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'Perfect' Sections - Every Time

This is not my original idea, it was passed to me in the first instance by the late John Inchley and subsequently another beekeeper from Peterborough whose name I have forgotten.

The production of honey in sections has been notoriously 'difficult', some books in the past have indicated 'crowding' is the way to do it. If you have the bees outside your back door then you may, or may not, catch the swarms that will result.

There is a way that produces well filled sections that have no travel stain and almost no propolis on the woodwork. The best way of getting sections completed well is to have them filled and capped by bees that are working with a sense of urgency.

So, instead of trying to get them filled as the honey comes in, we gather our honey in shallow combs as usual. Then we extract the honey when it is capped (so that we know it is fully evaporated). The preferred time is as a flow is coming to an end, then we replace the supers with two section racks and a Miller feeder on the top of them and fill the Miller feeder with the honey we have extracted.

The bees will store this honey rapidly as they have no need to process it in any way, the timing keeps the bees in good spirits as this work is to them an extension of the flow that is petering out.

As the job is completed swiftly there is no travel stain or propolising of woodwork. It works with round or square sections and each one is filled right out to the edge.

It does entail a little extra work by the beekeeper, but the rewards are high. The sections fetch a premium price as they are such good quality.

There is a modification that we can make to our section racks that make them more readily used by the bees. Eugene Killion did some work that indicated that it was beneficial if an extra bee space passageway around the outer periphery of the box was provided to improve 'transport and communication'. I have taken this a stage further and have fitted such passageways and an additional one into the centre of my section racks. This provides a path for the bees to get from the feeder to the lower rack of the two and thus they are not forced to travel over the congested comb surface.

(Written at the request of Anne Preston for inclusion in L&RBKA Newsletter).

Dave Cushman.

I have never run my bees for many sections, so I haven't got much experience, but I have a couple of observations:-

  1. There is mention above of performing this operation when a flow is coming to an end. My concern is the queen may be going off lay, so the broodnest is shrinking. I think the bees might fill up the cells vacated by emerging brood in preference to drawing out comb and storing the honey in that. I think an experienced beekeeper may get away with it, but an inexperienced one might not
  2. Rather than extract the honey and put it in a feeder, I think I would take a strong colony and do the following. Remove the brood box off the floor. Place a full super or two of honey on the floor. Take a piece of tough plastic as you get from an animal food bag and cut a small hole in it large enough to get your little finger through. Place it over the top super. Take some thin strips of wood 8-10mm thick and place around the edge of 3 sides immediately above the outside walls, without leaving a gap, but leave the front open. Replace the brood box on top. Place a sloping piece of wood against the front of the hive to divert bees from the front entrance to what is effectively an upper one. Place a section rack on top.

The bees will think they can't defend the bottom supers because the bottom entrance is larger than the one in the plastic. I reckon they will move the honey up in a few days.

I point out that I have never tried this, but I think it will work.

Roger Patterson.