Thick Honey Harvest- 14.5% water content!

I just harvested some regular frames of honey yesterday. I am amazed how thick the honey is- I had to spin the frames hundreds of spins for each side- maybe 400 per side in all. Normal honey only requires about 100 spins… Then the honey flowed SO slowly from the extractor- I have been straining it all night- and it still isn’t done. It moves like molasses.

I just got out my refractometer and tested it- and am very surprised to see the water content is just 14.5%. I had to test twice and check the refractometer with olive oil to be sure what I was seeing was correct. I have had thick honey before around 16% but I think this is the thickest I have ever had. Very glad those hives didn’t have flow frames as I reckon an extraction would have required a few days to be completed.

tastes amazing too!


It’s great that you’re getting honey Jack. There’s a bit of a honey flow up here at the moment. I’m having a cuppa while my steam knife heats up, in readiness to extract 6.5 boxes, at least half before breakfast, after extracting 6 boxes 2 days ago. I’m lucky that it’s coming out freely at the moment. It’ll stiffen up during winter with low humidity.

Edit: - PS. I still have 3 boxes to go, now that I’ve finished breakfast. I have a couple of photos to share of some plastic frames that I put in less than 3 weeks ago after harvesting the honey before scraping most of the comb out. These will now go straight into brood boxes, on account that the worker comb is perfect & I’m not a fan of plastic frames as honey frames.


Do you dislike the idea of plastic frames in super because of plastic taint?

Hi Tim, the plastic frames are more flexible than wood, plus the bottom bar is quite thin, which means if you use the bottom bar as a guide for decapping, you take a lot off, which the bees have to rebuild again.

I realize that I’d get used to decapping without using the bottom bar as a guide. Another issue is the side bar being plastic slips off the nail support I use to hold the frame while I’m decapping.

I have 20 plastic frames in total, which I think will be better used as brood frames.

Ah ha that all makes sense. They are slippery little suckers.

The reason I asked was I couldn’t get hold of wax foundation earlier in the season so I got plastic inserts. I found the honey was tainted from the first couple of extractions. Didn’t know whether it was in my head but my wife agreed.

Bees seem to build out the plastic alright in high honey flows but as soon as things slow down they shy right off the plastic.

“slippery little suckers” is a perfect description. I guess once you get used to them, they’d be ok.

Out of the 20 frames, one is in my back room, unused & unwaxed. I got 19 from the 2 hives I was given a few weeks ago. Some of the frames have areas that the bees hadn’t taken to. I’ll just see if the bees take to them during this honey flow. If not, I’ll have a go at waxing those areas, as well as the one in my back room.

I swapped the 2 frames in the photo for brood frames out of the 2 free colonies yesterday afternoon. It seemed fitting to put them back with those colonies :slight_smile:

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I have a few plastic frames- and I really am not a huge fan. I do find the bees often leave areas untouched- you really need to wax them quite heavily to encourage the bees to use the whole frame. I keep them just as spares for catching swarms in a hurry and similar. once established they are good in brood boxes- but like you I don’t like them for honey frames at all.

@JeffH we’ve been quite lucky this year in Adelaide- a good strong season with a bit of rain here and there but not too much like the East Coast. My friend in Sydney saw all her hives stall over the last few months where it has rained almost constantly for 12 weeks or so. The bees have been eating their own honey. She had a good start to the season but is now packing her hives down for winter. I am hoping for one last harvest here before I pack mine down.

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Well done Jack. I intended on replying, however not until counting the usable cells for worker brood in the frames.
By the time I allowed for the drone cells on the sides & bottom of wood/wax foundation frames, I got 75x40 = 3000 cells per side.
I counted 79x46 = 3634 worker cells per side on a plastic frame.
When you think about it, that’s a 20% increase, assuming that every cell gets used. I had no idea that the difference was that great.

I’m going to look a lot closer at what’s going on with the plastic frames I have, which could see me converting to plastic frames in my brood boxes. Bees are happier drawing them in honey supers, than in brood boxes. Therefore, once they are drawn out in honey supers, it’s just a matter of extracting the honey, before placing them into brood boxes. That way, we’ll know that the bees wont mess up what they have already built.

Edit: PS. After sleeping on it, I realized that I might have been a bit hard on the wax/wood frames, so I recounted. This time I got 76x42 wax/wood & 78x45 plastic frame. That equals 3192 & 3510. That changes the outcome quite considerably, down to a modest, however still respectful 10% more usable cells for raising workers.

You definitely need a good flow on plastic to draw it out. ive never used the full plastic frame although i did buy some drone frames that i will get set up and put in to the lead up to spring.

The plastic inserts i love in the brood. when they are drawn out on black plastic its so easy to see whats going on and also grafting from it makes a whole lot easier.

When you arent on a good flow and started fresh it can be painful to get them drawn out.

Hi John, in relation to the number of cells per frame, it looks like the full plastic frames are way ahead because the top & bottom bar is only 7mm, while the sides are 8mm. I extracted honey out of a few of them today & it looks like they are all fully drawn except for 1. Tomorrow I’ll put them into brood boxes. I’ll have a go at waxing the one that’s not fully drawn. It also has an area of drone comb, so I’ll see what I can do to fix that.