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Super Frames not draining at all

Hi all

Through the back end of last year we had trouble draining a few frames. They appeared full but we got very little output. As winter was coming we left everything in place.

Honey production has been good of late and all frames appear full and capped. The channels drains were blocked or partially blocked so the channels were full of dark runny honey.

Problem is that’s all that’s draining. Nothing is coming from the frames when cracked. It’s almost like the cells are too waxed to allow a proper cracking open.

The key is stiff but not impossibly so and multiple crackings make no difference. After some hours there is runny honey back in the drain channel so it’s there.

Is it possible for the cells to be too strong? Any thoughts on how to address this?

Hi Chris, you could have either crystallised honey or jellybush in the comb and that maybe the reason its not flowing down into the channel properly. I have some hives up the coast 1.5hrs north west of Sydney where the honey jellied in the comb at the end of January and again in late March. This was in wax not the Flow hive and I had to press it out. Think you’ll need to pull out a Flow frame and see whats going on.

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The bees will not over wax the cells so I agree with @Rodderick that the honey has crystallized over Winter or the bees have been feeding on Jelly Bush. The only way to know which it is is to remove a frame. Use a toothpick and if you can push it into the cell chances is it is Jelly Bush but if it won’t push in the my guess is it has crystallized over winter.
Welcome to the forum where you will lots of help, tips and advice from a really helpful lot of members.
Cheers

agreed- most likely scenario is candied (crystallized) honey. Easy to test- take a frame out and visually inspect- you may be able to see that the honey is candied. If you can dig some out of a cell and look at and eat it. You will know if it has candied.

What is not so easy is dealing with the issue. We had limited success taking the box off and using an incandescent light bulb attached to a thermostat to heat the entire box (placed inside a larger box with the light bulb and covered in blankets) to around 43C and hold it there for 24 hours or so. That did melt a lot of the honey- but not all. Afterwards we had to wash out the remainder by soaking the frames in warm water.

Alternatively bees will eat the honey- but it takes them a long time to eat candied honey from the frames. I did this once placing the frames near an active hive inside a box with a lid on and access for the bees. It took them maybe ten days or more to eat all the honey. There is a real risk of setting of robbing- or causing other issues doing this and I am not entirely sure it is worth it- vis-a-vis- the risk to benefit ratio.

Whatever you end up doing- be sure to clean out all the honey as if you leave any crystallized honey in frames- it will possibly act as a ‘seed’ and set of a chain reaction causing later honey deposited in those cells to crystallize rapidly too… This happened to my mothers hive last season- there was some candying coming out of winter- and later there was candying during autumn- which normally doesn’t occur. Crystal seeds that survived harvests in spring caused the honey to candy later in the season. (at least that’s what we think is most likely)

This issue is one of the main reasons we have taken to removing our flow supers over winter- the risk of candying honey is too great.

Any time the bees are not working the super much for long periods- or during cold weather- or when collecting things like canola- the risk of candying is there. And it is annoying! The moral of the story is:

  1. only put the supers on when the bees are very active and actively use it - if they ignore it for long periods- take it off. Even if this means harvesting partially filled frames that are uncapped- do it. If you leave that honey for long periods it can candy. You can freeze it and feed it back to bees if it is unripe. Better to cut your losses at this point.

  2. harvest as soon as frames are ready. Do not leave honey sitting for long periods if you can help it. This is especially important if they are foraging on anything that is known to candy fast- like canola/rapeseed.

  3. if it happens anyway- be sure to remove all the crystals by thoroughly soaking the frames in warm water- then air dry them.

  4. consider insulating your roof if you live in a climate with cold weather.

Thanks to those who replied thus far. Obviously pulling a frame will be the likely outcome. From everything I can see externally the frames look just as they always do and there is obviously a fair amount of leakage given what I can drain from the channels.

What are the characteristics of jelly bush honey? Can this just happen? Hive has been established since 2015 and has been a dream until the last six or so months. Located just outside Sydney by the way.

