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Discussion Starter #1
The supers are nearly impossible to lift but there are large areas uncapped. With a calibrated refractometer I'm measuring only 17% water. Should I go ahead and harvest the honey? Capping seems to have slowed drastically. There's barely any empty space in three honey supers so I need to make room!

There is also capped honey on full foundation sides whereas the other side is half capped honey and half scattered drone cells or some other non-honey mess. What's the procedure here? Scratch the honey cells open on the drone side and go ahead and with the extractor? If so, how do I keep the drones from contaminating the extracted honey?
 

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Yes, go ahead and harvest the honey. It will keep for a long time(years) at 17%.

Bees can be slow to cap when they believe cells are not full yet.

I do this frequently to ensure I have nectar/honey storage space. Much better than the alternative of the bees storing nectar/honey in the brood nest. You don't want to cause them to swarm.

Think the usual routine for drone brood is to move those frames that have drone brood to the top honey super and wait for the drones to emerge. Then extract the honey.
 

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The supers are nearly impossible to lift but there are large areas uncapped. With a calibrated refractometer I'm measuring only 17% water. Should I go ahead and harvest the honey? Capping seems to have slowed drastically. There's barely any empty space in three honey supers so I need to make room!

There is also capped honey on full foundation sides whereas the other side is half capped honey and half scattered drone cells or some other non-honey mess. What's the procedure here? Scratch the honey cells open on the drone side and go ahead and with the extractor? If so, how do I keep the drones from contaminating the extracted honey?

I trust the bees to know what is best. Perhaps add another super or depending on your operation extract only one side of the comb. If you extract one side it will kill off the drone cells and when you put them back the bees will clean them out. Questions 1. do you use a queen excluder. Do you have a queen? You should ot have brood above the excluder. Workers should not be laying drones if you have a queen? Question Is the honey coming in really fast.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
No excluder, three supers on top of two deeps, and an active laying queen. It's already too tall to add another super. And yes, it's an active honey flow.

I'll take the advice of moving the drone celled frames to the top super; that super (medium) is already nearly impossible for me to lift so I'll do some heavy extracting from there to make room for more nectar/honey. I'm only into beekeeping for just under a year and I'm dazzled at the amount of homey that the over-wintered hive continues to produce; then again it's probably perfectly normal and just part of my learning curve.
 

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Three supers on two is not too tall if the hives are level. When trying to impress the neighbor beekeeper I used to pile them 8 or 9 deep deeps.

Extract the honey as the bees may have run out of the nectar source that made the HONEY in the cells. It became honey when I was 18.6% percent moisture I believe. Put the wet supers back on and you will be amazed how fast they are refilled if the flow is on.
 

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This is strictly anecdotal, but it seems to me that they do better capping when they are a little more crowded - as in not a lot of extra comb. I don't have enough years experience to say for sure, but that is what it looks like to me.

About that brood - this year I used a fume board to push the queens down and put excluders under the supers around May 20 - when our flow was still strong but about 3/4 done - and now the brood that was in them has emerged, been filled with honey and capped. I propped them open a crack for a few weeks to let the drones out. This is the best method for using an excluder that I have tried so far.
 

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sure is. the thought crossed my mind earlier in the season when i found the brood nest in the upper boxes and the bottom box was almost empty. david, did you have any swarming on those hives in which you pushed the queen down?
 

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sure is. the thought crossed my mind earlier in the season when i found the brood nest in the upper boxes and the bottom box was almost empty. david, did you have any swarming on those hives in which you pushed the queen down?
No, May 20 is mostly past the swarmy part of the season. I can't testify that none of those hives swarmed - some probably did - but the honey crop was mostly done. Poplar WAS done. They all went on to finish up everything that they had started, so I don't really care if they did swarm.

It was a lot less work than what I have tried in the past, and there is a ton of brood free honey in the supers.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Vance- I'm 70, crippled with arthritis, and have little body strength anymore; three full supers is all I can handle.
 

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I am not far behind you partner and I supered them off the truck when I stacked em high. I was just poo pooing the notion that it can't be done. My relation with Arthur is solid too!

Besides, bees fill a wet super way faster than a bare dry one. I extract supers as soon as they are full and I have enough for a run. I would have taken better care of myself if I had known I would live this long.
 

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No, May 20 is mostly past the swarmy part of the season. I can't testify that none of those hives swarmed - some probably did - but the honey crop was mostly done. Poplar WAS done. They all went on to finish up everything that they had started, so I don't really care if they did swarm.

It was a lot less work than what I have tried in the past, and there is a ton of brood free honey in the supers.
nice!
 

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david, do you remember how much empty comb there was in your bottom boxes when you place the excluders?

i went into last winter with a handful of five frame nucs. by the end of december i had a couple of losses and added a second story 5 five frame box above these nucs with alternating empty comb and honey frames. at the end of february these were transferred into ten frame deeps. a few weeks later i added a second ten frame deep again alternating empty comb and honey frames. by mid-april the population had reached almost both deeps full of bees. the upper deeps were virtually wall to wall brood with very little honey stored at the top and the bottom deeps were mostly empty comb.

these hives would have become seriously overcrowded very soon as all of that brood started emerging, and they would have no doubt swarmed, but at that time there were no swarm preps seen or any queen cells found. they all ended up being split up into new nucs.

after finding them like that with all the brood in the top and pretty much empty comb in the bottom, i wondered what pushing the queen down below an excluder would do in terms of swarm prevention. with all of that room below and not much honey reserve overhead it seemed like something worth trying.

i have decided to give it a shot next year. what i think i'll try is overwintering with a single deep with one medium of honey above it. at the end of february, i'll take medium of empty comb out and do a modified checkerboarding. i want to replicate what happened with the nucs as described above, so rather than staggering the frames of empty comb and honey in the two supers to produce a checkerboarded pattern, i am going to place honey over honey and empty comb over empty comb in the two supers. i.e. it will be honey straight up and empty comb straight up.

i'm hoping that this will cause the broodnest to be moved up into the two supers all the way to the top with not much honey reserve overhead, and leave the deep mostly empty, at which time i'll move the queen down, place the excluder, and add a third super of empty comb.
 

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david, do you remember how much empty comb there was in your bottom boxes when you place the excluders?
Pretty much none. I sold nucs which left me comb poor - i got a good bit of foundation built out but by the time i inserted excluders everything was pretty much plugged out. Sounds like a recipe for swarmageddon but it's been a good year. It's all worked out pretty well.
 
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