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Honey harvesting from TBH - advice?


#1

Hi all,

This is my first season where my bees are making it through the summer, and I am a bit confused about what to do about honey harvesting. I have a Bee Thinking TBH (which I highly recommend if you are thinking about getting a TBH; support Bee Thinking).

In any case, in poking around the internet, I found a couple of suggestions about what to do as the harvesting season approaches, which seem to be contradictory:

A. To overwinter successfully, top-bar hives probably require at least one full comb of honey for each brood comb in the hive. This means that in a hive with 30 top bars, 10 or which are occupied by brood comb, perhaps 10 or fewer combs with honey can reasonably be harvested.

B. The last honey harvest in the fall should only be to prevent the bees from attaching their comb to the follower board. Do not remove more than 1-2 honey combs.

C. As winter approaches, make sure the hive has stores of 40-60lbs of honey (that’s at least 7 full bars of non-brood at roughly 6 lbs. per bar).

D. If you start early in the spring with a new hive, you will be able to harvest 1-3 combs before fall.

I have also heard of harvesting one bar at a time (occasionally) throughout the season.

So, is there a consensus on what the right thing to do here is? My TBH is about 2/3 full as of mid-August. Several of the last bars have honey, but none are completely built out and chock full of capped honey (yet). Most of the bars have brood, it appears.

Maybe others will be able to benefit from general advice on this as well…

Thanks!

Froney


#2

Froney,

Thanks for your post. Most of the time I don’t harvest from first year colonies. You very well may be able to harvest in the spring if they overwinter successfully, but I prefer to leave them with ample stores going into winter.

Did you start out the colony at one end and let them build toward the empty space in the other end? If so, you can probably do little to nothing before winter. I would, of course, do a final inspection (usually around labor day) to make sure they have enough stores. To do this I go through every single comb in the hive and heft them. A completely built out comb full of honey weighs somewhere between 5-7lbs. I just estimate the weight by adding up each comb (including the brood combs with a band of honey at the top). If they’ve got over 40lbs or so I leave them. If they’ve got less it’s up to you and whether you want to feed or not.

Best,

Matt


#3

Matt,

Thanks for the info. That helps.

Froney


#4

George,

The tiny swarms you saw are likely cast (secondary) swarms from the same hive. One hive may swarm 2, 3, 4 or more times. Each swarm tends to get subsequently smaller, until they do need to be combined with other hives/swarms to be viable. I’d combine the little ones you caught straight away. To do so, I’d smoke both sides of the hive and then move the smaller bunch (bars and all) into the larger side.

Best,