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Nuc inspection - please share your wisdom

hello, today I inpsected the nec I have from my swarm about 2 weeks ago, they’re doing well, all 5 frames are built out and there is pollen cells, capped brood and capped honey. Please look at the images and let me know your opinion. I am wondering if there is too much capped honey :anguished: and what can I do about it. Both end frame outsides were totally capped with honey and as shown most of all other frames are taken up with capped honey.
Also, I did take a frame of honey that has been capped for a few weeks from my flow hive, the moisutre content is 20.5, any thoughts on why this might be the case this?
What are the dark cells in the brood cell area?
Im thinking I need to move them into their brood box so they can have more space but they may just fill that out with honey too.
I didn’t see the queen! Just inexperience I dare say :upside_down_face:

refractometre 20.5

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Hi Ian, I’m thinking that the answer to your first question could be the amount of humidity around, considering that there has been a lot of rain around. I guessing that you copped a lot down your way as well as us in SE Qld.

The dark stuff in the comb is most likely to be pollen.

I would put the colony into your brood box. I’m wondering if your colony is a bit light on with nurse bees, which could be the reason why they are not producing much brood compared to honey. If the colony wants to make more brood, it wont be a problem for them to remove honey in order for the queen to lay eggs. I see this frequently, especially coming into spring. If you can find a frame full of sealed & emerging bees to donate to the colony, that will address any shortage of nurse bees going forward. Once you start to see a lot more nurse bees, then observe whether the colony wants to produce more brood or not.

A great video to watch is City of Bees on Youtube. There’s a segment that shows the relationship between the queen & the rest of the colony. Once you get an understanding of that relationship, everything becomes a lot clearer. It wont hurt to watch it several times, until you gain that understanding.


Did you calibrate the refractometer before use? Also, you should take into account ambient temperature. I usually stir up the honey before testing too - the first part of the harvest from the Flow frames can be quite a bit higher in water content than the last 25% of the flow. I guess lower water content makes the honey more viscous, so it flows out more slowly than the rest. If the honey was from an open cell like you show in your photo, then 20% or higher would be expected. If it was from behind a cap, then you would expect lower, although as @JeffH says, humidity can affect that, as can the type of nectar used to make the honey.

The dark blobs are pollen/bee bread. Used for feeding brood.


Thank you, @JeffH & @Dawn_SD for your helpful replies, as the outside of each outer frames are completely capped should I keep them on the outside of the new brood box?
I watched the recommended video, one interesting point I didn’t realise is that the colony size is controlled by the amount of food the queen is fed. They are such a complex unit, I am continually supprised.
As my other hive had the 2 swarms they’re abit light on in population also, I will see if there is a frame I can move over when I put them into the brood box.
Yes we have had alot of rain particually when that frame was being filled. from what I can tell Jackarandah were where the bees were headed most of the time.
The refractometer was sold as calibrated, I haven’t changed it and do realise that it probably should be out however I have had other honey down to 18%. I dont have any control to do any accurate cal.

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Yes, usually that is best unless the colony is very weak.

Can you get extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower oil? If so, this works very well. I have tried it against official calibrating fluids and blocks. There should be a calibration thumb screw that you can turn to adjust the reading. It takes about 30 seconds:



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thanks @Dawn_SD Yes I had already had a look at the calibration after you mentioned it, I found an article here Refractometer – All You Need to Know | Bee Culture It was reading 70 on the Brix scale so I adjusted it up to 71.5 as suggested. we had a bottle of unopened extra virgin so used that. I guess thatll take my honey to below 20% :slightly_smiling_face: :+1:

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Hi Ian, you’re welcome. You probably could place the full frames of honey on the outside provided the uncapped side doesn’t contain brood, that’s because I don’t like to segregate brood, especially with a small colony.

If your other hive has issued 2 recent swarms, I’d advise against removing brood at this point in time. Just keep all your brood from the nuc box together in their new brood box, & let them build up under their own steam. One part of the relationship between the queen bee & the colony is that the colony also prepares the cells for her to lay eggs in, which is all relevant to how many nurse bees are able to care for the larvae.

I have never used a refractometer. If honey is fully capped, it’s “ripe” in my books.

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hello, to give you some follow up @JeffH @Dawn_SD I did transfer the bees into the new brood box a few days ago, all went well with that. There was a good amount of capped brood on all the frames and on one that was mostly covered with capped honey there seemed to be a chewed uncapped section being ready for the queen, who I still haven’t seen.
I also emptied 2 frames today and you’ll be pleased to know I got 6.5kgs and didn’t even consider checking the moisture content, the frames were 99.8% capped so must be top quality Big Ridge honey. :+1: :honey_pot:
I even ordered another lot of flow frames for the second hive today in anticipation they’ll need the super on in a few weeks.
Thanks also @chau06 for correcting my spelling :blush:
Thanks again for your helpful advice.


That’s a good haul for 2 frames - they must have been quite full. I’ve heard reports of up to 3.8 or maybe even 4kg per frame once they are fully drawn out.

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Hi Ian. The chewed uncapped section is more than likely a result of hive beetles. I saw a bit of that myself 2 days ago.

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