Why Is There Uncapped Honey in My Super?
Ask the Expert!
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Bob Mallory writes:
Checked my beehive and put another honey super on. I have a problem for which I need input. A honey super has been on for a month and a half. 70% of the frames and cells are filled with honey but nothing has been capped. Has anyone experienced this problem with uncapped honey and do you have any suggestions to correct the problem?
Hey Bob! That’s great to hear your bees are bringing in an excess of nectar and starting the process of making you some honey! I’m going to try and answer your question about uncapped honey and maybe ask a couple of my own to help me better understand your situation. First, let’s chat a bit about the honey-making process. As you know, bees collect the nectar from flowers as a food resource. It’s where they get their carbohydrates (energy) from. They consume some themselves to keep their engines revving and they bring the ‘extra’ back to the hive to feed everyone at home. Some of the nectar brought back is consumed by the adult bees in the hive, some is used to feed their brood, and anything left over is stored in cells to be converted to honey. They convert the nectar to honey because honey can’t go bad but nectar can. To make the honey they use their wings to make air flow over the stored nectar and dehydrate it. Once it’s at around 18% water content (or a bit less) they cap the honey cells.
So, the honey situation in a hive (how much, how long it takes to make, etc.) depends on a couple factors — how many mouths to feed in the colony and how much nectar is available in the environment. When we’re on a big nectar flow it’s not unusual for the bees to fill an entire medium super in a couple of weeks. When the flow is not so big it can take many weeks to fill a single super.
Where are you located? Your bees are bringing in nectar so there is a flow — could it be the nectar flow in your area just isn’t that great right now? Could you ask another local beekeeper how their incoming flow looks? Maybe there isn’t a ton of nectar in the environment and they are consuming more than they are storing. How is the population of your hive? Do you feel like you have a thriving colony or is it a smaller one? It’s possible this colony is on the smaller side and therefore has fewer bees to forage … fewer foragers might mean less nectar coming in. It could also mean there aren’t enough bees to convert the stored nectar to honey. Lastly, does the nectar/honey in your super smell fresh and sweet or does it smell like it might be fermenting? If it smells fresh and sweet that’s good — if it smells like it’s fermenting that could mean bigger problems like a colony that isn’t thriving.
The ‘slow’ buildup of honey in your hive might just be the reality for this year (not a big nectar flow, not a huge colony buildup). A little investigation might be in order to see if there are bigger issues.
I hope that helps! ~ Josh V. (for Backyard Beekeeping)
Thanks for your input. I am in Roseburg, Oregon. I did not smell the nectar so cannot speak from that point. I consider the hive well populated. I just don’t ever remember seeing so much in the cells and not being capped. I am not new to beekeeping, at one time I had two dozen hives. With that said, one never knows what will appear tomorrow so need to keep a watch over things. Again, thanks.