The bees will fill the combs and cap the honey
when they have cured it to approximately 18 percent
or less water. Some of the frames of honey may not
be capped until several days after the nectar flow
has stopped. The frames and supers of honey that
are capped can be removed from the colony. Avoid
harvesting honey in uncapped cells. It is likely to
be too high in moisture content and will ferment in
storage without additional drying.
Extract soon after removing super from the hive.
Honey must be extracted within three to four days
after removal from the hive to prevent damage by wax
moths or small hive beetles. Be prepared to extract
the honey when you remove the super from the hive.
If extraction is not possible within three or four days,
frames of honey can be stored below 32 degrees F for
long periods of time without danger of crystallization.
Open the colony and inspect the supers of honey.
Frames of capped and uncapped honey can be
exchanged between supers. The super of honey may
contain many bees. Do not use smoke to drive the bees
out of the super; excessive use of smoke may taint the
flavor of the honey.
Methods to Remove Bees from Honey Supers
To harvest a small amount of honey, you can
simply shake bees from individual frames. On the
ground near the colony, place an empty super inside
an outer cover turned bottom side up. An inner cover
with a bee escape (see Bee Escapes below), a flat piece
of plywood or an outer cover is needed to cover the
super as you place the frames of honey that are free of
bees into the super. Remove a frame of honey from the
super of honey taken from the colony. Hold the frame
by the ends of the top bar in front of the colony a short
distance above the entrance. One or two short, strong
shakes will dislodge all the bees. Immediately place
the frame into the empty super and cover the super to
prevent the bees from returning to the frame. Shake
the bees from the remaining frames and load the
super, keeping it completely covered except to insert
the frames of honey. This method can be used very
effectively with a small number of colonies. To remove
bees from entire supers, you can use a bee repellent, a
blower or bee escapes.
These repellents, such as Bee Go™, are aromatic
liquids of butyric anhydride that are sprinkled in
small quantities onto a fume board, which is placed on
the top of supers. As the repellent evaporates, the odor
will drive the bees out of the super within minutes.
The fume board consists of an absorbent cloth or pad
stapled onto a wooden frame or spare inner cover.
The cloth side is placed on top of the super. Warming
an outer cover for a few minutes in the sun before
covering the fume board will accelerate the process.
Blowers may be purchased from beekeeping
supply vendors to remove bees from honey supers.
A blower is made for this purpose. Or, you can use a
blower made for home and garden use. A super must
be held upright on its side while air is blown between
the frames. Bees may be difficult to dislodge. Also, the
noise and smell of the blower may irritate bees and
make them more defensive.
Escapes provide a more passive method of bee
removal. The Porter® bee escape fits into the center
hole of an inner cover to allow bees to exit a super, but
not to re-enter it. The inner cover with bee escape is
placed between the honey supers and the brood nest.
This method works best on cool nights when bees
move down to the brood nest. Escapes usually must
be left on colonies for at least two days to insure all or
most bees have been removed.
If You Find Brood in Honey Supers
A queen may expand the brood nest up into the
honey supers. Check all supers of honey to be removed
for presence of brood. Locate the queen and return
her to the brood nest below. Exchange frames with
brood for frames of capped honey, consolidating all
of the brood into one super. Honey stored in brood
frames is food for the bees and should not be packed
for human consumption. Place the super with brood
on top of the brood chamber. Place a queen excluder
over the hive bodies containing brood to prevent the
queen from re-entering honey supers.
Keep all frames and supers of honey sealed
during honey removal. During removal, stack supers
filled with honey between outer covers on top and
bottom to prevent robbing bees and other insects
from reaching the honey. For transport, honey supers
should be well secured. Locking straps work well for
Skinner, Parkman, Studer, and Williams. 2004. Beekeeping in Tennessee. University of Tennessee Extension PB1745. 43p.