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Winter harvest with a little hiccup, Adelaide

With the nice weather today I thought I would drain one of the middle frames. A few weeks ago an inspection showed it was mostly capped but the end by the viewing window was being left to last. Still not finished off this week but today I noticed there was nectar/honey behind the drain cap so being worried something wasn’t quite right, I thought I’d just go for it and harvest, then make sure the cells were aligned and closed properly. I’ve since read more on here about tightening wires etc, so I think we will have some decent weather next week so I might see if I can fix it. I still don’t know whether to just drain the whole thing for winter.
The honey flavour was way beyond my expectation, amazing, and tasting like the Ironbark nectar from local street trees which were blooming a few weeks ago. (The kids sometimes pick them and lick the nectar from the gumnuts). It was tangy and resinous and floral. Mmmmm suddenly it all seems worth it!
The first pic is what drained out before I had cracked the frames.
The honey was flowing quite slow, only about 15C today so I guess it’s a factor. No records broken, but a fairly decent 2.6kg from the frame in over an hour. I wasn’t sure when to recap as it was still trickling very slowly but decided the bees could handle what was left.
You could see the bees removing caps within a few minutes of cracking the frame. All the family had a taste and were impressed with the flavour :smile:.

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Awesome! What was your hiccup though? Sounds perfect to me.

It was just my initial panic at the honey dripping out before I even cracked the frame. Apart from that, it went smoothly if slowly. Just a few busy body bees. Mine do seem to checkout the back regularly when I am there so I always wear a hat with veil even if I am just checking the windows out.
I do wonder if I should have just let it keep dripping for another hour. Maybe I might have made the 3kg mark? Maybe not… but I did read this evening where someone took a couple of hours to drain a frame in winter. I might set it up and walk away for a while next frame.

As long as the little gap is open where the lip of your extraction tube goes, the bees will eat up the slow dripping remnants of the frame. Not a drop will be lost.
I don’t think it’s worth it to wait for the last 50ml. The bees are keen for you to reset your frame and get at uncapping and cleaning up.
The reason why your bees are interested in what you are doing back there may be that they smell the honey while you may be in a bit of a dearth down south and they can’t find a lot of nectar around.

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I try to leave my frames open for at least 2 hours, and up to 4 hours if I possibly can, even in the summer. The reason is yes, you get only another 200-500g of honey, but when I tested it with a refractometer, the last honey out often has a much lower water content (~16% in my case) compared with the honey from the beginning of the harvest (17-18%). It is worth have the last bit to take the overall water content down, and I just have the irrational feeling that the last bit is the best quality. :blush:

Sounds like you did a great job though. One other thing to consider on cooler days. If you start draining at 11am to noon, you will be draining most of the frame during the warmest part of the day. That helps with the flow rate. Just a thought. :wink:

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Thanks Dawn, I did wait until after lunch and it was lovely sitting watching with the sun on my back. I just needed to take out a comfortable chair along with my kindle :smile: then I would have been more patient.

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Hi Dawn. I believe you are correct in this. The honey part with the lower water content would take longer to reach the tube. I definitely observed that the last honey drips out thicker and shows the most satisfying (to me) coil up in the recipient container.

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2.6 KG is a fairly typical amount we see from our adelaide hives. In spring when the flow is strong we can get more (I htink the most is about 3.2?)- but the bees tend to cap the frames lower in the cell when things move slowly over the season. Sometime we only get 2kg from a full capped frame. I am about to help my mum harvest her flow hive in sempahore before we remove the box for winter, slightly worried some honey might have candied in the frames- we will see.

Do you plan to remove your box for winter? If you have harvested it- I would definately remove it- as when they are empty the bees abandon them over winter and they can get damp.

one last thing: if you get some clear tubing and bucket with holes in the lid- when you harvest you can leave it dripping all day if you like, to get every last drop from your frames. Sometimes when the honey is very think or it is very cold- you rally need hours for the extraction.

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Thanks Jack, good to get a local perspective, I tried searching for expected harvest per frame and everywhere says about 3kg, not what to expect on the lower end, so I wondered if it was running short and because of the empty cells on the window end. The bees are bringing in lots of what looks like very pale coloured pollen at the moment. I might wait until next week to drain the other frames, should be some fine weather later in the week. I saw your post on mould/mildew in the frames and I don’t fancy that so I might take it off then. I’ll need to research how to get the bees to abandon the super once it’s off! Just leave it aside for a day or so?
I’ll also keep an ear out for when to get it back on. I’m really looking forward to Spring now :blush:

Helen, here is my setup for draining flow frames

you have to ensure the holes in the. Bucket lid are tight on the tubes as the bees try to pinch the honey!

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Hello there Helen,
I’ve seen a lot of pollen action over the last three weeks- the pale yellow, bright orange, even some very rich looking dark red. Love watching it go in! In the months before that there was little pollen to be seen…

When we remove our flow supers we just take out one frame at a time and shake all the bees down into the brood box placcing them to the side. I use a brush to gently coax stragglers of.

If we can we put in an escape board a few days earlier to remove a good amount of the bees. If it’s cold there might not be large number of bees up there to begin with.

Like you we are thinking to closing ours down in a week or two- hoping for a last little splutter of sun.

Also a canadian beekeeper on this forum showed some pics of supers placed on their sides awaw from the hive- he said the bees cluster on the box super returning to the hives after a few hours when they sense queenlesness. Havn’t tried it but it looks like a neat simple metho, though not if robbing is a possibility maybe?

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Helen, two bee keepers, two different thoughts. I leave my super on, always have so I can not advise if better to take off. All I know is that the bees are fine come spring and the frames are in good nick ( clean). My bees do not / have not swarmed in spring so I am most probably more lucky than some. Not sure if it is that they have the room in the super
Cheers

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Thanks for another opinion Jeff. I’m in the middle of making a quilt box as I already have a problem with moisture running down into the bottom tray (Flow 2) and moulding the dropped pollen etc. I also put diatomaceous earth in the tray to stop the wax moths and grubs breeding in there. That has worked well, however the other day I was able to tip out water from the tray, probably 1/4 cup, besides the DE being soaked in the front 2 sections. The back 2 sections are bone dry. I am hoping that the quilt blanket will improve ventilation and moisture control. I guess that’s why I’m worried about frames moulding too.
I’m about to staple aluminium fly wire inside the shallow box I screwed together. I have 2 holes drilled either side, probably too close together :roll_eyes:Then I have to try and source wood shavings from somewhere or go buy some wood chips? I wondered if torn cardboard shreds would suffice? I have plenty of cardboard around. I was going to line the mesh with an old tea towel cloth first. I also wondered if just hession layered would do the same job? I have old coffee sacks…