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Should I delay harvesting?

Would it be better to delay harvesting the full frames to keep the bees attention on filling the remaining frames as opposed to cleaning up and storing honey in the newly empty frame? With our relatively short season, I am concerned that if I harvest a full frame, that I will end up with several partial frames of honey instead of a few full frames.

Thanks,
Mike

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Welcome to the forum Mike and a good question. You can harvest any frames that are at least 80% capped on both sides. The bees will clean up any remaining honey in the harvested frame and will store it where ever they decide to. When bees store nectar in a cell it isn’t kept in that cell, it will be moved about in the hive to suit the bees, like moving honey to empty cells closer to the brood. While there is nectar about in the flowers the bees will do their thing and not stress that you have extracted a frame but just be sure you leave them with enough stores for the Winter when they might not be able to forage.
Cheers

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Good question, Mike, I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I’ve been harvesting from my Flow hives for two seasons (with great success) but I still struggle trying to decide whether to harvest the middle frames as soon as they’re full versus delaying the harvest to encourage the bees to fill the outer frames faster. I’m still not sure of the optimal approach. I’ll be curious to hear other people’s thoughts. I suspect it depends on a particular colony’s honey storage habits as well as the strength and duration of your nectar flow.

My first year I had a decent nectar flow most of the season and harvested each frame as soon as it was ready (I was eager) and although the end frames eventually filled up, I ended up harvesting from the middle frames multiple times before they got to that point. My second year I ended up with more partially filled frames, some of which I was able to harvest anyway because the honey inside the uncapped cells appeared to be cured (per the shake test), others I just left out for the bees to clean up before packing them away.

Further complicating matters for me is the fact that I have traditional supers stacked on top of my Flow supers to ensure the bees have enough space to prevent swarming and also to give them extra room to store upward if they want to (to discourage backfilling into the brood nest). I noticed that the bees would build out and fill the middle frames of this traditional super before finishing the outer frames of the Flow super. Since I hate harvesting traditional honey frames (Flow has me spoiled) I erred on the side of harvesting from the Flow frames as soon as they were ready to encourage the bees to continue storing new honey in the Flow rather than the traditional.

Like everything else to do with beekeeping, so many factors to consider and no clear answers!

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BrianS…impressive description of your experience…and one that I can relate to also. You’ve touched on so many points that a novel/experienced Flowhive beekeeper will be exposed to.

There is a noticeable preference given to traditional frames when the hive is given the choice of Flowhive frames or traditional frames on the same hive. Having said that, hives that have only multiple FH supers relish filling those supers and after 3 seasons of continued use there is little difference in yield when compared to traditional hives…we run FH colonies and traditional colonies side by side and in the third year one of our FHs was the top honey yielder. I watch for slowing flight activity during optimum flower blooming…the bees are getting lazy…time for honey harvest. But with the FH colonies, this “getting lazy” appears to be suppressed…I can’t explain it. They just keep making room for more honey. So my thoughts in your case would be that your hive would likely fill the traditional super before going down to do the outer frames in the Flow supers.

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One thing in bee keeping with Flow hives is you will get no clear answer from the bees. Especially in how they organize where the honey will be stored. Having two Flow hives side by side with hives well established over a few years they don’t mimick each other.
My Flow hives set up is very basic, a brood box, QX and a flow super but the colonies have their own ways of storing honey in the super. It would be great if each hive was the same so even a hint of predictability would be in my favor, But alas, the bees seem to want to keep me second, and even, third guessing.
I have experimented with adding a traditional super both above and below the Flow Hive but that only gave me more to think about :smiley:
Cheers Brian

The area (east side of the Rocky Mountains…short season) I beekeep in is traditionally dryer and the rule of thumb is much different than Peter48’s area…i.e. Instead of 80%, if the frames are at least 20% capped, extract them…but you have to be aware of what your humidity levels are and if you’ve had several days hot of sunny weather, the honey should be ripe whether the honey has been capped or not. Also keep in the back of your mind how far you are from the end of the honeyflow as when it is over, those flow frames needed to be extracted…capped or uncapped…and the Flowhive super removed for winter.

We remove honey several times throughout the season from our Flowhives…and we do all frames in a super at once. The idea that the frames need to be fully or almost totally capped before the honey is ripe is site-specific and dependent on ambient humidity. Here is a video to illustrate the point…we consider ripe honey to be 17.5 % moisture and I was actually surprised how low the reading was. From the upper capped portion of the frame (where the hole is in the frame capping surface) it was .4% less moisture coming in at 15.8%.

A refractometer is a tool that can be used to interpret the effects your surroundings are having on the honey composition…and if I moved my operation to a new region, I would be using it for several years to get the feel for what is happening. But I keep it on hand and use it yearly just to take out the guess work as I don’t want my honey to be fermenting on the store shelf thus jeopardizing my retail sales/reputation.

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@Doug1 - Thanks for the insights as to how your bees approach your different set-ups, very interesting. My three hives are all using a “FH + traditional(s)” setup, and I’m planning to observe my colonies more closely this year to see if I can discern any rhyme or reason as to their storage habits (which might help answer the question of the best time to harvest the Flows).

I also agree with your comments regarding harvesting uncapped frames, based on my harvesting experiences last year. At the end of the season I ended up with quite a few frames - Flow and traditional - that were only about 25%-50% capped, but the honey in the uncapped cells was fully cured and I was able to harvest them anyway (I’m in central Ohio). My approach was to harvest any partially capped frame that didn’t rain nectar when I turned it sideways and gave it a shake, and I used a refractometer to verify the moisture level of each jar afterward. As you suggest, I think the 80% rule is more of a training-wheel rule, and the reality is that even frames with barely any cappings at all can be harvested if the conditions are right.

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Thanks for all the excellent information. Our flow ends around July 1 and we are known for our humidity, so I am going to have to pay good attention to water % if I dare to harvest any uncapped honey. I am going to use a hive scale from broodminder this year and I may just wait to drain any frames until I see a weight decline at the beginning of the summer dearth. Hopefully that gives me the best chance of not wasting any of the bees efforts on cleaning up and refilling freshly drained frames that have no hope of refilling before the dearth.

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