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When is the best time of day to extract honey?

So my flow hive looks like it is starting to fill up this season for the 1st time. Through the viewing door several show 2/3 or more filled but when pulling they are not full from the middle out as I was expecting from reading here and they just do not seem interested in capping it off.
So a couple of questions…

If they do not cap it, how will I know it is ready to be harvested, (short of buying a refractometer and checking if the moisture content is below 18%)?
When it is ready to be harvested, is there is an optimal TIME OF DAY to extract it?
(Right now temps are in the low 80’s Fin the morning to high 90’s F in the afternoon so cold temps are not an issue.).
Morning, noon, evening?

I have read some people’s 1st extraction the flow hives may leak down into the hive…What is happening there and how do I avoid that?


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If the bees are not filling the center of the frames, it could be because the bees are leaving the cells open for the queen to lay in. Or they could be the cells that the bees are feeding from day to day. The best time to check ripeness of the honey in the uncapped cells would be early morning. Give a gentle shake down to see if honey comes out. If no honey comes out & the rest of the frame, say 85% is capped, I’d say it’s ready to harvest. Do this early morning before the bees start adding unripe honey to the empty cells.

Some people harvest flow honey away from the hive so as to avoid honey flooding onto the brood. I would highly recommend that.

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I’m conventional and like to extract at night in the air-conditioning. With my 6 frame extractor, I did 240 lbs in 3 hours.

I suppose with the Flow frames do it during the height of bee activity this way if it leaks many bees are out foraging and bee death is limited.



Hi Nick, I would probably do a ripeness shake test (as per @JeffH 's suggestion) next time you remove the frames to inspect the brood below as part of your regular brood inspection, and then keep a note of fullest and the most capped frame. Wait a day or so and extract just that frame or part of that frame whilst still on the hive and see how you go with it.

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Lets get back to basics, if the cells are not capped the honey is not ripe or the bees are using the honey, I can’t tell you which it is.
Without a refractometer do as Jeff has advised, but a refractometer is a worthwhile bit of kit for a newbie and you will use it into the future.
A Flow Frame is best harvested in the late mornings, most of the bees are out foraging and the honey will flow faster in the warmer temperature.
Only open the cells in stages, put the key in 20% at a time and don’t let the drain tube become full. If you are using a 1" plastic extension tube to drain the honey into a sealed bucket have the tube as short as you can, the longer the tube the slower the honey will flow so more chance of a back up of the honey and flooding and if the buckets has a sealed lid drill a small hole in the lid to release the air as the honey flows in.
I think that answers all your question which you could have found in previous posts as they have all been asked before.

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Just another point Nick, I don’t think this percentage is usually considered full enough from the viewing window for the frames to be ready.

How long have they been 2/3 full from the viewing window and how long have the cells been static with respect to capping?

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Easy Gerry, easy. You will have Dawn all riled up again :grinning:

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So the best time to extract is right after “The Price is Right” but before “General Hospital”!


Dingdingdingdingding you just won – a NEW CAAARR!!!


Hi All,

I harvest mine if n when I get some ! My girls are so selfish n keep move the luscious golden treat back down stair … I cheat once in awhile n run my fingers thru the down stairs capped combs. If they’re not looking I might steal a deep capped wall frame n slide in drawn comb about frame #7 … Man do the get ticked ususlly . Treat me like some big ole brown bear or Winnie the Pooh Bear :bear:!

I’ve still got couple months so can be a toss up n go either way :crazy_face:… To be a bear :bear: or not ! :grinning:. My sweet tooth is going sour fast :dash: :dash::dash::dash:.

Wish me luck :four_leaf_clover:,

Guard Bees are standing by !! :honeybee:
Me, myself n I


I like to harvest during the hottest part of the day so the honey is more viscous.
As others have mentioned open in sections, ensure there is always an air gap at the top of the extraction tube and if it is not on a Flow base, there is a backward sloping angle. If possible use two keys to crack the frame. If draining into a sealed bucket ensure there is somewhere for the air to escape.
I leave the frames on the hive and visually check the cells are capped. (I couldn’t quite trust shaking a 3kg segmented frame.)
As it seems important to stress the occasional flooding issues by some, from my experience I have not had flooding issues in multiple extractions using the above guidelines. and will be doing an extraction off the hive in multiple ways as an experiment, just looking for the GoPro to charge. :wink:
Good luck.


Thanks for the information and suggestions.
The flow frame in the e viewing window has appeared almost full but uncapped for a couple of weeks. I pulled one out of the middle the other day and it was mostly full but almost no capping either.
I have heard of the shake method but I am not willing to try that out of concern of the frame coming apart.
I started looking at refractor on Amazon. I see $80 and $20 versions that at look basically identical. Is there really a big quality or accuracy difference in these things?

