A couple years ago, I set up a couple Flow Hives that I unfortunately neglected due to a lot of travel for my job. I wrapped the hives to insulate for the cold NYS winters we experience, but while I was away, the hives remained wrapped over summer. Needless to say, I thought both hives were dead, so I started disassembling them, but only got one apart. The bees were indeed dead, but the other hive that I let sit is going crazy with activity. I don’t know if a swarm took advantage of all the honey stores and made residence there or if a small number of the original nuc survived, but I’m looking for suggestions of whether I should harvest the honey that’s sat in the hive for so long. I’d like to split the hive as well to start another. Please see pics attached. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
Your frames don’t look like they are ready to harvest, but the honey reserves will be fine for the bees to access and use. If the frames are full and capped you can harvest of course. I would be more curious about what killed the hive so you don’t infect the living hive before you do the split. And since you have several hives there I think you need a backup plan in case you get distracted from caring for them again. That is a big investment in Flow to waste, not to mention you are just asking for bee lovers to poke you for not taking care of the bees. I’ve lost hives overwinter as well so its not a certainty that even if you had attended to them earlier they would have survived, but you might have had the chance. Maybe get a beekeeper buddy you can ask to look things over when you travel for extended periods?
Hi there Becky. That’s a lot of Flow hives to neglect! Life gets in the way at times….
The honey visible in that side window looks like it is mostly capped. If it’s been sitting there for a long time it might have crystallised, which would make it really hard to harvest from Flow Frames.
Have you made any formal inspections of your hives at all yet? I think it is very important to do so if you haven’t already. Are you sure the activity you are seeing is not robbers getting away with the left over honey from the dead hive?
Your boxes may be up for some maintenance too before you put them in service.
I think it is a good idea to have a long term plan and a strategy of what to do when life gets back to normal and need to travel for extended periods again. Neglected hives are a vector for diseases and may be detrimental for the feral colonies in your area, and other beekeepers.
too add to above.
your supers on the coloured hives are back to front. harvest the honey opposite to the entrance. definitely worth getting help.
I agree, it wasn’t an ideal situation as I had planned on a short trip overseas for a couple weeks to help fix a project, but it was so messed up that I had to remain until things were stable again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bee lover and I take the health and welfare of my girls seriously (not to mention the investment…I have 8 Flow Hives now in total). I am not a careless person. I did reach out to another beekeeper who said they would take care of my hives while I’m away, but I don’t think he stopped by to check more than once or twice at best. I even offered to pay him, but here I am. You make an excellent suggestion about finding out what killed the other hive before splitting (maybe I’ll think twice about splitting it now). I really appreciate the insight and your general kindness in the wording of your reply (there are some people that aren’t so nice… ).
The priority is to find the cause of the hive dying out first before starting it off again Becky. The last thing you want to do is loose another colony…
Hi Honeyeater - I have been doing inspections on other hives and they’re doing well. I’m sure your’re right about the honey being crystallized by now, I’ll just leave it for them. As Tim pointed out, I need to find out what killed the first hive and go from there. I’ll move this colony in new hives away from the others so I can monitor them and then really clean the old hive properly. A fresh start so to speak (and find a more reliable beekeeper as my backup). Regarding the bees in the hive…at first I thought they had to be robbers, but pollen was being deposited in the hive like crazy. I also went out to the hive at night (couple months ago) with a flashlight and saw the guard bees so that was enough for me.
Yep, #1 on this list for sure.
Well that’s embarrassing, lol. Thanks for letting me know.
also that unpainted hive is in a bad way- I can see the wood is rotting. If that is a pine hive it need to be painted or wax dipped and if it is cedar it should get a good coat of tung oil at the least. A pine hive will rot very fast if it isn’t protected.
with the frames of honey that may or may not be candied- take out a frame and poke about in some cells to test and see. If it is candied you could consider using a fork or similar to break the capping and then spray with water to soften the honey to stimulate the bees to get to eating it. If the bees have a good nectar flow- and are bringing in there own fresh liquid food- they may ignore that honey in the super all season and it will just sit there getting harder and harder. Flow frames don’t work at all when the honey has candied- and to get them back to good working order you want to have the bees or you- remove the candied honey completely- if crystals are left in cells they will promote further crystallization when the cells are refilled.
Hey @Semaphore, I don’t have this problem of candied honey in my super but I’m wondering if submerging the frames in water for a day would dissolve the candied cell contents?
Yes- if worse comes to worse soaking the frames in warm water will dissolve all the candied honey. But you do lose it all that way too. I guess you can make mead or something.
Thanks Semaphore. I’m going to try to tackle that this week and see what I can do to remedy this situation.
Hiya greekbecky, nice to see you back.
For the record, I had Fframes which I thought would have candied as I left them on over winter yet they still flowed, I could see crystals coming out though and the hive was still active. It candied quickly once extracted but then most of the honey around here does. The bees then cleaned up the frames readying them for the next crop.
If they have candied, perhaps try scraping the capping sand returning it to the colony to see if they clean them up.
Hi Skeggley - Nice to be back! Sorry for the late reply…it’s good to know that I’m not the only one that left them out over winter. I found the same result you did, the honey from my dead hive flow right out of the frames, but its been horribly hot here the last couple weeks so maybe that had something to do with it.
Now I just have to give everything a good cleaning!