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Removing the flow hive super for cool climate winter - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


#1

Hi.
I learn so much from this forum. Thanks and I’d love to here the forum’s comments on my set up.

Its Feb here in Melbourne Australia and the last part of a long warm summer. I have 2 brood boxes, a QX and then the flow hive super. I harvested late December and emptied 4 frames of honey (there were 6 fully capped frames). The hive’s been busy and the flow hive super frames are now refilled. I expect there’s still a little pollen and nectar to come (flowering gums etc) and so am thinking of harvesting the flow hive super again. But I am also thinking in advance about hive stores and the process of reducing the hive for the colder months from late march ( we also get light frosts over winter).
Questions

  • Should I have simply harvested all 6 frames in late December so all could be refilled
  • If I remove the flow hive super for the colder months, should I harvest it at the same time (either fully or partially). Should I do that now rather than letting the super partially fill up again.
    *Should I put on an ideal now so alternative honey stores can be developed… and …If I add an ideal, should that be under the QX … and should I remove the flow hive super at the same time or leave them both on for a bit. I could harvest/remove the flow hive super (once its cleaned up), put on the ideal and let the hive consolidate stores over the next 2 months.
  • Reading some of the posts, it seems that 2 brood boxes over winter might be ok here in melbourne (maybe with insulation). Is cold the main concern or are there other reasons for reducing the hive down.

#2

If I were you, I would drain all of the honey from the Flow super now. That will be a lot of honey. After that, I would leave the Flow super on for a couple of days at least to let the bees clean up what honey they can and fix up the broken capping etc. I would then remove it and do the usual winter preparation things with it.

I would estimate that the bees will store honey in the top brood box particularly with what is still flowering near you. I would have a good look through all the brood for queen cells and disease after you remove the Flow super.

I find one deep brood box (or two ideal supers for brood) and one full ideal super filled with honey is ok for Tasmania over winter. I can get up to about 50 frosts a year.

As to the two brood boxes, from what I understand, that is a biggish hive you have there with a lot of bees (which is probably one reason why they collected so much food). That could be a lot to manage in spring, size wise…


#3

Thanks Dan. Sounds good. I appreciate the advice
I don’t have a chest freezer to treat/keep the flow super frames, which is tricky if they have residual wax etc… on them. Do you have any suggestions for ways of storing the super /frames over winter?


#4

I think it can be tricky. All I have done is to make sure the Flow frames are really dry and as emptied as possible by the bees (drained fully etc.) and then covered it with what is essentially a breathable cloth. I leave the entire thing complete - Flow frames in the super etc. Other people have done different things with success.

A few things may go wrong. Rodents will try to eat it, particularly if it is in a shed, but anywhere they will have a go. You need to arrange things so they can’t get at it, whilst still allowing ventilation. Something like a metal queen excluder over the breathable cloth worked for me, with the super on a wooden table. Wax moth may also have a go, but if it is closely covered with the cloth it should be ok. You may still have trouble with mold, but you will need to monitor I guess.

Amazing here with the ficifolia flowering now, beautiful red and orange flowers. I guess they are the ones you are noticing too.


#5

Yes, they are putting on quite a show.


Wintering your Flow Hive / Flow Frames
#6

I am based in Adelaide and have tried both methods- removing the super for winter- and leaving it on over winter. Last season i tried the leaving it on method- and it worked. However in the first 3 months of winter there was very little activity and no honey going in. In the middle of winter not many bees were seen in the super. Around that time there were some issues with excess moisture in the super and this caused a little bit of mold to form here and there. The good part of leaving it on was that ‘spring’ started earlier than I thought-in that the bees started laying in quite a bit of honey in the last month of winter. This meant I was able to harvest a full super very early in spring. Not long after that that hive swarmed on me (my fault I was too slow to do preventative swarm measures).

So I would consider leaving the flow super on over winter again- but i think before I did that I would make some modification to my hives to reduce the moisture issue. I would probably add a ‘moisture quilt’ box and add some vent holes to the flow roof.

There are a few issues with removing the flow super also at the end of autumn: when we did that on one hive the honey was not 100% capped and when we harvested it it was a not ripe. So we froze that honey and fed it back to the bees- and made mead out of some of it. The second issue was that when we removed the flow super and dumped all the bees that were in it back into our single brood box- the box became over-crowded and a few weeks later we found a lot of dead bees in the roof. Lastly- I think we missed out on some of that very early late winter nectar flow when we didn’t have the super back on yet.

So I still havn’t decided exactly what method I prefer and will continue to experiment with different hives before I decide.

I think maybe winters in Melbourne are wetter than here- and perhaps the moisture issue could be worse for you there? So if you did decide to leave the super on you’d want to look into options for improving ventilation without letting too much heat escape…


#7

Dan ( or others), it is still quite warm here and there’s flowers about. Do you think it’s okay to harvest the super today for instance and then assume the continuing nectar will be stored in the brood boxes over the next 2 months in prep for winter


#8

Thanks for the super advice semaphore. I’ll think about the moisture issues and whether to leave it on.