Do bees ever just decide not to cap honey? I mean if their intent is to eat the current store before winter, why work to cap it. I have a mix of capped and uncapped honey in the top and bottom brood boxes as well and a large percentage of that is mostly uncapped too. Actually most all of the frames 9 in one and 10 in the other, are filled with uncapped honey and very little brood.

They seem to sometimes not cap it even though it can be ripe. It is tricky subject in a sense because there is the concern about honey and fermentation. If you are not experienced it is particularly tricky. If you are intending on doing anything other than eating the honey soon or freezing it and eating it yourself promptly after “thawing” , I would definitely get a refractometer to test the honey. My guess is it is ripe if it has been uncapped for a while, but I strongly suggest getting a refractometer. @Dawn_SD posted a link to one that looked fine some time back. I might be able to find the post shortly.


Found it. Must make sure it is one for honey apparently. Just click on that link.


I like to start a harvest around 11 am- and stagger it out over an entire day (cracking the frames around 25% at a time- and leaving for at least 30 minutes to drain before the next 25%)- and I also like to just harvest two frames at a time- and harvest the entire box over maybe a week. If you have the time and access- it’s a good way to go. Although it takes hours the work is absolutely minimal- just set a timer- and do something else between increments). Minimise the chances of disturbance from leaks- and you extract the most honey from the frames. If the honey is very thick you really can let them drain for hours- it just continues to drip, drip, drip. To do this you want to have a bucket with extension tubes so the set up is bee proof and you can walk away. There are photos of that on the forum here and there…

If you came to the end of a season and had a box that that was not fully capped- I would use an escape board to clear the bees- and remove that box and harvest it inside - all frames at once. I place it over a large tray- at a more extreme angle than normal and crack all the frames. You can then put it back on the hive for a week for the bees to clean it up before storing over winter.

as for ripeness to some degree you can see just by looking and/or tasting touching. You can see by how it glistens and moves how thick it is. Fresh nectar looks different (watery) in the cells and it tasted different.

jeffH has a video somewhere of a simple test for ripeness.

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Hi Nick,

I have answered questions similar to this a few times recently. You can do a search in the top right-hand corner of the forum to find existing topics with the answers.



The best way if you don’t have a refractometer is to go by cappings. If it isn’t fully capped, please just spend the $40 on a refractometer - it costs a lot less than a Flow super.

Late morning, but give yourself at least 4 hours to get every last drop.

Open in 20% sections, leave 5-20 minutes between sections and never let the Flow tube get full to the top. Most of the time the problem is an airlock in the Flow tube.

Please have a search through the forum for answers, and if you can’t find anything after a bit of looking, we’ll do our best to help :slight_smile:
Off to find a cocktail recipe for the weekend now. :blush: Hey @busso, got any chilled white? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


My first harvest this spring, had 6 completely full, completely capped flow frames. I also had an extra set of flow frames that I hadn’t added to another hive yet, so I thought it would be a great idea to just swap the full frames for the empty, and therefore harvest in the comfort of my kitchen. Turned out to be a bad idea. The harvest was a cinch, but the consequences to the temperament of my girls was hardly worth it! I’d successfully re-queened all 3 of my hives in March due to the aggressiveness that had been persistently worsening since last year, no doubt as a result of the high incidence of Africanization in this area. The girls had calmed significantly over the next month or so, and the ongoing problems had resolved - until I harvested! My hives are probably 50 yards from the house, and are blocked by a high wall, but for the next week and a half or so it was step-outside-at-your-own-risk! They eventually settled down and went back to their re-queened, docile behavior, but I will never try such a stunt again!


Hey @mykey - sounds like you learned the hard way how the Flow is meant to make things easier at harvest time :upside_down_face: Just curious, is this extra set you mention a completely new one, unused by bees? And what did you do with the frames you emptied? Another advantage you’re missing in your procedure is that the bees will dive right back into the freshly empty cells and start resealing and refilling them. They’ll have to spend some time sealing up all the brand new cells on those other frames before storing any nectar, assuming they’re new.


I hear you about harvesting in the comfy kitchen. Arizona must be HOT this time of year: I wouldn’t want to stand out in the heat for 2-4 hours either.
Did you use smoke? There are some hives and some manipulations where smoke is not needed but I always have it ready. Messing with their honey in a dearth is not a smoke-less operation for me.
I know you need to lift the frames out to verify ripeness and that could make them mad but you could do that the day before and then when they’ve calmed down, go out and turn the Flow key.

Glad you got some honey!

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The frames I used to replace the ones removed had been used last year - I have 3 flow hives, but only one hive was ready for a super at that time. The frames I emptied I was able to place on another hive a couple of weeks later. We’re having early monsoons here and I’m happy to report that when I checked yesterday, both Flow supers were full and ready to harvest - the TRADITIONAL way! The 3rd hive was a split at the beginning spring, and will probably not need a super this year.

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