Know when to take honey from your hive

August 11, 2018

Know when to take honey from your hive

Our early-August video explains steps to take in determining when to take honey from the hive. By late July-early August, the bees have been working to put honey above the main hive for the last six weeks, so this is a good time to check and see where the bees are at with honey production. Some folks using different management approaches may have taken honey off already, and that’s just fine.

Using the hives we have been following with our videos since spring (2018), this is the time to take a look at the two small nucs with the new queens that the bees have bred, as well as the hybrid auto extract box and its frames. 

Inspecting the nucs

The bees have been working the two small nucs now for a month or so since we installed them. We will find and mark each of the two queens, and check the level of activity in the nuc. We don’t want the nuc to be too heavy with bees prior to fall or we will have a swarm and lose the nuc. It’s a balancing act - we need the nuc to be need strong enough to survive winter, but not so strong that there’s a swarm. These nucs will remain on top of the main hive after we take honey off the super, and overwinter on top of the main production two-box hive.

You should see bees working on all sides of the nucs’ frames. It is a good sign if the bees are not boiling out when you open the lid. You will see some open frames that the bees are beginning to fill with honey, plus enough open comb to keep them busy until fall.

You should see capped brood which shows the queen has been laying. The queen is very productive through the fall, filling up the nuc with bees, but next spring is when she will be most productive. These nucs winter so well because we are putting one cluster into the winter, which generates warmth, plus the two queens. The most valuable thing in spring is to have live bees and two queens - it makes for a very significant insurance program, as well as a revenue stream if you wish to sell a nuc to Hiveworld.ca or others.

Inspecting the hybrid auto flow frames

The honey production box has the six deep starter frames, plus three auto extract frames in the centre. If you have a look through the window at the back of the box, you may see the bees have begun to deposit honey on the outermost part of the deep frame - which is good news. When you see this in your hive, it is time to extract from your frames. If the bees have brought honey all the way out to this point, we can be guaranteed that when you pull the frame out, most of it will be capped honey. If three quarters of the deep frame is capped, it is time to remove the honey.

When removing frames, you may see the bees have built comb between frames as a brace. You can tease this out and set aside. The bees will clean it up and recycle the honey back into the comb.

Frames that are close to “done” should be replaced toward the outside of the box. The flow frames do not need to be taken out of the box, of course. The key is to ensure all of the honey on the comb has been capped, across three quarters of the frame, before considering extraction.

Just to recap the steps:

  1. Remove vent box, and inner cover, see how things look before lifting any frames out.
  2. Smoke the bees carefully, lift out frames one by one to check condition and readiness for honey extraction.
  3. Because the honey dehydrates at this time of year quicker than bees can cap it, you don’t have to wait until the whole frame is capped before honey extraction. Low moisture content reduces risk of fermentation. Three quarters capped is sufficient.
  4. Frames at the centre are likely to be more built out. When replacing them in the box, put them nearer to the sides of the box to encourage bees to finish off the centre frames more completely.
  5. After taking out three frames, smoke the bees so they don’t get anxious. Check the auto flow frames, but there's no need to remove them.
  6. If you have a seven-frame flow hive, you can open the window panel on the side, and if comb is built out to where the windows are and is capped over, you can be guaranteed that the centre is capped over. This is because the bees build from the centre outward. In an auto extract hive, when you can see honey at the back it means the bees will have honey in the centre that’s capped over.
  7. It is best to refrain from disturbing the two main brood boxes at the base of your hive at this point.

Stay tuned for our next video, when we extract the honey and prepare the hive for winter.

I hope this information is useful to you, and welcome any comments or questions you may have. You will also find more information and all the equipment you need at Hiveworld.ca. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels for all the latest news and tips.  

We're an Alberta-based supplier of everything required for successful beekeeping on the prairies in Western Canada. Whether you are a beginning hobbyist, interested in supplementing your business revenue, or a commercial operator, we've got the bees, the supplies, and the knowledge.

We put education first - you need to know how a bee colony works to enjoy any level of success. We will answer your questions, show you how things are done, and later in 2018 will offer a variety of courses and hands-on demonstrations to make your beekeeping as rewarding as it is fascinating.

 




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