to ferment.

They do indeed. Valli is right.
Supermarket honey HAS to have a long shelf life regarding granulation and the simplest way to do that is to heat it.
Commercial beekeepers do dry their honey; you can’t test every super.Nothing wrong with that.

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I have used an excluder once and am worried about using it again after my experience. It was a metal excluder and when I checked my hive after having it on for a month, there were hundreds of worker bees who had gotten their heads stuck between the bars and died, blocking off a large section between the boxes. Has anyone else run into this issue? Has anyone found a resolution for it? It was a Dadant metal bound excluder, so it was from a reputable supplier. Are some breeds of bees too large to use an excluder properly?