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Is there a way to encourage bees to finish capping honey frames?

 

We have had a mix of decent weather and a good honey flow going here and the bees are filling everything up with honey. Many hives have full boxes of honey sitting on them but seem in no hurry to seal things up.

 

Would be interested to hear if there are ways to speed this process up a little.

 

Maybe my bees know I'll take it away when it's properly capped...

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Maybe my bees know I'll take it away when it's properly capped...

 

Smart bees down here, eh Otto. Mine are doing the same. I've resorted to picking through the frames for the ones more than 75% sealed and taking those ones.

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I'm wondering if our cooler climate has something to do with it. With colder nights it's easier for them to reduce the water content of honey and, presumably, keep it that way and therefore there is no need to seal it up quickly.

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By the way. I bought the refractor from Trademe for $63.00 (new) $6.90 for courier so $70.00 all up. Came with screwdriver, bioptic oil, refractor glass and a small pipette. Has the same scale as Dave's one. Better price the $190.00 from one of the suppliers plus GST, plus freight.

Unfortunately it came with the wrong instructions but Dave sorted me out there. Thanks Dave once again.

This was the trade me contact ## Brix Refractometer ATX 58-92% | Trade Me a good company to deal with. very prompt service.

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Is there a way to encourage bees to finish capping honey frames?...Would be interested to hear if there are ways to speed this process up a little.

There has been quite a lot of observation on comb construction, but not so much on comb capping, and what there is seems to date back to the 'fifties and 'sixties and not easy to get. The capping of honey cells is different too from the capping of brood cells, different bees, different stimulus, and different technique. It's not clear what starts the activity.

 

Honey cells are capped from the top of the comb down, but an area at the bottom is often left because a) the flow has stopped and the cells aren't full, b) they are full but the bees 'intend' to move it down near the brood nest for winter consumption, c) they're busy doing something else, and, d) they like to mess with your head.

 

One thing observed to cause capping was a narrowing of the bee-space between combs; they stopped elongating the cell and capped it when this working space was about to become impossibly small. The cells further from the brood nest (ie. the 'top' ones) seem to get capped first.

 

Assuming the honey is ripe and the cells full, my suggestion is to move the worst of the uncapped frames away from the brood nest, and narrow the gap between frames. Partially filled comb and un-rippened nectar goes at the bottom where the bees either (we hope) top it up and rippen it, or consolidate/move it. This kinda works, but I wouldn't claim 100% success. That's when I get the refractometer out to decide who gets the frame, me or them.

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By the way. I bought the refractor from Trademe for $63.00 (new)

 

AHA!! I've been looking at those for ages, wondering if they were up to snuff.

 

My main hesitation is the temperature compensation range, so maybe you or Dave can help with some questions?

 

1 - I assume it's ambient temperature that's being compensated for, not honey temperature? In which case..

 

2 - we frequently exceed 30C ambient in the field when harvesting (or at least we do this year!), so how do we cope then?

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For me this is not an unusual problem to come accross. Uncapped honey can be harvested but you must monitor the water content. A dehumidifier can be used to lower the water content . NZFSA limit for moisture content is 21% but lower is best.

 

The first check in harvesting uncapped honey is the shake test to see if any nectar comes out and if so how much. If there is more capped than uncapped honey mositure content is usually ok.

 

Best to buy a refractometer set up for honey they read off in % of water. the one I have has a adjustment for temperature. It was not much about $120.00 a few years ago.

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Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated.

 

I think getting a refractometer does sound the way to go. That way we can work out what is okay to take off without guessing.

 

 

Best to buy a refractometer set up for honey they read off in % of water. the one I have has a adjustment for temperature. It was not much about $120.00 a few years ago.

 

$120 might be a small expense if you're running a commercial honey house yes. If you have one or two hives it is a decent chunk of money.

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Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated.

 

I think getting a refractometer does sound the way to go. That way we can work out what is okay to take off without guessing.

 

 

 

 

$120 might be a small expense if you're running a commercial honey house yes. If you have one or two hives it is a decent chunk of money.

 

Yes but mine was only $70.00 delivered

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AHA!! I've been looking at those for ages, wondering if they were up to snuff.

Yup, I don't have the ATC so if I want an accurate result for, say, 30C I refer to my chart and add 0.785. The reference temperature referred to is 20C ambient only if your honey has equalised to ambient. The temperature corrections are quite small and I can't see why you'd need them in the field. If you are adjusting the moisture content (increasing or decreasing) in the honey house and dealing with several tonnes then you'd buy ATC.

20C was 'picked' 'cos it happens to suit Brix and it's a general lab standard.

I didn't know the NZFSA standard was 21%, that seems very high. I'd be concerned about anything over 18% (unless it's heather of manuka) but that's just me.

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AHA!! I've been looking at those for ages, wondering if they were up to snuff.

 

My main hesitation is the temperature compensation range, so maybe you or Dave can help with some questions?

 

1 - I assume it's ambient temperature that's being compensated for, not honey temperature? In which case..

 

2 - we frequently exceed 30C ambient in the field when harvesting (or at least we do this year!), so how do we cope then?

 

Like all measuring instruments, testing should be done at 20 deg. Both the product and the instrument show be stabilized to 20 deg before taking the measurement.

