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  1. #1
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    Oct 2011
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    Smile Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Hi,

    I'm pretty new to this so please excuse the question. We are in late spring here in Australia and have been getting only mild weather (say 20 degrees celcius) for the past week or so. I was away for a few days but on my return yesterday, the bees were going off! There seemed to be a massive que for them to re-enter the hive and could see some had pollen, but quite a lot didn't, I'm thinking there is quite a strong nectar flow happening at the moment.

    They hadn't moved to the top box the last time I looked about a week ago (I was worried this was a queen exluder problem, I'm over that concern now!) They had in the past week drawn one comb fully and filled it with nectar, and have begun drawing out a further 3 - 4 combs at this point. I'm wondering how long it would possibly take for them to finish drawing the comb (10 frames, probably 4 full ones & 4 halfs to go) and fill and cap them?

    I'm also wondering if I should now leave them alone for a couple of weeks and when I do my next inspection, how far do I go? Til now I'd been opening the hive up every week to familiarise myself with the hive but now they are starting to store nectar, I'm thinking it will be more productive if I leave them alone?

    Also, how much would you normally do with the bottom box? Do you just pull out a couple of frames and check them relatively quickly or would you pull all frames, remove brood comb on the bottom of the frames (if you should do this, or should I just leave it there?).

    Any help, suggestions or comments on personal experiences would be greatly appreciated here!

    John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    If you open the hive where you can see the top of the combs, between the top bars, if there is a flow, you will see the cells in that region to have newly elongated call walls, and the wax will all be new and of a very light color. Otherwise, what you describe could simply be what are called orientation flights - in the mid to late afternoon large groups of young bees that are just about to become foragers, will take flight together in order to memorize the location of their hive. This is a rather common occurrence during seasons of honey bee activity.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Thanks Joseph, the comb thats just been drawn by the bees in the top box is pure white, these frames had no comb to start with

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    That's a good sign that a honey flow has begun. Most important now is to ensure there is always plenty of room for the bees to harvest nectar and process it into honey. They can process more nectar into honey if there is sufficient extra area to spread out the nectar in -- that will facilitate the process.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    Port Orange, Florida, USA
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    218

    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    I had a hive draw out 10 frames of deep foundation and fill and cap them all in two weeks during a heavy flow. I would think that you need to check the hive once a week and drop a new super on it when 3/4 of the first super is draw and is full. You need to give the bees enough room so they don't think that they need to swarm. For inspections I would just open the top box and check to see how fast the super is filling up by pulling one or two frames. Maybe check an outside frame and one near the middle of the super. During the flow I try to keep out of the brood box just because it disturbs the hive a lot, later in the season moving the brood frames around can slow down swarming. I don't worry about extra brood comb hanging off the bottom of the frames, it is where you will spot queen cells sometimes. Pulling all the frames in the brood box can hurt or kill the queen, not a good idea, just pull the outside frames and move the rest around for a brood inspection if you need to go that deep into the hive. If you are going into the hive you need to decide what you are looking for before opening the hive up. Are you checking for honey and space in the top box or looking for brood patterns or queen cells in the bottom box. Hope this helps

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    That does help Beeboy, i was thinking of leaving the brood box alone and would prefer to do so now things are happening. Also happy to look at them once a week (top super) and see that they do have the space to store honey.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    My main point was that the bees need twice as much area (or more) to process nectar (greater than 17% water, often as much as 80% water) into honey (equal or less than 17% water). Bottom line; it is easier for the bees to accumulate a super of ripe honey if they continuously have three or more times the area, or three empty supers = a full super of ripe honey sooner than if they have less total area to work in -- more processing area = more total honey harvested and with less work by the bees.

    Consider that during a honey flow, there is virtually an unlimited supply of fresh nectar, which may contain 80% water. So the bees fill all the space they have with fresh nectar/raw honey, but they are restricted from harvesting even more nectar because there is no more room for fresh nectar until what has already been harvested is ripened into honey (reducing its overall volume).

    This lack of nectar processing space is instrumental in forcing the bees to deposit fresh nectar into any cells that may be available (including brood cells), restricting the queen's laying area and inspiring swarming.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Thanks for Clarifying that. So you feel I'm best to put a second super on top straight away in order to maximize the honey harvested? I've not heard of that before but am happy to do so, as I said initially I'm a novice so any suggestions are very welcome!

