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So, I tested honey and harvested :) Ball Ground, GA, USA


The flow is done here in my area for all intents and purposes and the dearth is setting in and even though the Flow frames have been full for several weeks, the bees have never gotten around to capping them.

Since I do not want to leave the Flow frames in place during the fall goldenrod flow and I also don’t want to leave my Flow frames in place over winter, I decided to harvest. This will allow me to pull the Flow frames and place a medium super and feeder on the hive. This will also allow for feeding the bees during the dearth without any worries of sugar water in the Flow frames or the bees eating the stores in the deeps.

As far as harvesting went, all went relatively well EXCEPT that I highly recommend running tubing into a closed container. Especially under certain conditions. These are the condition that made my harvest less than optimal.

  • Near dearth

  • Having 6 colonies quite close to one another.

After cracking my frames and having the honey perfectly run out into the jars I’d set up, a few of the girls caught wind of the open honey. I quickly got some cling wrap in place and that did the trick for a little bit but when I switched jars some spillage occurred and that was just too tempting. A lot of bees came round back for the free goodies. Can’t say which of the 6 colonies the bees came from but for argument’s sake I’m gonna say all of them took part :slight_smile:

I had to fish more than a few of the girls out that breached the cling wrap and given some additional spillage, by the time I’d cracked the last frame it was a bit of a bee party. Despite that though, I was in there with them veil-less, glove-less and in shorts and flip-flops. Not a single bee paid any attention to me. I did get one sting when removing some cling wrap as I’d trapped a bee between my fingers though.

So what is the lesson learned?
Harvesting during a dearth and/or in a spot dense with bees should be done with tubing into closed-lid containers. The scent of open honey is quite attractive to the girls at any time though and they’ll absolutely come looking for a free meal.

So, about what was in the frames - I first tested the un-capped honey by drawing honey from individual cells with pipettes on 2 frames and then checking the moisture level with a refractometer to get an idea of where I stood. My readings we’re at 18.5%. After harvesting I tested the honey in each jar. 1 jar was at 20% moisture content and the remaining 6 were at 18 -19%.

I’m feeding the jar that was at 20% back to the bees. Here are the remaining 6 quarts.

BTW, this is by no means an endorsement of harvesting uncapped honey - I regularly inspect my hives and know what stores are in my deep hive bodies. I also have the necessary tools to help me make an informed decision as far as the pulled honey goes.

Guessing about moisture content is out of the question. If you don’t have the need or the means, don’t do it.
My situation is unique to me.


No harm in harvesting uncapped honey at all provided it is “ripe”…as you found out.
Well done.
As for that 20% it’s on the limit but you don’t need to give it back to the bees. Put it in smaller jars and then in the refrigerator. It will keep for ages.
Honey in the combs for a long time is often ripe even though uncapped.


I am a few miles north of you and plenty of honey flow. They are capping as they go.


Where are you John? The sourwood down here is about gone (and sparse). Just a little at the tops of the trees now.
The lack of rain plus the heat has dried thing up here.


Blue Ridge, we have sourwood, clover and several wildflowers. WE have been having rain, 2" this week.


Nice account of your harvest, Bobby, and pretty pictures too. Glad you learned something from it, and that you shared the experience so that others can learn too. :blush:

Einstein said that:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If we can learn from what you did, we don’t have to repeat the experiment ourselves! :smile:


Just put the 20% jar in the fridge and use it first. No need to give it back to the bees.



Thank you for posting this, it’s amazing to me how many of us could be thinking of something and shortly around that time someone like yourself post something that answers our question :slight_smile:

My local mentor is adjusting I harvest my honey even though it’s not fully capped. Your thoughts? He has not seen the flow frames he’s only read about them. This coming weekend he is harvesting around 400 pounds of honey via his estimates. His concern is that were getting into a flower he calls snow on the Prairie and that it has a bitter taste to it and does not want to mix it with the honey that’s presently in the hive.

My real question to you is the testing mechanism for moisture content you have. Can you send a link to it?

What percentage full do you think your flow frames were and what percentage of that was capped?

Thank you very much for any feedback and all your post

I hope this doesn’t mess up your reply. I’m editing my post actually adding to

  1. New beekeeper here installed my NUC on March 12
  2. Installed my 2nd brood box April 10
  3. Installed my flow frames May 4th
  4. Flow frames are 90% full
  5. 50% capped

And have seemed to slow down from 2 weeks ago last time I was in the hive


Hey @Martydallas, I’m glad to answer your questions.

I used a refractometer to measure the moisture content of honey.
This is the model I am using: https://www.amazon.com/Percent-Refractometer-Pipettes-Dioptric-Reference/dp/B00MMZVBFY/ref=sr_1_47?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1468253093&sr=1-47

I chose it because of the scales, the calibration oil, pipettes, and the ability to adjust w/o a screwdriver.

My Flow frames were 80- 90% full and about >10% capped. The frames have been full of honey for weeks and weeks. It is clear that the honey was not at the optimal moisture level. Why is unknown. Honey frames in the brood chambers are capped. The hives adjacent to the Flow all have fully capped frames. It just is what it is.

Snow on the Prairie sounds pretty, but if it taints honey…

Every good nectar source in my immediate vicinity is done. The Goldenrod will start to bloom August-ish. When exactly depends on the heat and rain.


Bobby, thank you very much for this other than mine being quite a bit more capped upon this last inspection sounds like mine is close to where yours is/was. Mine has had as much honey in it for a couple of weeks now. More has been capped over the past 2 weeks but not much more honey added.

