Want More Honey
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Thread: Want More Honey

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Macon TN USA
    Posts
    125

    Default Want More Honey

    Guys, this is my 3rd year trying to be a beekeeper. I have some questions. Sorry to be so long, but I wanted to explain all the details.
    All of my hive bodies are 8 frame mediums. I bought all my equipment from Brushy Mountain Bee Farms and that is what they suggested. One of the best reason was that the 8 frame mediums would weigh less, and since I had a ruptured disc and back surgery in 2005, that weighed heavily (no pun intended) on my decision to go with all 8 frame medium.
    As a new beekeeper I was told to add a new hive body anytime 6 of the 8 frames were drawn out. That’s what I’ve done.
    Last year I split my largest hive, and I was also asked to come get a swarm from a friend’s yard. Going to into summer last year, I had 6 hives. I lost one to wax moths. I assume it swarmed and I did not realize it, and the moths took over. Another hive got robbed and most bees were killed or left. I combined the two smallest hives going into winter.
    So I wintered 3 hives. All 3 made it through the winter very well.
    This spring I started adding hive bodies as needed. I had several frames of drawn comb, and when I ran out, I used foundation.
    I did not really want any more than 3 hives this year, so I did not do any splits. I also did not do anything special to keep them from swarming. I just added new hive bodies to be sure they had lots of room. I did place the new empty hive bodies about 2 or 3 down from the top instead of just adding it to the top.
    Anyway…I now have two of the hives with 7 bodies and the 3rd one with 9 bodies. Since I have these hives about 2ft off the ground, I have to have a ladder to get to the top of them to work on them.
    As far as I can tell, neither of the 3 hives have swarms yet. I have a great population of bees in all 3 hives. I did place a single hive body with swarm lure in two locations about 50 to 75 yards from the hives, just in case they swarmed. I thought they might go to these new hives in case I was not home to capture them. So far, both are still empty.
    If my main goal is honey production, is it better to split hives and to keep them no more than 5 or 6 bodies high? The hive that has 9 bodies has produced the least honey this year. Same last year. In fact, this same hive was the largest last year, and I did not get any honey from it. When I went to rob it, I found that every single frame had honey, but not a single frame was capped, or at least not completely capped. Or one side would be capped and the other would not.
    It seemed that I get more honey from smaller hives.
    So, if I mainly want honey, is more hives the way to go instead of larger hives?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
    Posts
    2,134

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    Hi Fleetwood. I am about as experienced as you but can offer a couple of suggestions. Just by adding honey supers does not make your colony bigger. It makes it taller, but not bigger. If they are drawing all that comb, but not filling it, personally I would be happy. But using ladders is a real pain. Under supering is a good idea, but try just having a couple boxes over the empty one. You could also move a frame or two of nectar frames into the new box. Also, just because the cells are not capped doesn't mean it can't be harvested. Try holding a frame horizontally and give it a sharp shake downward. If no or little honey comes out, it is probably dry enough to extract. If borderline, you can dry it yourself in a small room with a dehumidifier. You can also mix borderline honey with dry honey. Better yet, to eliminate any doubt by a refractometer for $25 and you will know the moisture content. J

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Lumpkin County, GA
    Posts
    851

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    More hives will get you more honey. The strength of hives vary from year to year and the only way to get a consistent honey harvest is with more hives. With more hives, you will be able to put capped brood from other hives into production hives to boost foragers. Three hives doesn't give you enough resources to boost honey production, IMHO.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Cullman, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,240

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    I have read the arguments that the larger hive will have a larger percentage of foragers, and thus produce more honey. I dont remember where I saw it, but the presentation included charts & graphs, etc.
    My own experience, the larger hive did make more honey, but working a hive off a ladder was aa pain, so that hive got neglected, it swarmed, & took all the honey with it. I got nothing out of it but a bunch of drawn comb.
    Last year, I had one hive that really did not cap well. I used a refractormeter, found the uncapped honey was a little wet, so left it for the bees. I would expect the ratio of house bees to foragers to have something to do with it, ( genetic?) as the hive next to it presumably foraged the same sources, seemed to cap better. ( the hive next to it was also incredibly hot) This is just my logic, might be goofy.
    I would split my hives to keep them a workable, managable size.
    ( I also standardised on the 8 frame medium format. Way more flexible than the deep brood box routine for managment, & easier on the back!)
    Good Luck with yoour bees ... CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Macon TN USA
    Posts
    125

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    I have 23 frames of honey from the 3 hives so far this year. I have had to pick through the hive bodies and find the frames that were capped. The times I took frames were about 7 to 10 days apart. I plan to check again this coming weekend, which will be about 10 days since I last took some frames.