Jelly Bush (Leptospermum polygalifolium) is a type of native teatree/myrtle and similar to the famed ‘manuka’ from NZ. It’s called ‘jelly bush’ because it causes honey to turn to a jelly like consistency in the comb, and it used to be the bane of beekeepers. Now people have an interest in it’s medicinal qualities.

Jelly Bush is seasonal and might be intermittent as to how much is about. Like the name implies, it is like jelly in that is certainly isn’t runny. If it is stirred it will be more a thick liquid rather than as consistent as automotive grease.
You are right in that the only way to know is to pull a frame and look.

Ok contributors we got in this afternoon. All frames were full and on uncapping the honey certainly doesn’t run out. There was little sign of crystallisation though, cells were clear and golden.

What we did find is a rapid honeycombing of the roof space, assuming this was lack of storage in the supers. This was removed/fell out due to weight and movement. This honey seems a little more fluid and guessing is likely the most recent. I’ll put pics in the next posts. I also have a video but being new to the forum I can’t upload. Can email if anyone is interested.

So the plan is to pull all the frames next week end and strip clean. Hopefully this won’t annoy the residents too much. Can we take the super off, drop the roof back on whilst we do this? or is it better to go frame by frame and not cause too much rucus?

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Another frame pic!

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Roof Comb!

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Nobody can upload videos directly to the forum, but you can if you are willing to use youtube. Just upload your video there, make sure that you set the viewing allowed to Public. Then click on the Share button at the bottom right below your video and copy the link. Paste that link in a message here, and everyone can see your video! :blush:

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You have some work there for next weekend Chris. How I would tackle that is to remove the super and place it away from the hive, preferable in the kitchen and place a tea towel over the box as much as you can and that will reduce any agro from the bees. The bees will head for the kitchen window and hang about there and you can place a glass over the bees and slide something like an envelope under the bee and holding the envelope in place release the bee outside to return to the hive.
From all the comb in the roof you should be at least checking the super frames for being capped more often, I have frames being refilled and capped in 3 weeks up here, and some are reporting faster than that.
Going by the golden color and if you are in the sandstone belt I’ll punt on it being Jelly Bush honey, I got an email this afternoon from Gosford from a chap with that issue and he is washing out the frames over the next day or two.
Cheers

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Thanks Dawn - here’s the video.

Thank you! I don’t have jelly bush honey experience, but that just looks like really thick normal honey to me.

P.S. If you post the link from that Share menu I mentioned above, and wait for a bit, it will upload an image of your video. :wink:

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Thanks Peter. Shame because it tastes really good but in the absence of being able to spin it out looks like a wash is the way.

I can just drop the rook over the brood box whilst we sort it all out?

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Thanks Dawn. I guessing this is the most recent honey so is probably ok. I think the frames are suffering form the end of last season.

From the roof comb, you could crush and strain it. From the frames, I would be tempted to bring them inside and leave them to drain for a couple of days. May not work, but nothing to lose by doing that.

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That comb is doing just that. Although chunks seem to be going missing! :wink:

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Yes, drop the roof onto the brood box, and laying a tea towel over the super while you are working in it will keep the bees in it a little quieter. I get some Jelly Bush honey up here and it won’t spin out in my electric extractor even after an hour spinning. normal honey needs a couple of minutes. but it is nice honey. In my Langstroth hive I scrape the comb down to the foundation then drain it to get the honey that can take a week to get most of it. The rest I let the bees have a share of it.
Take your time and look at is there is no rush.

Hi Sea_Bees,

I’m sorry to hear your honey is not draining easily. I’ve had a good look at your photos and conferred with a couple of troubleshooting pros here.

We noticed that the comb looks raised in parts and wondered if the cells had been closed properly as it looks as though the bees have built on a slightly open frame. This could cause the sort of wax build up you are seeing, which is otherwise unusual.

If the frames were filled in the open position it would mean a blockage regardless of crystallising as there would be lots of excess wax.

You may find it beneficial to try opening and closing repeatedly to help shift the honey, this can work if it is only partially granulated or if it is a bit wax heavy. It’s going to take a little time for the honey to flow through properly.

Feel free to email us via info@honeyflow.com if you are unable to make progress with shifting the honey as we would be happy to trouble shoot it with you.

Kind regards,
Free