I will look into purchasing a refactometer maybe for next year. This is my 1st hive I have ever had and no one thought I would be harvesting honey this year. So likely that’s part of my problem is the bees had other work to do establishing their hive.

All the honey that’s in and around the brood chamber is all fully capped. I’ve done foundation this frames and Friday when going into the hive checking on virtually every single frame, I did damage some of the honeycomb because it wasn’t built totally straight or it was much larger in width than the frame. Did not damage much was able to slide in and out the frame but nevertheless I was able to see that it was virtually all capped. Talking to my mentor I believe without the flow frames in any additional honey they have enough in their brood box to get them through the winter. Having said that I still plan to put the flow frames back on and remove them just before winter and any honey I harvest will be frozen and fed back to the bees at some later date.

Again, anything that I’m saying that is not making sense or their suggestions that I do something different please let me know

Thank you for your reply this makes me feel a bit more comfortable.

One other quick note. Do you see any reason why I could not harvest one or 2 frames today and then wait and harvest more later or should I harvested all at one time, there virtually all at the same state?


do see my other question, but I did find this youtube video. I will get one of these

Refractometer Canada

The only problem with harvesting some frames, and then waiting is the bees… :smile:

You will have perhaps seen others say that once you harvest one or two frames, the bees often start moving honey around in the hive, and all of that capped honey in the other Flow frames can disappear into other parts of the hive. I would harvest the best of it, and be willing to lose what you leave unharvested to the brood boxes. Just stay optimistic that they might leave some more for you, but stay realistic that they may want to protect it by moving it down! :blush:


Marty, I really can’t say what you should do - like I stated, I did what I did based on my situation.
Here’s the kicker - I can’t say with any certainty at all that what I did was the “right” thing to do.

That remains to be seen. The experiment isn’t finished yet.

I know this: There is the equivalent of about 5 deep frames of honey in my two deep brood chambers. That should be 35 or so pounds of honey. Bees in the southern U.S. may thrive on as little as 40 pounds overwinter BUT the operative word is may.

What I have to do is ensure that they have more like 60 pounds of accessible honey (or the equivalent in Sugar water).

I pulled my Flow Frame honey because:

  1. I don’t want Goldenrod to get in the frames.
  2. I’m not leaving the frames on over winter.
  3. I have medium supers to put on the hive for them to fill and keep over winter.
  4. The dearth is on so I have to feed them.
  5. If I don’t feed, they’ll eat the honey stored in the deeps.
  6. If they eat the stored honey now and the fall flow is a bust, they’ll starve. (not really, I’d feed em)
  7. I have a hive-top feeder I can use.
  8. Even if the honey in the Flow frames was nowhere near ripe, I’d have pulled it anyways and just fed it back to the bees (see nos. 2&7).
  9. Sugar water is cheaper than honey so since the honey I pulled was ripe, I’m keeping most of it.

That’s about it. Pure and simple.

I wasn’t faced with a dilemma of any sort. I just had a problem to solve.
Every beekeeper is faced with the same exact what-to-take-and-what-to leave problem except that they don’t have to decide whether or not to leave Flow frames in place over winter.

Can you leave Flow frames in place over winter? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m just not sure, so to keep the investment in my bees and awesome Flow frames intact, I made a decision.

Wanna know the ironic part? I’ve left the Flow frames on so the bees can clean them up and wouldn’t you know it? The little boogers were refilling them this AM when I looked at them before work.


Very good information, none or very little of which I even knew or understood. You have explained it fully or at least as full as I can possibly perceive at this stage. I’m sure after I read it several more times I will have more questions and may be you can answer.

I am certainly not looking for an absolute you should do this what you’ve explained is what I needed to understand. Even if you said I think you should do the following I would still evaluate the entire situation myself so thank you very much for all the input.

I do not process the lack of honey flow right now in the fact that they may start eating their own honey taking away from what I want to harvest. And what my mentor has made comment about, snow on the Prairie, may actually cause the remaining or most of my honey to have an odd taste where if I harvest now and feed them a little to get them to that point that remaining batch will be for them.

Just discovered or realized another question concerning the Goldenrod you don’t want in your flow frame? Why is that? It may be a reason why I don’t want the snow on the Prairie in mind I will find out exactly what kind of plant that is hopefully tonight is my beekeeping club meeting


Good question. Is Goldenrod not good?


The honey is light and crystallises quickly. We don’t get much in the UK but if we do then it smells similar to our spring dandelion honey…old socks. Strangely, it tastes very good with a deep flavour…well, to my palate anyway.
There is a market for it if you can label it goldenrod honey.
The smell does go if you store the honey in a bucket for a year.


My understanding is that Goldenrod honey is something of an acquired taste. Regardless, my intent is to let that honey be stores for the bees.


True. Because I’ve been feeding all through Spring I figured I’d try to see if the bees would fill the Flow Hive in the fall nectar season. It might be interesting to see what happens and potentially leave the FLOW super on all winter. Is that a dumb idea?


Robin, that’s impossible to tell without knowing where you live. As far as I know, only those in tropical areas have enough of a year-round nectar flow for leaving Flow frames on to make sense. If you have temps going consistently below 60F or so, your bees can’t do anything but stay clustered together to keep warm :grimacing:


I live in US, Tennesse, where we have mild winters, but January and February are pretty cold. I will probably just hold off until next March then.