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When to extract

Hi everyone & happy new year
I can’t seem to find information or photos on when I should extract some honey
*. My outside frames I can see they are 90% capped

  • I can’t see the inside without opening the hive
  • it seems pointless opening the hive to check if it’s ready as I thought that the whole point of a flow hive was to extract without disturbing them??? IT DEFEATS THE PURPOSE
    NOW BEFORE YOU ALL GO CRAZY & TELL ME IVE GOT TO OPEN THE HIVE REGULARLY - I know that - I was just hoping today I could take some honey without opening it fully up

If you think that the frames are ready to harvest, why not do it this morning? Happy New Year, by the way, cheers

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That was my plan!!
But how can I be sure it’s time?
We were thinking of just opening 2

Hi Trish, honestly the only way to be sure is to physically inspect the frames. Then to be kind to the bees and to avoid any possible catastrophe, harvest away from the hive. That will eliminate any risk of honey flooding onto the brood which can, on the odd occasion lead to issues with hive beetle catastrophe.

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You know the answer while you get to know how the frames fill and look.

Typically the central frames will be filled and capped before the outer ones. From what you have described without inspecting you could harvest from a central frame. Just open the frame(s) in small increments to minimise the potential problems Jeff alluded too. Something like 1/5 to a 1/4 until the honey has almost stopped before opening the next increment until the frame has been fully opened.

Enjoy your honey.


Hello Trish, your here on the Sunshine Coast too. The fact is that you can’t tell what %'age of a frame is capped without doing a visual check by removing the frame to look at both sides. I have had frames that have been 90% capped on one side and the other side full of nectar which of course is not capped and so not ready for extracting.
I look at a Flow Hive as just an alternative to using a spinner to extract the honey, it is not an alternative to inspecting the frame to know if it is ready to extract and if you look at the Flow Hive videos they say the same thing. Flow Hive’s attitude to checking the frame first before extracting has changed over time, it needed to as it was misleading and lead to the spoiling of a lot oh honey that wasn’t ripe enough to extract…
There is no need to ‘open up the hive fully’, just remove the frame you want to extract so you know both sides average 80% capped or better. The alternative is extracting nectar that will ferment and be wasted.


While I agree with you to some degree Adam I have also found that some of my hives leave an ark in the center frames of the super for the queen to lay in as an extension of the brood box, it seems to happen more in a really big colony. It is frustrating that the bees don’t figure out the queen will never get past a QX to lay eggs in the super as there is so much wasted space and my best tip in this situation is to fill in the center frame spaces with stickies after extracting and fit the drier stickies to the outside of the box.
Cheers Adam

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Thanks Jeff BUT it’s a flow hive I thought you left it on top and turned the taps?
We have had conventional hives before and never had a problem and just spun the honey out

Hi Trish,
The main point of difference as you know is how the honey is removed from the frames. In the past I have left the frames in the hive an extracted the honey straight into containers. It’s amazing how different the honey can be from different frames. This has taken up to half an hour with each frame some times and there is always the possibility of spilling some honey in the hive. I now take the frames of the hive and extract them inside where I can leave the frames in peace. I replace the full frames with empty ones. I have found this to work much better and there is less mess, both in the hive and in the house.
The other benefit is I don’t have to buy/borrow a spinner and then need to clean up everything.
Even so, I still look at the frames before removing them from the hive.


You are right Trish, but you wouldn’t have spun out a frame of honey that wasn’t ripe so you saw the frame as capped honey. The same applies to a Flow Frame, the only way to know it is ripe to extract is by visually looking. Ok, it is not as originally claimed by Flow but any good Flow Hive bee keeper will tell you to ‘play it safe’ and check the frame before extracting it. I have learnt the hard way by not taking the time to check.

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Hi Trish, what you’re asking is “old school flow”. There are issues with flow frames that the flow people either kept quiet about or didn’t experience themselves during the 10 years of development.

Did you watch “The Big Aussie Bee Challenge” on the ABC last year? Someone had a flow hive, however the organizer wouldn’t harvest the honey on the hive, for the bees sake, from memory.

Harvesting the honey away from the hive completely eliminates any possibility of honey spilling onto the brood. It also shows what %age is capped. You also get a visual in case of any brood in the frames, which does happen. Workers can lay the odd egg in flow frames, as well as the queen can finish up above the QX. That can also happen with the use of the dodgy plastic QX’s. It also happens with the use of wire QX’s.

Then there is also the risk of squashing bees during harvest which can lead to beetle problems.

I have a theory that wet caps are more prone to flooding than dry caps. We never know without inspecting the frames what % is wet or dry.

