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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone know if refractometers can be purchased in any retail stores or specialty stores instead of ordering one? The weather here in southeast mo. is getting humid and I have a couple supers that have been full for a week but it doesn't seem the bees are capping them. Thanks in advance for any replies.

3,418 Posts
> Best to leave it to the bee's,
> When it is right they will cap it

While this is often true, capped supers are not
100% certain to have the correct moisture content.

We check every super, and set aside the "wet"
ones for mechanical drying. This is not as
rare as one might think with fully-capped supers.

I recall at ABF in Savannah GA (2002) that
a large commercial beekeeper was walking
around with a tee-shirt asking "Why do my
bees cap 21% moisture honey?" He had a
crop that was so wet, he missed a delivery
date while drying it out mechanically.

But with a refractometer, you can go out and
sample 3 or 4 samples per uncapped super,
and pull the ones that read within acceptable
range with full confidence, saving the bees
all sorts of work, and cycling more of your
supers that much more quickly.

This means a greater yield per hive, as
returning the empty supers to the hives
gets the bees "motivated" to go gather
more nectar.

3,597 Posts
We also often see honey that is uncapped due to a heavy flow and moisture content is right for harvesting. Then we have capped honey, especially basswood in humid July, that is capped and above 21 percent. The honey may be capped at 18 percent or below in humid times and it will absorb (and loose) moisture according to the moisture content of the air. Being capped is certainly no clear guide it is "ripe". Few things are worse than trying to de-hydrate once it is extracted, better to check it all and know before hand.

294 Posts
I'm planning to buy a refractometer and would like to know which model is "generally accepted as best".

Is the $60 ebay model (NI Supply RHBN-90ATC Heavy-Duty Honey Refractometer) as good as anyone would need, or does the $329 Dadant digital (Atago) have features that make it a better value? Or would you recommend another option? Thanks.

3,418 Posts
I had an 1970s vintage Atago (not the digital one)
for years, and while it was an expensive thing,
it worked fine, and I felt confident because all
the honey judges used the same refractometer.

Sadly it took a one-way trip down the stairs,
so I needed another. I was very leery of the
RHB-90ATC sold by Dadant, as it was "made in
China", something that most often has meant
merchandise fit only for the landfill.

But Mark (who runs the Lynchburg VA Dadant branch)
offered to take it back and refund my money if
I was not happy with it. He also was blunt about
the cheapest model carried by Dadant. His
comment was "no one should buy it".

The unit works just fine. Temperature compensated,
which used to be a very expensive option, decent
optics, easy to use in less-than blinding light,
etc. It is not as heavy as the Atago was, and
"heavy" meant "solid" to me, but one simply
must admit that any refractometer is a fragile
tool, one that cannot survive being dropped
down the stairs.

If the Ebay model is marked "RHB-90ATC" on the
box, then it is the same exact model as the
one sold by Dadant.

I can't think of any reason why "digital" would
be better or easier to use than the optical
models, as the situation does not require numbers
with 3 decimals. For 5 times the price, it
should have some serious advantages, and I don't
see any.
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