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Ripe Honey? How do you know for sure?


#1

The most frequent question I get from traditionals is this. "How do you know the honey is ripe for harvest. How do you know when you have 90% of your honey capped.? That is a good question and one I present to you experts. Reality is the flow hive window only shows the side of one flow frame. From the front you can see the ends of the frames but not the rest of the frame. So, how do flow hive folks know when it is time to harvest? Thanks!! Dale


#2

Same as everyone else - lift the frames out so that you can see them all on both sides. To my mind, the side observation window is just for fun. If, for some reason, I couldn’t do that, then I would drain one frame at a time and test the honey from each individual frame with a refractometer. If it was more than 18% water, I would either freeze it for my own use, or feed it back to the bees.


#3

Take them out and look[quote=“daleknott, post:1, topic:6427”]

So, how do flow hive folks know when it is time to harvest
[/quote]


#4

You have to “disturb the bees” lol by taking out each frame, verify ripeness, re-install, harvest. If it was me I’d take the frames out, bring them into my air-conditioned kitchen, harvest, then re-install instead of waiting out there in the heat for hours waiting for honey to stop dripping.


#5

Dee that is what I have been telling people. But then they watch the FLOW videos and are told that one of the biggest benefits of the flow frame is that YOU DONT DISTURB THE BEES. That seemed in contradiction to them and to me. I am all for checking the frames as you describe. But that does stir things up a bid. Thanks. Dale


#6

Well, I suppose it is partly true, in that you don’t disturb the bees with the harvesting process. But you still disturb them with the inspection process. :smile:

I have one hive some distance from home. I can see that if I had a Flow super on that hive, I would inspect one day, and if the frames looked ready, I would come out the next day with my harvesting tubes and jars. I don’t think I would carry them “just in case”. So I would disturb the bees to make sure I was harvesting quality honey, but the actual harvest probably won’t worry them much.


#7

Hi Dale, all those traditionalists are right in asking that question. It’s a good valid question. You can’t know for sure if the frames are 90% capped without doing an inspection which will disturb the bees.

One aspect I like is the Flow super with 4 flow frames in the middle with 2 traditional frames each side of them in ten frame boxes. With that set up you have to disturb the bees to check on the traditional frames. If you discover the traditional frames are fully capped & the 2 visible sides of the flow frames are fully capped, I’d say the rest will be fully capped.

That is the only way I can see it working where you know the frames are fully capped & your sticking to the idea of one of the original perks.

However, the idea of a full super of Flow frames & being able to harvest the honey without disturbing the bees & expecting that honey to be “ripe” is misleading.


#8

Great explanation Dawn. Thanks


#9

Exactly Jeff. Dawn had the best explanation. You disturb the bees to inspect for honey quality but when you harvest the bees are not disturbed. This is consistent with the FLOW HIVE philosophy but at the same time makes sense regarding the need to make sure the honey is ready. All good thoughts. Dale


#10

Thanks @daleknott - I don’t like carrying glass jars around in my car unless I am going to use them, especially when they are modified with lids and tubes. They are hard to contain and rattle around, so I would rather just do it once.

I harvest traditional hives in a similar way. I empty bees from the full supers by using an inner cover/crown board with a bee escape on the first day. Then I have to come back the next day (or two) to take the bee-free full super off.

With the Flow system, I am not saving a day, I am just saving messing up my kitchen with stickiness. :smile:


#11

Hi Dale, with respect, I don’t recall that being the Flow philosophy at all. Unless their philosophy has changed in recent times.


#12

NI think the disturbance to the bees of lifting a frame up is minimal. In contrast shaking the bees off or brushing them off the frame to take it away to harvest is a big disturbance. You can minimise this by lifting off the honey super and putting in a clearer board…so there are no or at least fewer bees when you come to take the comb away for harvesting. With the flow frame…once you lift the comb to check for capping…then at your convenience you can drain the comb without any more disturbance.
For me…lifting a full super would be nigh impossible to put a clearer board underneath. So I have always had to harvest by shaking off the bees and believe me it is a massive disturbance. Getting the supers under a cloth and then taking them away coupled with the mess and all the clearing up afterwards…hmmm. Still…I only have one flow hive so the rest of my crop…ha ha if I get any …will be harvested as normal. The difference this year will be that I am going to use half supers which will be easier to lift.


#13

Hi HHH, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you, hoping it will be a bumper year. Although I don’t have any half supers myself, I’m becoming a fan of them, especially if someone wants one or two hives & doesn’t want to buy an extractor.