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Jeff I thought that was because the flow frames weren’t fully capped, but they wanted some honey for the show result?

Yes there can be some issues with opening flow frames on the hive. My experience, and many others, is that they aren’t all that common and can be minimised during the first couple of harvests.


Hi Adam, you could be right about that in relation to the tv show.

I don’t think you have hive beetles in Bunbury. A lot of the issues here in S.E. Qld. finish up with hive beetle disasters. I can only talk from personal observations & experiences. That has led to my belief that anyone in hive beetle areas are playing Russian Roulette with their bees if they harvest flow frames on the hives without checking first.


My question is how about the other frames? In my experience the outside frames get filled and capped last. Therefore if this is your first season with the flow frame, it’s possible that your centre frames are ready.

Not withstanding the other comments above. Maybe it’s worth investing in a refractometer for retrospective conformation of the ripeness of the honey.

Cedar has videos showing what a potentially fully capped frame theoretically should look like from the end view. But nothing beats checking.


What Adam has said I support. Key in a bit… turn, wait for flow to stop (I just leave and go away for hour or so) key in a bit further… turn wait for honey to stop, key in further… turn. I have no spillage into the hive. The Flow is made to do the extraction on the hive not elsewhere.

When my outside frames are over 90% (the only ones I usually physically check and replace) and the middles capped as much as I can see I go ahead and do the lot in situe.

The first year I took every frame out, checking all the time and only when I physically saw all capped I extracted. In subsequent years I have found this to be a waste of time and effort . This year I only looked at the outside frame without the window and relied on vision from the windows and this was was fine with ripe honey under 17% when I extracted. I do check water content with a refractometer .

My future extractions will be based only on the assessment of capping through the windows. I am confident now I can see enough to decide if there is sufficient capping without pulling frames out.
As I do now, I check ripeness twice during extraction and would keep separate any frame not ripe (have not had to do this yet).
I do the key turn 3-4 times, going further into the frame each time to minimise any spill and I have not had since the first extraction and that was only minor.
What I do will draw a lot of criticism I’m sure but it works for me.

AuBeez my advice maybe contrary to others but if the frames look full and look capped at the back window and the outside frames are 90+% capped… extract. If you wish, or unsure check the ripeness of each frame with a refractometer (they are cheap and easy to use…just make sure you get one for honey)

And its not all doom and gloom if you get a frame which is say 21% water. I extract all the honey in the Flowsuper in early April and take the Flowsuper off for Winter. The honey is generally unripe but I pasteurise it ( do a search for how) and use it just fine. I don’t give it away or sell it though.
This is the time you can inspect every frame with out bees or honey for any problems…


Hi Busso, I have found queens above QXs on dozens of occasions & I’m sure that I’m not alone there. How do we know we have a queen above the excluder? First of all it looks impressive upon removing the roof. You think “beauty, this honey super is full”, going by the amount of activity at the top of the frames. Generally your jaw drops upon the inspection of the first frame which reveals brood. Brood in the honey frames because the queen finds a way up.

The only way any of us will know if the queen is up there is by inspecting the frames. Generally the outside frames will still be full of honey, so that wont tell us. We might be lucky to spot brood through the viewing rear panels, however I wouldn’t count on that.


Hi Jeff I always have respect for your calls.
I haven’t found a queen above the QX yet. But I guess I have only have 2 hives, one hive just a bit over 4 years and my other hive coming up for 18 months so that may be ahead of me. I have double broods on the first hive (and will get the 2nd double brooded in March) which probably helps.
I think to what is the worst that can happen:

  1. the queen get stuck up there and can’t get down…A strong hive will make a new one.
  2. brood cells get extracted…you will get eggs or brood in the honey. Strain them out. You would have this problem with a traditional Lang anyway.
  3. Any drone hatched would not find a way out and die. … This will spur me to put an entrance /exit above the QE. I have been ummimg and ahhing on this for a while. Guilt is setting in on this one.

Still, I believe you would have to be unlucky for the queen to be above the QX and most times I read about queens laying in the super is because the QX is damaged or not put on when the super goes on.

So with an entrance above the QX, I see no change in me assessing the capping through the windows and extracting frames on the hive, when I have deemed them capped. Looking at the Flow videos I believe the inventors had this in mind as well.


@AusBeez what did you decide to do?



We did just the one frame
We got just on 2kg
Yep it leaked into the brood!
Better luck next time!
But delicious honey!

It is FULLY CAPPED at each end. For some reason the last row is empty

We probably found 2 tablespoons of honey maximum