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Uncapped honey may contain too much water
Sometimes you get a frame of honey with many open cells. The bees left these cells uncapped because the nectar still contains too much water for long-term storage. For whatever reason, the bees did not finish drying those cells and now you are perplexed, wondering what to do with them.
If you extract the honey from a partially uncapped frame, remember that too many uncapped cells (more than about 10%) may make the moisture content of the honey excessively high. However, if you simply store the frame, the uncapped cells may ferment or grow a coating of mold. So what do you do?
Shake watery honey out of the cells
One of the easiest ways to get rid of most of the uncapped honey is to give the frames a good hard shake. Hold the frames upside down and flick them with your wrists. The nectar will fly out like rain. Alternatively, you can gently knock the frames against a tree or a post. Since the cells of a honeycomb are angled upward, turning the frames upside down aids in getting rid of the wet nectar.
Once you shake out the watery nectar, you can extract the honey or store the frame as is. However, if the honey was very close to being capped, it will probably resist your efforts to shake it free. This is perfect for extracting because it is nearly the right moisture content: adding it to the fully ripened honey is usually no problem.
Uncapped honey in the frame may ferment
However, uncapped honey readily takes on water from the atmosphere. Once it absorbs water, it can ferment. Keeping it frozen will prevent fermentation, but unless you live in the frozen north or have a very large freezer, this isn’t very practical.
That said, uncapped honey that is nearly ready to be capped may not ferment at all. I’ve seen it go either way. A lot depends on difficult-to-assess environmental factors, like how much humidity it will face during storage.
Your bees know what to do with uncapped honey
If you are not planning on either extracting the honey or storing the uncapped frames, you can just give them back to the bees. You don’t even need to shake them because the bees know what to do with uncapped honey.
But give it to them before it ferments—a fermenting honeycomb smells like a brewery out of place and the alcohol is not good for your bees. Give them a chance to deal with the uncapped honey while it is still fresh and attractive.
Honey Bee Suite