I still have a few frames sitting in storage:) I used the half depth supers I had to repair some badly rotted full depth boxes.
The beauty of them is, with starter strips, the bees fill them up really quick with no cross combing, mainly because the depth of comb is less than half the depth of full depth frames.

Even when full of honey, they’re not too heavy to lift off in order to do brood inspections.

In relation to shaking bees, I normally remove the frames I’m taking, stand them up somewhere without squashing too many bees. Put the lid back on & shake the bees in front of the entrance a bit later on. By that time, most of the bees have left the frames anyway. By shaking the bees after the lid is back on, your assured that your not shaking any bee more than once. That minimizes upsetting the hive.


#14

Well here I go showing my newbeeness! What is a half super. I thought a super was a super! So are you saying when you put a brood box above a brood box with a queen excluder between for the purpose of honey production it becomes a super? Im a bit confused. Also. I love the idea of a foundationless frame. But do you do that in the brood box (that is how the flow box comes) or in the super? The more I think I know the more I dont know. This first honey season is tough!! Up until now it was simple. Just trying to keep the bees alive. Well, I was one for two there and I want to keep this hive healthy and get some honey!!!


#15

I presume @Horsehillhoney means what we would call shallows. A Langstroth deep box is 9.5" tall, a medium is 6 and 5/8" tall and a Langstroth shallow is 5 7/8" tall. When full of honey, a shallow would weigh around half of that of a deep box. Numbers vary, depending on who you ask, but you might have to lift over 70 lb in a deep box, but a shallow would be more like 30 to 35 lb.

To be accurate, yes. Supers are for honey stores. Super doesn’t tell you the size of the box - it could be deep, shallow or medium. If it is below the queen excluder, it is a brood box. In the US, most people use deep boxes for brood, but there are many who use mediums, and some who use shallows.

You can do it in any part of the hive. The bees do it in nature. For traditional (non-Flow) supers, many beekeepers use wired foundation if they are going to spin the frames for extraction, but you don’t have to. Just spin gently and be patient, or crush and strain.

That is a good sign - we never stop learning as beekeepers. :blush:


#16

Hi Dawn, the half depth supers I had were exactly half depth. I went out & measured a deep super, that measured 245mm, which would = 9.5". The half depth would have been 4.75" because I joined 2 together to make a full depth super.

When you take into account extra bee space & the extra wood (top & bottom bar), the actual comb is less than half that of full depth comb. That make a super of those frames fairly light when full of honey. That explains why they call them grandad supers over here.

I’ll get up into my ceiling later to measure the comb part of those frames & work out a % difference.


#17

Thanks Jeff…but the weather in the uk is fickle. I have just discovered that in the field next door the owner has about 250 apple trees. So that will hopefully be helpful but it depends if it is warm enough here for the nectar to flow. Hey ho …the life of a uk beekeeper.
Yes Dawn the supers are shallow but also vertically half as well. So each shallow super has 5 frames in it…they sit side by side on a vertical hive but I can get 4 side by side on my long hive or double them and have 8. Which is the equivalent of 4 shallow full size supers. …in my dreams!
The great thing is that I can lift these supers easily. So if I have them on a hive…I can do the inspection without having to lift several full size supers off first.
On a long hive…they just get lifted aside to inspect.
Fear not…Daleknott…we all experienced the same feeling of information deluge in the first year. Talking, discussing, going to meeting and of course, the forum all help…and it never stops!


#18

Wow, that’s a great idea HHH, having them split vertically. The idea has been staring me in the face for a few weeks now, but the penny didn’t drop.

I’m using 4 frame nuk boxes to unite bees into really weak hives with newspaper. I put another 4 frame nuk box with a bottom board attached next to it to cover the gap which fits perfectly.
After 24 hours I remove both nuk boxes & put the lid back on. Then I have enough bees to take care of any extra brood frames I add.

You could make 3 vertical, 3 frame boxes to go on a 10 frame super by using normal sides on the outsides & 1/4" ply for the rest. I suppose you’d get away with 1/2 " on the outsides to make the frames not so tight. The bees wouldn’t care. What a brilliant idea.


#19

Also when you go to separate the 3 frame supers from the QX for example, you only have 3 frames to separate, which is much easier than trying to separate 9 or 10 frames all at once.


#20

This is still vastly less distruptive as pulling whole frames of honey out of the hive and then returning them after extraction sticky with left over honey etc etc. All you are doing is lifting them out checking both sides and putting it back. In the grand scheme of things it really boils down to not being much of a disruption at all when compared to the alternative.