    Is it too late to split my hive this year? In the past, I've made the splits in March or April.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Gainesboro, Tennessee
    Posts
    1,407

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    Just because they are uncapped does not mean they are not ready. You would be surprised how often I test uncapped frames with a refractometer and they are plenty dried out. To get a bigger honeycrop make sure the mites are not eating at your brood percentages.
    Splitting a first year hive successfully https://youtu.be/ZfRTreQ-S9c

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA (But planning to move to NW Louisiana soon)
    Posts
    279

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    Quote Originally Posted by Fleetwood271 View Post
    I have 23 frames of honey from the 3 hives so far this year. I have had to pick through the hive bodies and find the frames that were capped. The times I took frames were about 7 to 10 days apart. I plan to check again this coming weekend, which will be about 10 days since I last took some frames.

    Is it too late to split my hive this year? In the past, I've made the splits in March or April.
    Like Fivej recommends, I 'seed' supers with a frame or two of nectar/honey. Even if I have to move a frame up with some brood in it, just pick an outside frame with a small patch of brood. Simultaneously, they do a great job of building out new frames that are placed in the brood nest.
    I leave a lot of uncapped honey in the boxes, I suspect much of this could be extracted. One of these days I will get a crackometer thing and check it, but I'm getting plenty of honey for friends and family now. This is still a hobby for me and production isn't a major goal.
    I made 4 splits last year in late June, early July. The splits took off well, replacement queens were produced and all mated and started laying well. But small hive beetles came in and made a real mess of things. I gave them too much space too soon. I will do late splits again, but be much more careful about limiting their space.

    My situation is similar to yours, in my 3rd year, I have 4 hives and nuc going currently. All 10 frame mediums. I've gotten honey every year so far, the first year I had about 10 frames.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Cullman, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,240

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    Quote Originally Posted by Fleetwood271 View Post

    Is it too late to split my hive this year? In the past, I've made the splits in March or April.
    My early splits suffer from cool weather queen mating temps, among other things.
    That said, I usually have better than 75% success settling mated queens.
    Last year, i practised after harvest splits.. my success rate was down around 50%.
    I dont know why, increased predation on the virgins during mating, or ???
    As long as i know what to expect, i guess i can deal with it.
    Spring .. want 3, make 4. Summer ... want 3, make 6 ?
    The bees then need enough strength to brood up in time to take advantage of the fall nectar flow, and or I have to be prepared to feed, and lose some over the winter.
    Good luck with your bees ... ce
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Northern Lower Michigan, USA
    Posts
    556

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    Quote Originally Posted by Fleetwood271 View Post
    Guys, this is my 3rd year trying to be a beekeeper. I have some questions. Sorry to be so long, but I wanted to explain all the details.
    All of my hive bodies are 8 frame mediums. I bought all my equipment from Brushy Mountain Bee Farms and that is what they suggested. One of the best reason was that the 8 frame mediums would weigh less, and since I had a ruptured disc and back surgery in 2005, that weighed heavily (no pun intended) on my decision to go with all 8 frame medium.
    As a new beekeeper I was told to add a new hive body anytime 6 of the 8 frames were drawn out. That’s what I’ve done.
    Last year I split my largest hive, and I was also asked to come get a swarm from a friend’s yard. Going to into summer last year, I had 6 hives. I lost one to wax moths. I assume it swarmed and I did not realize it, and the moths took over. Another hive got robbed and most bees were killed or left. I combined the two smallest hives going into winter.
    So I wintered 3 hives. All 3 made it through the winter very well.
    This spring I started adding hive bodies as needed. I had several frames of drawn comb, and when I ran out, I used foundation.
    I did not really want any more than 3 hives this year, so I did not do any splits. I also did not do anything special to keep them from swarming. I just added new hive bodies to be sure they had lots of room. I did place the new empty hive bodies about 2 or 3 down from the top instead of just adding it to the top.
    Anyway…I now have two of the hives with 7 bodies and the 3rd one with 9 bodies. Since I have these hives about 2ft off the ground, I have to have a ladder to get to the top of them to work on them.
    As far as I can tell, neither of the 3 hives have swarms yet. I have a great population of bees in all 3 hives. I did place a single hive body with swarm lure in two locations about 50 to 75 yards from the hives, just in case they swarmed. I thought they might go to these new hives in case I was not home to capture them. So far, both are still empty.
    If my main goal is honey production, is it better to split hives and to keep them no more than 5 or 6 bodies high? The hive that has 9 bodies has produced the least honey this year. Same last year. In fact, this same hive was the largest last year, and I did not get any honey from it. When I went to rob it, I found that every single frame had honey, but not a single frame was capped, or at least not completely capped. Or one side would be capped and the other would not.
    It seemed that I get more honey from smaller hives.
    So, if I mainly want honey, is more hives the way to go instead of larger hives?
    Where to start....

