What does it mean to be honey bound?

You know your hives are honey bound when you have honey in your brood nest. When honey bees run out of space, they have no option but to start filling empty brood combs with honey and pollen. This becomes a problem because the queen bee runs out of space to lay.

When a beekeeper doesn’t offer the colony more space to grow and expand, the colony can become honey bound. Honey bound colonies are most common in 2 conditions of queenlessness; when a hive is being requeened during flow or when a hive swarms during flow. In both of these situations, the bees will fill empty comb with honey until a new queen has been established. 

What should you do?

If you notice that your hive is honey bound because of queenlessness, you have a few options. 

  1. Add a honey super to your hive: When you do this, you’ll want to move any honey frames into this top box, and replace the space with drawn comb or foundation. Check out this ABC Bees resource on Supering for Wax Production.
  2. Harvest your honey and add drawn comb: If your bees have run out of space, you can make space for them by harvesting frames full of honey and adding frames of drawn comb to your hive.
  3. Harvest your honey and add a frame with foundation: This option is similar to the previous, where you harvest honey and backfill your hives, but your focus with this is wax production. Young bees are wax-producing bees. You can also use the extracted frames for brood space once your queen has mated

Keep in mind you’ll want to be proactive with these methods. if you act too late, you will be at risk of losing your colony to a swarm. 

Swarm in May, Bale of Hay. Swarm in June, Sing a Tune. Swarm in July, Ain’t worth a fly. A saying that describes the value of swarms at different times of the year. Ideally you don't want honey bound swarms.