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How to Remove the Bees from the Honey Supers in Your Beehive

Regardless what style of honey you decide to harvest, you must remove the bees from the honey supers before you can extract or remove the honey. You’ve heard the old adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth!” Well, you certainly don’t need to bring several thousand bees into your kitchen!

You must leave the bees 60 to 70 pounds of honey for their own use during winter months (less in those climates that don’t experience cold winters). But anything they collect more than that is yours for the taking.

To estimate how many pounds of honey are in your hive, figure that each deep frame of capped honey weighs about 7 pounds. If you have ten deep frames of capped honey, you have 70 pounds!

Removing bees from honey supers can be accomplished in many different ways. Before attempting any of these methods, be sure to smoke your bees the way you normally would when opening the hive for inspection.

The bees are protective of their honey during this season. Besides donning your veil, now’s the time to wear your gloves. If you have somebody helping you, be sure they are also adequately protected.

Shaking your bees out

This bee-removal method involves removing frames (one by one) from honey supers and then shaking the bees off in front of the hive’s entrance. The cleared frames are put into an empty super. Be sure that you cover the super with a towel or board to prevent bees from robbing you of honey. Alternatively, you can use a bee brush to gently brush bees off the frames.

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When brushing bees, you should always brush bees gently upward (never downward). This little tip helps prevent you from injuring or killing bees that are partly in a cell when you’re brushing.

Shaking and brushing bees off frames aren’t the best options for the new beekeeper, because they can be quite time consuming, particularly when you have a lot of supers to clear. Plus the action can get pretty intense around the hive during this procedure.

Blowing the bees out

One fast way to remove bees from supers is by blowing them out, but they don’t like it much. Honey supers are removed from the hive (bees and all) and stood on end. By placing them 15 to 20 feet away from the hive’s entrance and using a special bee blower (or a conventional leaf blower), the bees are blasted from the frames at 200 miles an hour. Although it works, to be sure, the bees wind up disoriented and very irritated.

Using a bee escape board

Yet another bee-removal method (and far less dramatic) places a bee escape board between the upper deep-hive body and the honey supers that you want to clear the bees from. Various models of escape boards are available, and all work on the same principle: The bees can travel down to the brood nest, but they can’t immediately figure out how to travel back up into the honey supers. It’s a one-way trip.

This triangle bee escape enables bees to easily travel down into the top deep, but it takes the bee
This triangle bee escape enables bees to easily travel down into the top deep, but it takes the bees a while to figure out how to get back up into the honey supers.

Using a fume board and bee repellent to remove bees

A fume board looks like an outer cover with a flannel lining. A liquid bee repellent is applied to the flannel lining and the fume board is placed on top of the honey supers (in place of the inner and outer covers). Within five minutes, the bees are repelled out of the honey supers and down into the brood chamber. Instant success! The honey supers can then be safely removed and taken to your harvesting area.

In the past, chemicals used as repellents (either butyric propionic anhydride or benzaldehyde) have been hazardous in nature. They’re toxic, combustible, and may cause respiratory damage, central nervous system depression, dermatitis, and liver damage.

Keep in mind that a shallow super full of capped honey can weigh 30 to 40 pounds. You’ll have a heavy load to move from the beeyard to wherever you’ll be extracting honey. So be sure to save your back and take a wheelbarrow or hand truck with you when removing honey supers from the hive.

If you have a friend to help, a hive carrier like this makes carrying heavy supers and hive bodies
If you have a friend to help, a hive carrier like this makes carrying heavy supers and hive bodies much easier.
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