    8 frame or 10 medium or deep. I do not think this matters as much to honey production.
    you do not "lose" a hive to wax moths, the hive weekend , died then the wax moths moved in. it had issues before the wax moth.
    got robbed killed or left, not sure there, not likely but possible, likely same as previous, sounds like you are doing Hard Bond....another thread.
    the single hive box with swarm lure, IF your nine box hive swarms it will be a 4 box swarm so it will look for that size hive, the 1 box hive would attract a 1 box size swarm, So if you really want to capture your swarms and you have 7 and 9 boxes then i guess you swarm trap should be 4 or so boxes, assuming all your boxes and traps are mediums. in general around 1/2 the bees leave when swarming.

    If i mainly want honey...
    IMO more hives will get more honey, this is basic math, if 2 hives have 20 pounds then 5 should have 50, but if you are 3 for 3 with no honey I would guess that if you had 5 you would also have no honey.
    larger hives normally have more honey as they have more foragers.
    So in my mind something is off, a 9 box hive should give you 2 or 3 boxes of honey. either your location is poor and there just is not any large nectar bearing flows or your hives are swarming more that you are aware of. or both. Do you have the ability to move a couple hives in the spring when they are lightest, 20 miles to a different site , even 10. try for a place with a good variety of trees and some farm land with hay fields. I have one spot along a river bottom, where there is Basswood, Maple, fruit trees and also meadows and some small hay operations. My brood nest is around 5 mediums or less, (using your 8 frame medium as a reference) and top boxes, all honey. down side is the river bottom has bears, Not all places can be a good Apiary. Are they bearding, maybe they are too hot, do you have Screened bottom boards and windy, maybe they are too cold, these are out layers as the bees will adjust the air flow. for my personal needs, 2 hives are more honey than I can use. If your 3 do not have any there is something else in the picture that you may be missing.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Garden City S, NY
    Posts
    89

    Default

    The issue I had last year was they were filing my second super but perhaps due to the extreme humidity we were having it wasn’t curing quickly. By the time it was getting cured in early Sept they started consuming it.

    Can you be more specific?
    For each hive, how many honey supers do you have?
    Are you adding supers as they fill them only or waiting for them to be capped?

    If I assume you are adding more supers before existing ones are 85% filled and/or capped perhaps you are added them too early and the workforce is spread too thin in order to fully finish each box.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Murphy, TX
    Posts
    429

    Default Re: Want More Honey

    I didn't see if anyone mentioned but stronger/bigger hive produce more honey. Each colony needs a certain number of bees to upkeep the hive and it's occupants. So every extra bee over and above this threshold will give you more honey. You can have a "resource" duplex hive as a brood factory and you can keep taking couple of frame of sealed brood from the donor nuc and give it to the production hive if you want to boost population.

    If you want to increase hive counts and get honey then you can do a fly-away split of your production hive "a week before peak flow". The trick is to get the timing right in your area. You will have to experiment for couple of years to get the timing right. This method will not get you the most honey but you will get 50-70% of the honey while creating another colony as a bonus.

    And like every one else said, more hives always mean more honey up to a limit (about 10-20 colonies per apiary in our area).

    PS: If you artificially boost colony population (feeding, giving brood, etc) then you must give them enough drawn frames and time things too. Too many bees without enough room especially early in the spring will result in swarming.

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