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Honey TOO dry!

534 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  davemal
I am in mid-MD. On May 22, I noticed one of my colonies had completely capped 2 honey supers! This is about 6 weeks early. I removed them to extract. In doing so, I noticed runny honey from broken burr comb, so assumed it would not hurt to put the supers in my small mud room with a dehumidifier running for 48 hours before extracting. I did not test under the cappings for moisture when I removed them. I just assumed they could use a little more drying. Big mistake. It took a long time to extract, but I finally got the 18 frames extracted. Then I tested. moisture content was 13.5. This low moisture content caused the honey to be too thick, I think. I believe 15% is the lowest it should be. Any lower also expedites crystallization, too, as I understand it.
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Not sure about the crystallization part...but ours in NC was super dry this year (15%). We also run in the dehumidifier for 48 hours. I prefer the dry honey as I think it concentrates the flavor with less water, also better value for buyers.
Had enough trouble getting 15% to get through the strainers and bottling takes longer....I'd hate to deal with 13% :). We just had a super dry spring this year....so bees got it dry before capping.

Funny, I got a bottle from Colorado at the Hive Life conference....super thick (I didn't test), and was always jealous how thick honey could be in a dry climate. This year ours is nearly as thick....but oh so delicious :)
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Not sure about the crystallization part...but ours in NC was super dry this year (15%). We also run in the dehumidifier for 48 hours. I prefer the dry honey as I think it concentrates the flavor with less water, also better value for buyers.
Had enough trouble getting 15% to get through the strainers and bottling takes longer....I'd hate to deal with 13% :). We just had a super dry spring this year....so bees got it dry before capping.

Funny, I got a bottle from Colorado at the Hive Life conference....super thick (I didn't test), and was always jealous how thick honey could be in a dry climate. This year ours is nearly as thick....but oh so delicious :)
Thanks for this confirmation of what I was experiencing!
It always takes me a while to get the honey out of my frames because my moisture content is usually low.

If you have a lot that is still to wet, you could mix it back in until you get back up to 17% if you have any more processing.

My honey crystalizes every year. It is not something that bothers me.


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It always takes me a while to get the honey out of my frames because my moisture content is usually low.

If you have a lot that is still to wet, you could mix it back in until you get back up to 17% if you have any more processing.

My honey crystalizes every year. It is not something that bothers me.
Oh, my. 12.5%! I will spot check the remainder of my 14 production colonies this weekend. The supers have been full for a while now. Averaging around 50% capped, I would guess. I suspect all their frames (capped or uncapped) will be well under 18%. I do not agree with the old adage of not harvesting until 80% capped. Last year at the normal time of extracting (July 4), I was pulling frames with no cappings at all. One super was 80% uncapped. I pulled all these because I was through harvesting for the year. I harvest here in mid-MD only one time. I do not put supers back on. One and done for me. All those uncapped frames I pulled were 17% or lower. (I do not think I will have any left that are too wet for mixing purposes.) I think the flow ends and bees just do not have any more incoming nectar from which to make wax. They do not use stored honey to make wax. It must be incoming. Regardless, the nectar is nice and dry, despite there being no cappings, so I harvest.
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The bees won't cap the honey until the cell is full. I live in a hot dry climate, so in summer I can extract supers capped or not. I'm not sure what percentage it is but It's so thick you can almost cut it with a knife. :giggle:
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Wow, you guys have some thick honey!
Mine, at 16-17% doesn't crystallize for at least a year, unless you put it in the fridge, but I think the type of flowers it comes from has something to do with it, too. 12.5% - wow!
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Dave, I think they do make honey from stored resources as we get brood cappings when there is snow. But yes, I have seen frames of what seems like finished uncapped honey not being changed by the bees (consolidated and capped, dried further, etc), so that may be true in a warm weather dearth....
Dave, I think they do make honey from stored resources as we get brood cappings when there is snow. But yes, I have seen frames of what seems like finished uncapped honey not being changed by the bees (consolidated and capped, dried further, etc), so that may be true in a warm weather dearth....
Thanks for this. First of all, I learned that turning on a small space heater in the small mud room where I put my supers for a few hours warms them up nicely and they extract without a problem! Also, I just read again (this time in his ABJ columnist Jamie Ellis in his Q&A column) that bees need incoming nectar to make wax. Maybe what you are seeing is the bees stealing existing wax from elsewhere and reusing it for cappings? Are those capping you are seeing yellowish or are they pure white as seen when the flow is on? BTW, I just pulled a frame of perfectly capped honey. It was so white and perfect. Every cell capped. No burr comb. I was tempted to freeze in and enter it in the Great Frederick Fair this Sept!
Never thought of freezing a perfect comb for the fair. Might be an interesting thing to do.

Here, when the dearth hits, it's usually pretty sudden. The bees immediately stop making honey and will not cap anything further. So I check moisture content on any frames that look good, but aren't capped. Usually, the moisture is very low for here, around 15%. Lower than the capped honey, usually.

Once the dearth hits, you want to get it out pretty quickly, or the bees will take great exception to you removing it. Generally, here in VA, the last week of June has been the sweet spot to remove supers. By July 4, the full dearth is usually here, and it's hard to get the bees off the combs, even with bee quick. As soon as you pull the boxes, they swarm right back into them, almost like a robbing frenzy. It makes things interesting.

The weather around here has been really up and down. From very warm to icy early in the year, and now we are going from highs near 90 to highs in the low 60's and nights back in the 40's this week.

This week I notice an alarming decrease of blossoms. Tulip poplars still going strong. I worry that the flow is about to shut off suddenly, but we will see. Maybe with the current rain, finally, more blooms will happen.

Back to topic, if you have full frames that aren't being capped after a week or so, your flow may be over.
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Never thought of freezing a perfect comb for the fair. Might be an interesting thing to do.

Here, when the dearth hits, it's usually pretty sudden. The bees immediately stop making honey and will not cap anything further. So I check moisture content on any frames that look good, but aren't capped. Usually, the moisture is very low for here, around 15%. Lower than the capped honey, usually.

Once the dearth hits, you want to get it out pretty quickly, or the bees will take great exception to you removing it. Generally, here in VA, the last week of June has been the sweet spot to remove supers. By July 4, the full dearth is usually here, and it's hard to get the bees off the combs, even with bee quick. As soon as you pull the boxes, they swarm right back into them, almost like a robbing frenzy. It makes things interesting.

The weather around here has been really up and down. From very warm to icy early in the year, and now we are going from highs near 90 to highs in the low 60's and nights back in the 40's this week.

This week I notice an alarming decrease of blossoms. Tulip poplars still going strong. I worry that the flow is about to shut off suddenly, but we will see. Maybe with the current rain, finally, more blooms will happen.

Back to topic, if you have full frames that aren't being capped after a week or so, your flow may be over.
Excellent reply, thanks. You make great points regarding it being hard to get bees off comb and it is like a robbing frenzy come July 4 when we often suggest super be removed. No sense in waiting if mid June would be just a good of a time to do the removal. I was tempted this past week to remove all supers, but only took those mostly well capped, thinking I will go in again mid June to take the rest off. Maybe they will have capped more by then. If not, they come off regardless.
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