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Should I harvest my honey now


#1

This is my first season of beekeeping, though I was one of the original people who purchased the Flowhive (number 22). I live in Canberra, Australia and autumn is not too far away. I checked my hive with a professional who was able to determine I have a good healthy hive and a queen that indicated the three phases of babies in the brood box. The flowhive frames is about 50 to 60 percent full. I have questions. First, can I harvest say one of the frames, so I can taste the honey? or Should I leave all the honey for the bees over winter? And will the honey be okay to keep for the bees over winter? Should I feed the bees ready for winter?
Thanks
Diana


#2

I have the same situation, not to far from you Diana.


#3

Hi …Diana (and Bruce) are any of the flow frames nearly totally capped? In my experience the more central ones would be the most likely to be capped, but I’d be inclined to pop the lid and do your best to see what is capped. You might be saying that all 6 frames are each 50/60 per cent full but I would be surprised…


#4

Hi Dan and Diana, my frames are just about fully capped, the window frame is being worked on, the others are nearly filled.


#5

I should have asked too if you have many eucalypts flowering around you at present and how quickly the bees have they filled the frames recently? I guess that might tell you if they would be likely to more completely fill them before the colder weather comes. In early spring my bees really filled the frames very quickly when the flow was on (a few weeks). Another flow hive owner (not terribly far away) also told me hers filled over a few weeks in summer when the Prickly Box was flowering. It seems local flowering is a significant factor. For me personally, I would be inclined to think the frame four from the left would be ok to tap (I’d still try to get a look at whether it is capped after taking the lid off and looking down the gap at the side of it or taking it out if you can) but in my experience they will take to cleaning that frame and filling it again (in preference to the others) as it is central to the super.


#6

Hi Dan eucalyptus are flowering as well as town gardens, frames have filled very quickly, if I harvest frame 4 should I leave the flow frames on over winter?


#7

Thanks for the feedback so far. I took videos two weeks ago when we opened the hive. These are screen shots of some of the flow hive frames. Some are fuller than others. Frames in the photo WA0002 is 2nd from the left, WA0006 is 1st from right, and WA0003 is 1st from the left.

Regarding food for the bees I live in an older Canberra suburb and there are lots of trees around. I have a huge loquat tree (only half a metre from the hive) in the middle of my backyard which is about to come into flower. So I’m hoping the bees will have good access to food for a while yet before it becomes too cold. With all this information, those who know more than me, do you think I could harvest one of the frames and leave the rest for the bees for winter?

Thank you in advance.


#8

Hi Diana,
If your pics are from 2 weeks ago and your bees had the opportunity to collect nectar, you will surely be able to harvest some frames. I harvest 1 or 2 frames each week currently, but I’m up near Byron. And I have an additional ideal super up top which I could leave for the bees.
Not sure how much honey you need for overwintering down South.
Did you start with a nuc? When did you install them?
My bees had frame 2 and 5 fully capped first, and then frame 1. Harvested 3.9kg of beautiful honey yesterday from frame 3, with a buttery toffee flavour. It just keeps getting better.
I find it intriguing how our bees all act so differently. My bees filled all the flow cells with honey first, then commenced capping starting from the top corners. Yours seem to fill and cap immediately.


#9

I would not harvest a frame inside the hive which is only 50-60% full, for two reasons:

  1. It probably isn’t ripe, unless it is capped. That means you will need to freeze or refrigerate it and use it quickly.
  2. When you open the cells on a partly capped Flow frame, quite a lot of honey leaks out of the uncapped cells and flows down the frame face into the hive. You can flood the hive and seriously upset the bees with this leakage.

If you really want to taste it, I would either wait for the frame to be at least 90% capped, or take it inside and drain the frame over a baking sheet to act as a drip tray. :wink:


#10

As long as the 50-60% is capped you can harvest with some certainty that the honey is ready for harvest. The one lesson I learned was I harvested two of the middle frames this past summer. I left them in the same position. The remaining four frames were 60-70 percent full and 50-60 percent full from the center moving out to the outside edges of the super. The bees began to fill the same frames I just emptied. This summer when I harvest I am going to move the harvested frames to the outside and move the remaining frames toward the center. My thought process is then the bees will fill the remaining cells in those frames and hopefully continue to work toward the outer frames.


