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Fixing Honey Bound Hives

A honey bound hive is one which has brought in so much nectar or stored so much syrup, that it has run out of room to store it and is beginning to fill the brood nest with honey/syrup to the point the queen has nowhere to lay. This is very detrimental to a hive since the queen can no longer lay a sufficient number of eggs to sustain the hive. A honey bound hive can begin to dwindle in population and eventually die if there is no intervention by the beekeeper.

Some basic facts that are important to know:

  1. Honey bound hives only occur when a hive has run out of room to store nectar/syrup.
  2. February-September the queen should always have multiple frames of brood in the lower brood box, or multiple frames available to lay on.
  3. The only time it is OK for a hive to begin filling the broodnest with significant amounts of syrup is late fall, as the hive begins to naturally shut down for the winter. Even so, there should still be some frames with at least 50% of space available.

Identifying Honey Bound Hives

Keeping those things in mind, here are a few ways to identify if your hive is honey bound:

  1. All the boxes above the first brood box are completely full of honey
  2.  It is between February and September, and the lower brood box has multiple frames of capped honey, and only a few frames of brood. Open cells even on those frames of brood are filled with nectar/syrup.
  3.  There are no open spaces for the queen to lay eggs in the brood nest
  4. The bees are drawing out excess burr comb all over the hive
  5.  You are feeding heavily, and have been for some time, or there is a strong honey flow

Fixing Honey Bound Hives

Often times hives are somewhere in between fully honey bound, and partially honey bound. If your hive still has 3-4 frames of brood in the lower box, but the upper boxes are full, and the lower box is full except for those 3-4 frames, it is often sufficient to simply add a box, and stop feeding if you are feeding. The bees will typically naturally move food out of the way into an upper box to allow more room of the queen to lay.

If your hive is severely honey bound, here is a simple & quick way to safely fix the hive:

  1. Remove 2 frames of honey on either side of the brood in the lower box.
  2. Set the frames at least 20 feet away from your hives and allow the frames to be robbed out. This could take less than an hour, or a day depending on the temperature and natural forage conditions.
  3. Place the now empty frames back into the hive on either side of the brood.
  4.  Add an empty box
  5. Stop feeding if you were feeding

These steps typically fix a honey bound hive! Don’t forget to continue keeping an eye on food stores. Just because a hive had an excess of honey doesn't mean they will moving forward. It takes 2 frames of nectar or syrup to raise 1 frame of brood, so a strong hive can consume food rapidly!

Check out this video I recorded last October. Although centered around fall, the same principles apply.

Blake Shook

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