Managing Hives for Honey Production

There is a saying in beekeeping “ask 2 beekeepers a question, get 10 different answers”. I’m interested in managing some of my hives this year specifically for maximum honey production, and have asked way more than 2 beekeepers how to accomplish this goal. I’ve been jotting down advice and information tidbits as I search for the Holy Grail of honey production methods, and this is what I have so far. (Remember all bee keeping is local, so your timing may be different. This advice was given specifically regarding Indiana bees.)

  1. The hive needs a queen with a good, solid brood laying pattern.
  2. Begin feeding pollen substitute patties in late February or early March, and continue feeding until ample natural pollen is coming in.
  3. The goal for hive size is approximately 60,000 bees at the beginning of the flow. That would be 2 deeps or 3 mediums full of bees.
  4. Once the bees begin brooding up, reverse the brood boxes every 10 days until the flow starts.
  5. Add your super as soon as your brood boxes are full, but no later than May 15th.
  6. Add new supers directly above the brood nest and below partially filled supers.
  7. Keep accurate records of queen quality and honey production, then breed from your strongest producers.
  8. Requeen every fall.
  9. Do not disturb the brood chamber with a frame by frame inspection during a honey flow.
  10. Keep the brood nest open during swarm season. Don’t allow the brood nest to become honey bound, but always leave some empty comb in the super above the brood boxes.
  11. Check for queen cells when adding supers by tipping the hive body back and looking at the bottom of the frames.
  12. If you find queen cells, decide whether to remove them or split a nuc off the hive.
  13. Checkerboard the brood nest by adding empty drawn comb or bare foundation to the center of the brood nest to reduce congestion.
  14. Run an unlimited brood nest. Don’t use a queen excluder.
  15. Add a second super when the first super is 1/2 to 2/3 full.
  16. Remove capped honey by July 15th.
  17. You can place 8 or 9 evenly spaced frames into a 10 frame honey super. The bees will draw the wax out farther, which makes uncapping and harvesting the honey easier and more efficient.
  18. Place a swarm trap in the yard in case you get behind in your work. Maybe you’ll catch some bees before they swarm away.

There are as many methods of honey focused beekeeping as there are beekeepers, but everyone needs some idea of where to start. You’ll figure out over time what works for you an your bees. There are beekeepers who use queen excluders, don’t requeen every year, only run one brood box, place packages on drawn comb in the spring and shake out the bees in the fall, never check for swarm cells, etc. Find a method you enjoy and that works for your bees. Happy beekeeping!