#11

Hi Bruce and Diana…I think the speed of filling is important. It seems that Canberra has eucalypts out currently and Bruce says frames are filling quickly. John is on the right track with the idea about moving the harvested frame to the outside. As I mentioned before, they will work on filling the emptied middle frames in preference to the outer ones unless you reverse their positions. Dawn is correct in what she says too of course. Open up the lid and get one of the middle frames out and see if it is almost fully capped. If it is I would personally tap it and get some honey. As to leaving the flow super on over winter, I would if it were quite full of honey as your bees will probably need it over winter. I’m in Tassie and I have removed all the honey from the flow super and have taken it off. The bees were just not going to fill it in my estimation before winter. Our average winter minimum here is just over 2 degrees for June and July. Canberra is probably a degree or two colder than here as an average min. but with harder frost. We can get up to 50 frosts a year. Instead I have on 2 ideal supers above the Flow brood box. If they use the honey in the top box as winter sets in I can remove it and leave them one ideal super above the brood box to make sure they do not have too much hive to keep warm and protected. I think the idea is generally to have at about the flow super worth of honey for them to eat (above the deep brood box) as winter arrives in these colder climates. I have a vinyl hive mat on the top super and carpet above that. I leave space around the edges of the vinyl and carpet for the bees to get access to the lid to defend themselves against pests.


#12

Thank you to everyone for your posts, I read and then re-read, I am now understanding a lot more. I attach photos of what the flow frames look like as of this morning. For some reason mine look a little messy. My bees seem to cover each crevice. And they seem to fill the frame from the front first and work their way to the back. Autumn is much cooler and wetter than usual. Still contemplating on what to do.


#13

Hi Bruce, your bees are neater than mine. I just posted photos of my frames below. Have you worked out what you will be doing after reading everyone’s excellent ideas.


#14

Hi Webclan, thanks for your feedback. I got my NUC in October and what I should have done is let them settle first for a couple of weeks. As an amateur, I put the flow frames the very next day. It may have stretched the bees working. Yes, in Byron your weather is far warmer than here. We will get some severe cold days in winter. Hence trying to find the right thing to do for my bees and I’d be happy to keep all the honey for them to access in winter if need be.


#15

If you do that, take the queen excluder out, otherwise they move up to the honey and let the queen die of cold. Also, once the super is empty, take it off, otherwise they may gum it all up with propolis to draft-proof their hive, which will make the next harvest very difficult. :blush:


#16

Thanks Dawn, so in that case I might harvest all the honey, take the super flow box off and just leave the brood box. Is that what I am understanding?


#17

If your bees will physically compress down into one box, then yes, they will do better over winter in one rather than two with a queen excluder. Also, consider that the honey you extract can also be fed back to the bees over the winter if it isn’t fully ripe (90% capped or more is usually ripe). Just keep it frozen or refrigerated, and warm it at room temperature for 24 hours before feeding. Honey feed is better than white sugar. :wink: I would use a hive top feeder for that to minimize robbing. However, you probably don’t need to extract the frames until your local beekeepers tell you that the nectar flow is definitely over for this season. Australia is complicated for nectar flows, and your locals will be more reliable about timing than our guesses. :smile:


#18

Hi Dan2, yes, we have severe winters in Canberra with lots of frosts. In some years we’ve had average -5 for a couple of weeks, sometimes reaching lower than that. So you’ve harvested all your honey and taken the box off. That is something I am now thinking of doing. Can you send photos of how you have prepared your box for winter, that is, the vinyl mat and carpet etc. I am still learning about the concepts and a visually it will help me know how to go about it. Thanks


#19

Thank you Dawn! it is starting to make more sense for me now. We are now in autumn and its now time to harvest. I will take the box back to one and use a feeder over winter. And yes, I’ll keep the uncapped honey and feed back to the bees is a very good idea.


#20

Hi Diana
Hope the (hopefully!) attached photos help. I have three hives all with different configurations. As you can see I have a couple of ordinary “ideal” supers on top instead of the flow super. The flow super is being stored and I’ll bring it out when the big blue gums flower later in the year. I did tap the flow super several times during the season. Last time I drained it I kept some of the ripe honey and fed the uncapped stuff back to the bees. I have what is called a “migratory” lid on top. By the way I noticed that the flow lid and cover don’t fit both the vinyl and the carpet underneath. If you are not going to get a different lid, the vinyl fits fine under the top cover that goes under the flow lid - just not the carpet.
We usually get a frost or two here in early April.

k