Frustrated harvest

Now in its third third summer and in three of four  boxes we decided it was time to have a go taking a box off one of our warre hives as the top two both seemed chock full of capped comb through the viewing windows and had been all year.  The the hive itself had swarmed at least once in June and currently seemed to be in the throes of a mini honey flow and had ejected most drones over the last week.

Having not done this before we were hoping that as of today (30 August) the brood should have moved to the lower boxes and we would be able to snaffle the top one with minimum off fuss.  We planned the event with military precision & had made a matching octagonal escape box to immediately place the hive box on removal – this had half a dozen escape cones built into the roof to allow any bees inside to escape back to the mother ship – that was the theory anyway.

On removal we could see that there were a lot of bees in it and in particular clustering near the base of the box – on examination a large area had capped brood on the lower parts of the combs.  We immediately returned the box to the hive, affixed a new cover and replaced the quilt while besieged by a furious mob of bees – this hive is normally extremely placid.

it seems virtually impossible to predict the right time to harvest a warre without causing some major issue in the hive – did we attempt this too early?  Heaf mentions “early autumn” as a good time.     This hive was started from a caught swarm in 2011 and this is the first time we have laid hands on its internals since then.

I guess in reality every hive has a different character, work ethos and housekeeping habits so it will always be a bit hit & miss judging the right time…..

Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated…





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1 Response to Frustrated harvest

  1. johnmkubwa says:

    I always weigh my Warré hive before considering a harvest to ensure the colony has a minimum of 12kg of stores to over winter. Taking the top box will usually remove 16kg. So does the hive weigh at least 28 kg more than the empty boxes with an allowance of I kg for bees and comb per box (my estimate)
    Over 5 years I have found that the colony will usually be on 5 boxes before there is a viable harvest. Colonies that swarm do not usually provide an in year harvest , but those which do not swarm in year look promising – weather and forage permitting. Local British native or near native bees tend not to swarm every year but bees from the Mediterranean are known to swarm often.

    If the hive weight is OK, I will lift one of the combs in the centre of top box to check there is no brood present. If one is threatening the brood, the bees will be defensive; I have known the brood nest to be in a column through the centre of hive-boxes and still partially in the top box in August. If I find brood in the top box, I close up and leave the colony alone.
    In Hampshire I usually see a strong ivy flow in the autumn; It starts about the end of August/early Sep and can run for over 2 months. Colonies are usually very busy bringing in nectar which is put in any comb and the timeframe for colony consolidation for winter varies.
    Years vary too, this year some hives are very heavy and I will lift combs soon but I usually find the end Sep is the time to harvest . I hope that helps….

    JohnH, Stockbridge Hampshire

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