Please note: Correspondence submitted to the Kelley Bee News Modern Beekeeping newsletter (or subsequent publications) becomes the property of the Walter T. Kelley Company. We reserve the right to print or not print any correspondence and it may be edited for length and/or clarity. It may be published or republished in any format or medium and/or licensed to others for publication. If we publish your correspondence, we may attribute it to you and may include your name and city, unless you expressly request that you remain anonymous.
Q: Recently, after removing the telescoping top for inspection, I noticed LOTS of bees on top of the inner cover, and all seemed to have their abdomen raised in the air, almost straight up. I’ve not seen this before, and wondered if it is an alarm action. This was also after a cool night, and I was not using smoke.
Thanks, G. McHenry
A: They are fanning their Nasonov glands. If you look closely you can see the gland; this is to lead the other colony members back to the hive.
Q: A while back it was mentioned that you would have 1-1/4” wide frames sometime August or September. What is the status with this?
A: We now have the 1-1/4” narrow end bars for deep frames sold in packs of 100; we are working on the medium. Due to the additional labor required we are not sure we will carry these permanently. Call 800-233-2899 and request the narrow frames 82-Thin if you would like these in deep frames.
Q: About a month ago I was checking my bees and getting ready for harvest. I noticed the bees had little to no honey. I fed them about eight gallons with a top feeder between two hives. This greatly helped them and produced a lot of honey. I just checked them again today and while the hives were healthy with plenty of bees, there isn’t very much honey. I am worried about the reserves for winter. Have you had any problems or seen this before with new hives? Should I continue to feed them? And if they are almost at max capacity except for maybe three or four frames empty should I add another super? Thanks in advance.
A: This time of year you probably need to heat the water (depending upon how cold your fall is) so the sugar dissolves, and do a 2:1 mixture. They have pulled nectar and pollen from the goldenrod and asters but if you do not have enough stores then you should feed.
Q: Any thoughts about collecting uncapped honey? I can’t just leave 2-3 supers on top of the hive all winter, can I?
B. Weakley, Tennessee
A: Regarding the last part of the question, you probably don’t want to leave 2-3 supers on all winter—that’s a lot of room for bees to patrol, keep warm, etc.
We turned to Dennis Brown, author of “Beekeeping: A Personal Journey” at Lone Star Farms www.lonestarfarms.net for his insights. He shares:
It is normal for beekeepers to think they should not extract uncapped honey because that is what you read in most books. However, if you think about how the bees handle nectar that is coming into the hive, the answer will become clear.
Let’s think past the general answer you read in the books and do what the bees do. When the field bee gathers the nectar from the flower, she stores it inside her honey pouch. While the nectar is there, enzymes from the bee will mix with the nectar. When the field bee gets home, she will pass this nectar off to a house bee. The house bee takes the nectar into her honey pouch and enzymes from her will mix with the nectar. These enzymes along with moisture evaporation are what change the nectar into honey.
The house bee stores the nectar in a cell. The nectar will stay in the cell until the moisture content evaporates down to about 18%. When the moisture level reaches this magic number, the bees will seal the cell. This seal will help prevent any further moisture outside the cell from reaching the honey.
So, now we can answer the question. If the honey super has been on the hive at least three or four weeks and the bees still haven’t capped the cells over, it is probably OK to go ahead and take it for extraction. By that time the excess moisture has evaporated. Sometimes the bees don’t seal the cells because the honey flow has ended and the house bees have quit producing fresh wax.
Most wax production takes place when there is a large amount of nectar coming into the hive. That stimulates the house bees’ wax glands. Just to be safe, you should purchase a refractometer and check the moisture content of the extracted honey. If the moisture is too high, place the open buckets in a room and raise the room temperature up to about 90 degrees for a couple of days. Then check it again.
You can leave the honey supers on the hive through the winter but remember, bees move up during the winter. The bees will move into the honey super and in January or February the queen will start laying eggs in that honey super. You will not be able to use that super for the spring flow because it will still have brood in it. You can’t use a queen excluder under the super because it will restrict the queen from joining the winter cluster in the upper box.
It would be best to go ahead and extract the honey and store the supers unless your bees are light in stores, then you can leave it on.
I hope that this has helped you. Good luck.
Q: I don’t use my email much so I couldn’t get the newsletter. I want the newsletter, but it is a hassle for me to get it electronically. Have you thought about mailing it? Phil, Kentucky
A: We have Phil, but printing and mailing costs would mean we’d have to charge something for it, as well as get the issue completed several weeks prior to mailing. We’d rather help the bees with insights and knowledge at no charge.
Unfortunately for folks who aren’t frequent email users, that means you have to track it down. We always send it out the last few days of the month prior, should you want to make a point to check your email around then.