#9

You have to be very careful. From painful experience.
Do as Dan suggested ;If your honey is capped take it off (harvest). Leave any frame not capped. Leave for the bees.If later it gets capped take it off(harvest). Leave until the cold weather sets in and the bees have cleaned the frames and taken the honey.
After you remove the frames just rinse in very hot (close to boiling) to remove any honey still around. and dry. Don’t worry about cleaning any further. Wrap well with no tiny gaps in a fine mesh(flywire, shade cloth etc) and store somewhere where they can have fresh air or a draft. The mesh prevents wax moth strike.

I wrapped my frames in clean brown paper and stored them in an old bee box and suffered severe mildew
growth on all the frames. And I mean thick black /green crap on the frames in the cells everywhere. Many days work , and a lot of angst, elbow grease, a dish washer still not working well and a fair bit of grief from Wife to be going on with. All in all a very bad business.

I am not sure where you are in Vic but here in SW of W A, I am going to leave my Flow Super on this Winter.
We don’t have extreme cold and have not had a frost for many many years. Had about 5 a year 35 years ago but I am told there is no such thing as global warming. Will have keep an eye on it but the hive is now in an open front shed and accessible all weather. I believe there will be enough pollen and nectar through Winter as long as the bees can fly.


#10

Thanks for your reply Wilfred. I’m in a position to harvest the flow hives today but summer hasn’t finished and maybe I’m jumping the gun. I’m not sure how to think about it. Does taking the super off in the next week give the bees the chance to get honey into the 2 brood boxes over the next 2 months, or does it just overcrowd them too unnecessarily early while hot weather is still happening.
Grace


#11

there is no need to even be thinking about removing the super yet- if you do plan to remove it I wouldn’t be thinking about it until the end of Autumn. We have many more months of potential honey coming! If towards the end of Autumn you find the bees don’t have much stores in the either brood box- you could harvest the flow super- and then feed back some of that honey to the bees over a few weeks maybe? But unless you have a bad dearth of nectar over autumn my guess is your bees will have a lot of honey in their brood boxes before winter sets in- regardless of what happens in the flow super. Also here in Adelaide our bees our active right throughout winter- whenever the sun is shining- and can find food in the suburbs all year round.

having said that all of my hives are single brood boxes- so things may go a little different with double broods.


#12

I agree. I took my super off end of April last year. Emptied 6 frames fully capped in March another 2 fully capped ripe frames mid April and emptied all frames end of April prior to removing Flow Super. The last honey wasn’t capped and not ripe but was great put into the stewed rhubarb and stewed plums.

If they are putting honey into the Super you can be pretty sure they have plenty stores in the brood boxes. You can check. But again, think about taking the Flow off when Winter break in earnest. Cold rainy days on end, or if the bees move all the honey back to the brood boxes.


#13

Hi Grace, I think if your Flow super is full and capped and ready to harvest then I can’t see a risk in harvesting - at least some frames. As to keeping it on and leaving it over winter, I think you need to consider you local climate in my opinion, and what nectar resources there are in the next few months and over winter in your local area. Also, you need to consider how full the Flow super is. Overnight ridge temperatures can be 6 degrees warmer than a valley floor for instance. Here, I am all finished by some weeks having completed the last harvest weeks ago and letting the bees bring in the last bit of nectar from the ficifolia to fill each top ideal super to the brim. I don’t want to feed them this year.

I know I am on the right track with regards to the nectar because I have been keeping a close eye week by week as to how much they are filling the frames in the ideals, and it is slow. Also I am trying to learn from what happened last year at this time and learn from my mistakes.

One option might be to harvest just a few frames (calculate refill rate), let the bees refill them and leave the super (which will be nearly full) on over winter.


#14

HI ,
I too am in Melbourne and I left my flow super on last winter. There were no issues that I noticed in the frames, the bees were still going in and cleaning and there was even a small amount of honey that was deposited. The girls took it away again, so no big deal.
This year I am planing to do the same, hopefully with the same results. The other advantage it the if there is an early start to spring, the girls can start to deposit the honey straight away.
I am thinking of adding a second brood box this week as I would like to split the hive in early spring, both to avoid (hopefully) a swarm and I want to start my second have this year.


#15

Hi Grace, another pest I forgot to mention when storing the Flow super are ants. As they are small they can be tricky to keep out using the methods I described. It depends on where you store it. I like the idea of keeping the Flow super on as it is less of a hassle with pests and generally less of a fuss and bother. It does mean that you need to remove the frames for brood inspection however, but you know all that anyhow.

@busso Hi Wilfred, what plants provide nectar for you in March and April?

@Semaphore G’day Jack, how about where you are?


#16

Hi Wilfred…did you do anything to the Flow frames last year before you stored them? Did you put any water on them at all?


#17

I live in a built up suburban environment, houses with large established gardens and there is a vast range and diversity of flowering plants around and about. I never really know what my bees are collecting.


#18

I did not. Which may have contributed. I thought the residual honey (could not see any) would be OK and did not wash.


#19

Thanks abearhoney and everyone who chipped in. Had a close look and harvested 3 frames and will chill until April and then decide about flow super off or on.


#20

I took the supers off last winter when the bees migrates into the lower box. There we’re capped and uncapped frames. I removed the frames from the boxes and put them into a plastic storage container, purged the containers with nitrogen, put the lid on and forgot about them until the brood boxes were overflowing the following spring then put them back on, the bees were into them straight away.
I have traditional capped frames from the hybrids still in the container and they still appear to be fine… Waiting to score an extractor. :wink:
Do wax moth get into honey frames?