Fall harvest

If you remember the last time I went into the hives, I separated the two honey supers from the 2 deeps on Demeter hoping they would move that honey down. It was uncapped. They were supposed to move the uncapped honey down into the deeps. Do you think they did that? No. They went through the empty deep, through the solid inner cover and evaporated the nectar and then capped the cells. This was not supposed to happen. Don’t they know that this is the technique recommended by other beekeepers to move honey out of a super? Didn’t anyone TELL them?

I was hoping to harvest some capped frames thinking that the fall flow would be strong enough for them to build on. Hmmmm, not so apparently. From super #1 I managed to find 6 frames that had a few sporadically capped cells. They all looked like some version of this:

Sporadically capped honey cells. The remainder of the cells were completely empty.

The remainder 4 frames had a little nectar in them so I left them out to be robbed.

In super #2 the frames were uncapped and I left them on the hive.

After that disappointing finding I went through the top deep and found some pollen and some nectar, not a huge amount. Not nearly as much as I expected. So I went down to the bottom deep (this is only the second time I’ve been down to the bottom deep this summer because the bees have been too peeved on previous inspections). One frame of pollen, some of honey and then an empty frame, another empty one and another one. More than half the frames were empty.
On a good note, I spotted eggs, larvae and the queen! Queen Penelope from 2011. Fantastic.

I initially planned to harvest that little bit of honey in those capped cells from super #1. But I’ve been thinking about it and realized that after the spring flow (I only harvested 8 frames I think), all the stores in the brood chambers and whatever they managed to collect during the summer, that was all eaten by them. So the little bit of honey they had in there now I couldn’t possibly harvest. Not only would it be a paltry amount, but I’d be destroying their hard-built comb for pretty much no honey. Come spring, they would have to eat 10lbs of honey to make one pound of wax, starting all over essentially. Ten pounds of honey is almost 4 capped medium frames of honey. That’s ten bottles. That’s $100 in honey! So after thinking about it, I decided to leave the frames as they are. When the spring rolls around, I’ll add those frames in a honey super and they’ll finish filling them up and then I can harvest the spring flow.

So this begs the question: where did the honey go? I harvested minimally, there was easily another super of honey and stores in the deeps from what I remember. So during the summer, when there wasn’t much blooming (compared to the spring bloom), they must have been eating the stores, packing away a little (or maybe even more and just using it).

Well, what could I have done differently? Was it building out the foundationless frames that used so much of their stores? Was it a dearth? You know what I think? I think I should have fed them for a bit. I could have helped them build up their stores during July; I would stop feeding them, add the 2 supers and this would have allowed them to fill them with the fall flow and I could have harvested one and left the other for the bees.

So what I don’t know is whether this is normal. I was just talking to someone and they said their bees were packing the honey away as well, but when they checked the hives, they needed to be fed. Maybe feeding in the summer is called for. That way the bees can harvest the fall flow and use honey over the winter rather than sugar syrup.

I volunteered at the beekeeper’s table during a local festival and all you hear is how much honey was harvested. I didn’t get nearly the numbers the other beekeepers are quoting. Are they over harvesting? Taking pretty much everything and then feeding the hives?

So what does this mean for my plan to not feed them? Is that even possible? Maybe all they’ll need is a little boost during the summer every year? I don’t know. But I’ll be curious to find out.

By the way, Queen Vivienne is no more. Melissa replaced her! I tried to mark the new queen but she was too quick for me! I’ve had enough. If this hive doesn’t do well, I’m going to split the purple one next spring. I would like to have 3 hives I think. I think.

Here are the new rapid feeders I just got from Walter T. Kelley. I’m so tired of the jars. What I really like is that they have LIDS!

Two feeders, one per hive, they are shown next to a gallon container for scale.
The middle of the feeder protrudes slightly, I think to fit over the hole in the inner cover but it is not a perfect fit.
Literally within SECONDS of setting it up, they were in there. You leave the clear plastic cap on as you fill it, otherwise the cap just teeters around and doesn’t sit fast against the bottom. The center has grips for the bees.
I love that the lid covers the syrup to keep bees out (I wish hive top feeders had this!) and it lessens the distribution of the syrup scent and the interest of wasps and hornets. I put an extra hive body over it.


  1. “I could have helped them build up their stores during July; this would have allowed them to fill the two supers and I could have harvested one and left the other for the bees.”

    This would probably have helped them but you wouldn’t want to harvest sugar syrup ‘honey’ for yourself. I’ve been feeding most of the year but only because the weather’s been so bad in the UK that there were often weeks when they were unable to leave the hive. They didn’t get as far as filling even one super!

    I think how much honey you get depends a lot on where your hives are situated – the more beekeepers around you, the less honey you’re likely to get. Also a sunny spot helps the bees get going in the morning.

    • No I wouldn’t have harvested sugar syrup. Since they partially filled the 2 supers with fall flow, if I had fed them in July and into August, then stopped feeding and gave them the supers to fill, it’s very likely they would have filled and capped those two supers with the fall flow. They ate through their stores and whatever they gathered which kept them from filling the supers. I’ll try next year.
      I’ve seen your awful weather this year Emily, I felt so bad for you. Whenever it was sunny here, it inevitably was raining there. I hope next season is better.

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