Extracting Brood Frames In A Honey Bound Hive

Extracting Brood Frames In A Honey Bound Hive

Brian’s hive Squill recently became honey bound when a second super was not added to the hive in time and the nectar flow hit.  To help prevent this hive from swarming, three days prior, I exchanged four of Squill’s honey bound frames with empty drawn comb from a starving hive in the apiaryBrian also stopped feeding this hive.  When we went in to check it a few days later this is what we found.
All four frames of empty drawn comb had been filled with nectar.   Here’s a close up of one frame.  The nectar looks like water in the cells.
Then it dawned on me.   A big blinking red light went off in my head.  Spotty Brood – check.  Honey filled frames – check.  No eggs or larvae – check.  A queen that took an extra long time to be accepted– check.

Every empty cell is filled with nectar leaving a spotty brood pattern with no eggs or larvae in the hive.

I was starting to realize this was not a honey bound hive.  Although this queen had been laying with an amazing brood pattern just two weeks prior, she was now failing and the bees knew this from the beginning.  Why they had not tried to supercede her I’m not sure.  Queen cups had been in the hive but they were always empty.  It was becoming obvious to me this queen had to go.

Unfortunately, being Memorial Day weekend, the local queen supplier was not around.   Downpours were scheduled to begin the next day and last for a week.  I knew if Brian and I could not get a queen today it would be a week before we would be able to go in the hive and install a new queen.

Squill’s queen was still there but not laying, so we left her in the hive and decided to try extracting 5 frames of capped and uncapped honey from the brood frames to give her one more chance to lay until we could get a new queen.  I was doubtful it would work but it was still worth a shot.  Brian also alternated the frames so that one frame was foundation, the next was a honey or nectar filled frame, hoping the bees would use the nectar and honey to draw out the adjacent foundation (This, by the way, did work. I guess because they had no brood to rear they began drawing comb like crazy).

We took 5 frames into the house and extracted them in the kitchen using a hand extractor.  This was the result.  A beautiful light spring honey!

Since some of this honey was uncapped and some may have been from the organic cane sugar we were feeding this hive, we knew we couldn’t keep it.  We planned to feed it all back to the bees.  With uncapped honey in the mix, all the jars we extracted had to be frozen to prevent the honey from fermenting.  Uncapped honey has a high water content and will easily ferment at room temperature.  That’s why it’s important to wait until the honey is capped before extracting it.  In retrospect, most of this honey was near the capping point and if we had waited a week it probably all would have been capped by then.  After feeding some back to the hives that needed it, we wound up with seven pint jars of honey.
I snuck a taste and it was delicious!  The honey had a sweet pungent floral taste.   I love spring time honey!  Somehow it captures the delicate taste of flowers and spring air all wrapped into one.  I wish we could have kept it for ourselves.  But within a week, with all the rain we had, all of this honey was consumed and enjoyed by the other new hives in the apiary.  At least I got out of making sugar syrup for the week. Thanks Squill!  Now it’s off to get you a new queen.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Bee Package Installation – Don’t Forget The Cork!
  2. It’s Queen Cage Removal Time!
  3. Queen Cage Removal – Squill Hive 4-24-12
  4. First Hive Inspection Of Squill 5-6-12
  5. One Honey Bound Hive And One Starving Hive

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.


  1. If you are going to feed, honey is what you should use! Thumbs up.

  2. If I had enough surplus that would be all I would use to feed my bees. Nothing beats honey!

    • In calif. U souldet feed bees till winter or spring i dont i do it natural taste is a lot different or save frame with pollen for have in winter freez frame to keep sterial

  3. Hi! I came across your above post while researching honey bound hives. Did you just use a gravity pail feeder to feed the thawed honey back when they needed it? Thanks for your time 🙂

  4. I have two bog commercial size hive both are filled with brood and uncapped honey should i add new box and honey to top and small brood on top trying to have bees capp the uncapped honey and stop urge to swarm.or put supperand queen extractor and then big frame on top thanks natural bee keeper keith