Winterizing with partially filled flow frames- Swartz Creek, MI USA

Package Italians installed this spring. Swarmed 7/4 a few weeks after placing the flow frames as their 3rd deep box. The bees left have recovered and are doing fine but won’t be filling the flow frames before fall. Probably 50-75% filled and not capped. I live in MI with cold winters. My options as I see them:

  1. Do nothing. As far as I can see no one recommends overwintering flow frames.
  2. Drain the flow frames and feed the nectar back to them at some point.
  3. Nadir the flow frames and hope they clean it out.
  4. Take the box, save the box in my barn for the winter and give it back in the spring as is.


How full are the brood boxes right now with food? If not very, do option 2 or 3 on your list. I would do 2 because I don’t like heavy lifting, but 3 may be less work, although more risk of propolis.

If the brood boxes are packed, I would drain the Flow frames and store the honey. If ripe, use it myself. If not feed it back over winter, keeping it in the freezer until about 48 hours before feeding, so that it doesn’t ferment. Meanwhile freeze the Flow frames for at least 48 hours, then store over winter somewhere dark and cool, protected from insects and vermin.


What does fermented honey look like and or do? I keep hearing about it but really have no knowledge about it. I have taken precautions about honey being capped so it doesn’t ferment though.

It generally doesn’t look any different. It can make the jar look different though. Plastic jars may distort from expansion, and depending on the lid type for glass jars, they can pop up in the middle. It also smells slightly boozy, like a yeast ferment. Not really yeasty, but it just doesn’t smell fresh any more.

So another option I can think of is to wait a few more weeks later and see if they end up capping the honey? This is my third season with flow frames and I’ve never harvested past mid August but maybe others do? Their bottom 2 deep boxes are full with mix of brood pollen and honey.

They probably won’t cap the frames at this time in the nectar flow season. The reason is that bees seem to operate largely on a LIFO (Last In First Out) principle for energy efficiency. In other words, if they think they might need some honey stores soon, they don’t waste energy on capping it.

At this time of year, there isn’t much nectar coming in, unless you have some unusual local forage. So, they probably will not cap it, and would intend to use it first if you don’t you harvest it. I would take the Flow super off and get started with mite treatments, if you intend to treat. :blush:

As @Dawn_SD said it doesn’t look much different ,slightly cloudy maybe, but it does stink. Dawn says smells lightly I say stink.

April 2017 I drained all the honey (super was about 20%full) and took the Flow super off. Testing, put the honey around 22%water so I used it to sweeten stewed, fruit and rhubarb. There was jar left which was to be used later. Last month I saw it in the cupboard opened the lid and it stank. Was not crystallized certainly not edible and discarded.

You will certainly know if honey has fermented.


How about harvest honey in flow hive and make Mead with it. Honey water and Champaign yeast. It doesn’t matter the moisture content.


Hi Dawn!
How do you recommend feeding honey back to bees so they don’t drown? We have an internal frame feeder that we use to feed sugar water in winter. Could that be filled with uncapped honey that was drained from the flow frames?
Thank you!

I use a pail feeder, but a frame feeder would be fine. My only caveat is that you should only give honey back to a hive that is yours, or that you took it from in the first place. In other words, no supermarket honey should be fed to our nice bee colonies. :wink:

Of course, never grocery store honey! :slight_smile: I’ll look at a pail feeder to see how that works.
Thank you.

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These are the ones I use. I don’t know why the review score is so low, they work well for me, but I bought them 3 years ago. :blush:

They might end up capping the honey. I extracted mine and pasteurized it and my husband is slurping it up. I winterized about 2 weeks earlier than last year because I want to give a final pre winter varroa treatment. My bees had 6 deep frames of honey stored (In the upper brood box as I have 2 8 frame brood boxes) so I think if I keep feeding them they are going to make it. Tell us what you did? :smiley:

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i ended up extracting, kept most of it, but the frames that were not as full I froze and actually i’m giving it back to them now.

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