In real terms this is impossible except in a true laboratory. So testing at ambient / room temp is more the norm.

If the temp is higher the reading will be higher also. but I still think that it will be within 1%. Therefore if you measure you comb in the field and it is say 28 deg at the time and you get a reading of say 21 % water then I suggest you leave it. If you get a reading of 19 % then take it.

 

I am only looking at it giving me an indication.

Wine makes use the same refractors for testing when to harvest their grapes. A little experience will give a better indication of what the refractor is telling you.

I don't think I will take the refractor into the field but it will be close at hand when i am extracting. If a frame look dicey I will test it and decide whether it gets extracted or returned to the hive with the wets.

 

My unit has Auto temp compensation ATC

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The Trademe seller of refractometer would not reply to my questions about calibration, so found one on ebay with calibration oil and block bought as an addition, 24 pounds all up including postage, has ATC, will take 10-14 working days for delivery.

Details:

Special Features

  • With Built-in Calibration Knob, no need for a mini-screwdriver
  • Equipped with tri-scale measurement (water, baume & brix) that provides direct reading
  • Adjustable manual focusing
  • Soft rubber eye piece for comfortable viewing
  • Calibration screw
  • ATC - Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Easy to focus and calibrate
  • Accurate testing results guaranteed
  • Extremely easy-to-use and calibrate

Specifications

  • Measuring Range:
    • 58-90%Brix
    • 38-43 Be' (Baume)
    • 12-27% Water

    [*]Division:

    • 0 .5% Brix
    • 0.5Be' (Baume)
    • 1% Water

    [*]Accuracy:

    • ±0.5% Brix
    • ±0.5Be' (Baume)
    • ±1% Water

    [*]Automatic Temperature Compensation (ATC)

    [*]Length : 140mm

    [*]Weight: 230g

A Set Includes

  • 1 x New Honey Refractometer with Built-in Calibration Knob
  • 1 x Instruction Manual
  • 1 x Pipette
  • Sturdy Plastic carrying case
     
     
  • OPTIONAL: Not included in the set
    • Reference Block & Oil (to avail this option, just add US $6.00, GBP 4.00, AU $6.00 or EUR 5,00 to your order)

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It would be interesting if someone who had a refractogizmo also had access to a digital timber moisture meter, the type with two wee metal prongs that stick into the wood to be tested. See how the timber tester fared...probably have to break down a few cell walls to ensure the wax didn't interfere

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It would be interesting if someone who had a refractogizmo also had access to a digital timber moisture meter, the type with two wee metal prongs that stick into the wood to be tested. See how the timber tester fared...probably have to break down a few cell walls to ensure the wax didn't interfere

I might have to give that a try. I have both peices of kit.

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Buy the ocean salinity one. I am sure you will be able to find a microwave thingy in your back yard to attach to it and then convert it to read tutin level and then use parts from your bathroom scales to convert it to read the weight of the sugar/water content and then one of your old computers can be attached to give a readout of what Donald Duck is having for breakfast.

 

Or you could buy the one I got which does not need any conversion.:geek:(y)

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Well the refractormeter arrived this morninng with the postie getting my signature, calibrated with the block after sorting out the instructions, and tested: commerrcial runny honey 16.5%,my runny linden honey 21.5% - allowed to warm to room temp. So keeping it in the fridge seems a good idea, as does eating it quite quickly.

 

So it seems very easy to use, and I will try a few more commercials and poorly capped frames, only needs a couple of drops.

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Trevor - I tried measuring honey being extracted last year with a Protimeter wood moisture meter and the recording was about 21-22 % if I recall.

Not really sure what that means except it seemed consistent and the honey was from capped frames - be interested in what yours recorded ?

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Trevor - I tried measuring honey being extracted last year with a Protimeter wood moisture meter and the recording was about 21-22 % if I recall.

Not really sure what that means except it seemed consistent and the honey was from capped frames - be interested in what yours recorded ?

That would be an interesting exercise to carry out. 1. repeatability of same sample. 2. Keep sample of different readings. 3. Test sample with a refractometer. 4. convert readings from Protimeter to the Refractometer

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I extracted some honey on the weekend. 40kg

Protimeter showed 16%. Refrac showed 17% out of the bucket.

Uncapped on frame prot 17/18% refrac 18%

Capped prot 16% refrac 16%

So somewhere close. My Protimeter is not a very good one so I would not have expected results so close.

At $70.00 I will stick with the refractometer.

I found that you had to break the cell walls to get a good reading. But it was good to check if I could take the uncapped stuff.. Easy test to do in the field.

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By the way PK. I uncapped all my honey with the heat gun.

Great. No dribbles of honey all over the place and very little wax in the strainer.

Only problem is that the capping fly off and tend to go everywhere. No problem in the honey shead y she indoors would not be happy if you were doing it in her kitchen.

Oh, yes. You hand that is holding the frame gets pretty hot.

So I put on a new garned type gloe to hold the frame.

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i also have been uncapping with a heatgun. its my first go at extracting so it's hard for me to compare, but it is very easy, quick, and clean so far. Only trouble i have with it is that if you are uncapping a frame that has some uncapped areas then the wax that makes up the cell walls melts very very quickly.

 

but ... 32kgs of honey and counting!

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