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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Montgomery County, Texas
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    13

    Default Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    I have two supers that I pulled off my hive this past weekend. They were on this late in the year because the honey wasn't capped enough to harvest. However, the hive beetles were rapidly increasing and I had a feral hive attempt to rob from my hive. I had to reduce the volume in my hive to help my bees defend their turf. (note: I also reduced the entrance and added a robbing screen. I learned about this last year when my hive died due to robbing.)

    My frames range from 0% capped to 30% capped. Does anyone have any advice for what I can do with this honey (nectar)? Here are some options I came up with.
    1) Harvest as usual and keep the honey refrigerated so it won't spoil.
    2) Put the frames in my convection oven and set to about 100F to remove moisture so that I can harvest fully cured honey.
    3) Harvest the honey and try to dehydrate what I have in the convection oven set on 100F.
    4) Freeze it to feed the bees next year (I don't like this option since I haven't had a honey harvest in 18 months!).

    A second question is does anyone know why none of this honey has been fully capped yet? I added the first super in June, and this is my first harvest of the year. I started this hive from a package of bees using fully drawn comb from last year.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    9,018

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    I can't answer the second question but my first thought is to put it right back on the hive in the order you found them. 0 to 30 percent capped is a problem and if the rest is nectar then it is only going to spoil. If it is honey then maybe the robbers uncapped it for you. That sounds like the hive can't defend itself. If that is the case the hive probably won't make it.

    Sorry.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    5,685

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    > does anyone know why none of this honey has been fully capped yet?

    Bees generally cap honey cells when they feel the nectar has been evaporated to the appropriate moisture level (roughly 18% water). One could assume that uncapped honey still has a high moisture content.

    Some posts report a level of success drying honey with a heater & dehumidifier combination in a small room. You may be interested in this dehumidifier thread from July: http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ier#post979685
    -- Victor Hugo -- "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    9,018

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    > [COLOR=#333333]Some posts report a level of success drying honey with a heater & dehumidifier combination in a small room.
    The problem I foresee is nectar is not honey and never will be if dried down to 18%.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    26,200

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Take a frame out of the super, right out in the bee yard, and holding the end bars in each hand and w/ the top bar facing you, shake the frame downwards to see if you can throw any of the contents out of the comb. If your boots are wet, it ain't ready to harvest. If they aren't, harvest it. It'll be alright.

    If you can get your hands on a refractometer you could check the moisture content.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  6. #6
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    The problem I foresee is nectar is not honey and never will be if dried down to 18%.
    OK, Ace, perhaps you could explain to us what it is that transforms nectar already placed in the comb cells into honey other than than dehydration.

    Certainly, there are enzymes that bees add to nectar as part of the conversion to honey, but that process occurs before the nectar is placed in the comb.
    -- Victor Hugo -- "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Right on, Rader. If it is in the comb it is honey. It might be high moisture honey, but it is still honey.

    Bees collect nectar and they add enzymes to that nectar when they expell it from their honey stomach to another bee and into the honeycomb cells.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    but that process occurs before the nectar is placed in the comb.
    You better check on that.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
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    Nov 2011
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    You better check on that.
    Yeah, I checked on it with Mark B. See post #7.





    Those of you interested in an explanation of the process of conversion of nectar into honey may find this page from North Carolina State University useful:
    http://web.ncsu.edu/abstract/science...es-make-honey/

    The link is not a scientific paper, but does credit Dave Tarpy, a noted bee researcher, for his contribution to the nectar/honey conversion explanation.

    Pay attention, Ace, there will be a pop quiz in the future!


    .
    Last edited by Rader Sidetrack; 10-23-2013 at 10:06 AM. Reason: add link, fix spelling
    -- Victor Hugo -- "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Montgomery County, Texas
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    13

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Thanks to all for your advice. I particularly appreciate some of the more practical inputs. I'll see if I can keep my boots dry when shaking the frames. I also have access to a refractometer through my bee club, so I can double check the quality of what I have.

    I thought about putting the frames back on my hive, but I don't think my bees are up to the task of drying this honey while protecting the hive. Their numbers are way down. I suspect this is because they are reducing their numbers in preparation for winter. After all, they will be starting to ramp up their numbers again in two or three months here in southeast Texas. I am also nervous about straining my bees too much right now because the final straw in the demise of my hive last year was when it was robbed from a feral hive. It was heartbreaking to see that many of my girls had died from starvation after the robbing had ceased.

    Here's what I think I'm going to do:
    1) Dehydrate what I have as well as I can. I actually own a dehumidifier!
    2) Harvest what I have in multiple small batches based on how wet my honey appears to be.
    3) Then I'll test each batch with a refractometer to see if I can keep it or not.

  11. #11
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    > Then I'll test each batch with a refractometer to see if I can keep it or not.

    If you choose not to use it for human food, you can freeze it until you find a suitable time to feed it back to the bees.
    -- Victor Hugo -- "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Beek Geek View Post

    Here's what I think I'm going to do:
    1) Dehydrate what I have as well as I can. I actually own a dehumidifier!
    2) Harvest what I have in multiple small batches based on how wet my honey appears to be.
    3) Then I'll test each batch with a refractometer to see if I can keep it or not.
    Dehydrate before you extract. Stand your supers on end in a closet w/ the dehumidifier for a day or two, then extract.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Montgomery County, Texas
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    > does anyone know why none of this honey has been fully capped yet?

    Bees generally cap honey cells when they feel the nectar has been evaporated to the appropriate moisture level (roughly 18% water). One could assume that uncapped honey still has a high moisture content.[/COLOR]
    The root question I have here is why a super that has had nectar in it since June has not been adequately dried. Is this a sign of sick bees, bad genes, bad weather, or something else. I checked for mites about 6 weeks ago and only had about 1 mite per 100 bees. The hive beetle count has been remarkably low until the last few weeks, the bees have acted pretty normal this year, and I have not messed with them enough to distract them from their day to day business. The weather has also been pretty nominal this year -- more dry than wet.

    Beek Geek

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    > The root question I have here is why ...

    I don't know the answer, so this is mere speculation. It seems to me that if summer forage is available intermittently, the bees might consume uncapped nectar when forage was not sufficient, then may replace that nectar later. If this cycle occurred several times over the summer, it might seem as though it was the same uncapped nectar since June.

    .
    Last edited by Rader Sidetrack; 10-23-2013 at 01:42 PM. Reason: typo
    -- Victor Hugo -- "Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Clintwood VA USA
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    56

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Bees will not cap cells that are not full. Doesn't mean it is not cured or the right moisture! Think I read this somewhere.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Lakeland, Florida
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    238

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    What I know, one could fit in a thimble. With that said....I'd say leave it and let the bees sort it out.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Louisville, KY
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Uncapped honey is pretty common in summer/fall. It does not always mean its not ripe. Like radar said if the cells are not totally full, if there is no flow, or if they are actively consuming it and using it for brood they won't cap it.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
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    563

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    A long time beekeeper told us last meeting that bees don't bother capping the honey they're going to be using soon. Maybe that's it.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
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    116

    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    Any reason you don't want to put it out for the bees to harvest the comb yet this fall? They won't debate the merits of nectar vs honey, capped vs uncapped - they'll just do what bees do and take care of it.

  20. #20
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    Weeki Wachee, Florida,USA
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    Default Re: Honey Not Quite Ready to Harvest

    I'm no pro but it seems here I often have honey that is uncapped and low moisture they also cap high moisture honey (cabbage Palm). Supers layed on thier sides with a fan blowing through them while a dehumidifier runs works well, be careful it works almost to well.

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