For most beekeepers, honey is an important commodity. Therefore, we tend to our colonies in the hopes of being rewarded with this liquid bounty.
But working with bees can be incredibly tricky at times.
So what happens if our bees are not storing the honey we need?
If this happens, the conditions in your hive and the surroundings are probably not quite right.
There are several things to consider if your honey yield is suffering.
Bees not storing honey
Firstly, you must understand the variables affecting the bee’s ability to properly store honey.
For example, the young may need to be taken care of in a new colony first.
Flowers also play a considerable role in honey production. Therefore, beekeepers should be aware of the bloom schedule in their region and how flowers contribute to honey storage.
Your own expectations as a beekeeper also need to be addressed.
Sometimes what is happening is normal. Here are a few essential things beekeepers need to keep in mind:
- Don’t expect a crop of honey in the first year.
- You can’t make a honeybee do anything.
- It still may not work out after adjustments.
Why are my bees not making honey?
If bees are not making honey, the current environmental conditions are not favorable enough for bees to store surplus, honey. There can be several reasons why bees don’t store honey in the hive’s super.
When beekeepers grumble about a lack of honey, they mostly mean the surplus honey that bees store in the honey supers. This doesn’t necessarily mean bees aren’t producing honey! Depending on the time of year, they could be filling the brood chamber with stores. But perhaps they don’t have a sufficiently large population to move up into the super.
Some of the reasons bees aren’t storing extra honey include:
- Maturity of the colony
- Strength of nectar flow & available forage
- Weather conditions
- Additional stressors
The age and strength of your colony are one of the first things to consider. For example, if you start the hive in the spring, don’t expect a honey harvest in the first year.
A new colony has a lot of work to do to become established. In the first year, beekeepers should concentrate on helping them build up strength and make it through the winter. Then you might be rewarded with a crop in year two.
The available forage obviously contributes heavily to the bee’s ability to make honey. In northern climates, most nectar flows occur in spring. You might get a second, smaller flow in the fall if you’re lucky. This ebb and flow of nectar-rich forage dictate the honey bees’ activities.
Over time you’ll become more familiar with the honey flow in your region. Knowing what is flowering and when helps you make better judgments about the lack or abundance of the honey yield.
Your local climate and weather conditions also affect the bee’s ability to forage and produce honey.
Things like the wind impact your honey yield since high and consistent winds can dry out the nectar pools inside flowers. In addition, air temperature plays an essential role as low temperatures can prevent honey bees from leaving the warmth of the hive. And high temperatures can affect the number of blooming plants.
Stressors in the bee’s surroundings can also affect the overall health of the colony and, thus, their ability to make honey. Things like disease, pests, or chemical pesticides could be to blame.
Why are the bees not storing up for winter?
If bees cannot store honey for winter, it could be because the colony is too weak, or extreme conditions have resulted in a lack of food and nectar. As a result, the bees were unable to produce sufficient stores.
Remember that bees store honey in the brood chamber first. So if your honey supers are empty at the end of the season, this might not mean they haven’t put away food for the cold season.
As the nectar flow recedes, bees make less brood, creating space in the brood chamber for storing honey supplies. Check the brood box to be sure.
Sometimes you might find a small amount of honey in the super and low supplies in the brood box. Did you use a queen excluder? Including this device encourages bees to store in the brood box FIRST before moving up into additional boxes. This trick should mean every available bit of space will be filled with honey in the brood chamber. Then, when you remove the honey supers, your bees will have more food within easy reach.
If your colony cannot stockpile supplies, they will need supplemental feeding to help them survive the winter.
Lots of bees but no honey in the hive
No Honey? Don’t be in such a hurry!
If your honey supers are not filling up as quickly as you expect, you may need to take a step back and appreciate your bees. I consider the beekeeper’s job to be first and foremost about the bees. The honey harvest is a bonus.
Look after your bees; in time, they will compensate you with an excellent crop.
How to increase honey production
Beekeepers use a range of methods to try and encourage bees to produce more honey. But this may not be in the best interests of the colony.
Enticing bees into the upper layers of honey supers is possible. Still, it can be detrimental to the colony’s state as it moves into winter. Don’t use these methods if your brood chamber lacks winter supplies.
The only way to support bees to produce more honey is to provide them with a good home and plenty of nectar-rich food. You can help control the hive conditions, but you may not be able to increase the amount of forage.
Bees can only make honey in proportion to the number of available bees in the hive and the number of flowering plants nearby.
That being said, some of the methods used to boost honey yields include:
- Baiting the honey super with a frame of honey.
- Two queens systems.
- Providing several entrances to the hive.
- Increase the bee population.
Bees can be baited into the honey supers by placing a comb of honey inside. This sometimes coaxes them to produce more honey around the supplementary frame.
A two-queen system is said to improve honey yields. I have little experience with this way of doing things. Still, it typically involves placing two hives side by side and stacking honey supers on top of both. Like this, you get two colonies working together on honey production.
Some beekeepers have had success by creating several entrances to their honey supers. Adding small entrance holes makes access to the supers simpler. It just seems to make the honey bees’ job more manageable. (They don’t have to enter via the brood chamber below, travel all the way up to the supers, and look for available comb).
Finally, increasing the bee population automatically increases honey production. Some beekeepers try adding a frame of brood. Bigger colonies expand at a faster rate than small colonies. Boosting the population by supplementing the hive with sugar syrup is another way to strengthen the colony.
Keep in mind these techniques are best used in healthy and thriving colonies. If your bees are struggling, you must concentrate on their well-being before honey production.
The problem with bees not storing honey will always be that the environment is incorrect.
Regardless of the issue, the real question is, how can I make the bees more comfortable and better cared for?
Thinking “how can I get more honey” typically leads to poor results in the long term.
Take care of your bees; they’ll be making loads of honey in no time!