  9. #9
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    May 2008
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    Port Orange, Florida, USA
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Good point about having extra room, but the bees will draw out and fill only what comb they need during the flow. Extra space in the hive is an advantage for the bees because of air flow and reduced crowding. During a flow the queen kicks into overdrive and will lay lots of eggs and when they hatch the bees will need the extra room. I am in Florida and with Small Hive Beetles I can't stack 3-4 empty supers on a hive without asking for disaster, I need to gently add supers as needed but can't afford to give SHB's any extra room at all.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    For almost two decades now, I've been at the same location here in Tucson, Arizona, U. S. A. and my main honey flow (mesquite), begins about 15 April and ends about the first week of July. It is a virtual Niagara Falls of mesquite nectar -- I have yet to prepare enough supers in order to optimize the quantity of ripe honey this flow can produce. Every year I build more supers, but haven't yet ended a flow with any space left in the supers I've given the bees. Some hives end the season with six or more medium supers full of honey.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Wow, thats incredible! I find this extremely fascinating, would you say just add one more at the moment or should I consider 2 in that case? Sounds like I'm going to need to make a few more boxes and pretty sharply!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Like Beeboy01 said, they can be added only as needed (especially if there are extenuating circumstances that make that necessary), but during a strong flow it will be most advantageous if they never have to wait for the extra space. Depending on how many hives you're working with, you may have the time to keep a close eye on them and add supers accordingly, or maybe not.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  13. #13
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    May 2008
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    I would start with adding two boxes and check in five days to a week to see how heavy the flow is then take it from there. You will always need extra equipment on hand for splits, swarms or just a heavy flow. Six mediums on one hive is impressive, I run shallows for honey with the ocassional deep when I run out of equipment or have a heavy flow.
    Dermottj, if you haven't done it yet get a note book and start writing down everything you learn and observe about bees. Include dates, weather conditions, flowers that are blooming and honey flows. Having a journal that covers your bee yard will become invaluable for you.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    joseph, did you get that many supers of honey from a single deep with an excluder/mid-entrance set up like you posted about some time back?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    From double-medium 8-frame supers for brood nest, then supers on top.

    Yes, from configuration like this -->
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    So, in addition to having 2 supers on top of the brood box, you obviously feel its best to have an entrance for each super as well? Also, whats a drone escape? Just an entrance a the top of the box or something a bit different? Sorry about the 20 questions, for the entrances would a couple of holes drilled into the supers do the same thing?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    i see, double medium eight frame for brood. that's an impressive amount of honey. i tried the mid-entrance over the excluder on a couple of hives. i found that they avoided putting any honey near the mid-entrance, only storing it in the back two thirds of those frames. maybe my entrance was too big, it was a little over a half inch tall, and went all the way across.
    Last edited by squarepeg; 11-27-2011 at 08:00 PM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    Dermottj,

    I don't know if my configuration would be suitable in your area, I've only tested it here in mine, though it might be - I say to try at your own risk.

    I only use 8-frame medium supers and my bottom board is a slatted rack that is screened closed (only entrance down there is for air). The bottom two supers are for the brood nest, the drone escape is a 3/8" diameter hole bored into a corner of the uppermost brood super. Before the flow I only have the two brood supers on, and their entrance is a notch I've cut into the front of the cover or when I slide the cover back about 1/4 - 3/8". Then, when my main honey flow begins, I place a queen excluder on top of the brood supers, add an entrance rim above that, then stack my honey supers. During the flow I slide each additional honey super back slightly to create additional upper entrances. They can be eliminated, if necessary, quickly, just by realigning these supers.

    The hypothesis is that air flow speeds ripening of nectar into honey and helps the bees to suitably regulate the internal hive environment. This configuration has also helped reduce brood nest congestion with unripened honey, leaving the nest open for continued egg laying. I haven't had any swarming since I began using this configuration.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    thanks for the update, just to make sure I've got it! I reckon what I'll do is leave my bottom configuration as it is but sounds like I should add a second honey super at least for now, with it set back a little to create extra air flow? I run 10 frame WSP size (close to halves)

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Nectar Flow has Started, what next???

    That sounds like a very good plan. If the hive is strong and the flow is too, you'll be surprised how quickly they use all the space you give them. Besides the extra ventilation provided by sliding the super back, creating an upper entrance for exhaust air and access to foraging bees. This also helps reduce the bees use of the brood nest to offload incoming nectar.

    Surprisingly or maybe not, there are a great many management strategies/techniques for working bees to maximize honey harvest. The bees are quite tolerant of many of them, successfully harvesting honey despite our worst efforts.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

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