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This page is a collection of my posts on BEE-L from back in  the 1990s.
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Supers stacked for abandonment also called 'Tipping'The Abandonment or Tipping
Method of Removing Honey

We use abandonment (also called 'tipping' to remove the bees from honey supers.  This method usually requires two visits to each yard within a day or so, although the bees leave quickly with the box on end and light coming in both sides and sometimes it is possible to take the honey in one trip, especially if one is willing to clean up any stragglers with a bee blower.

From this BEE-L post

Subject:Re: Fume boards vs Escape Boards
From: Allen Dick <allend@internode.net>
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996

> In my year 25 experience, removing (Robbing) honey has
> always been a chore. In the past I have tried everything from
> brushing the individual frames to using my scuba tank's
> pressurized air to blow the bees out of the supers.
> I have tried Fume boards with mixed success. S. Calif. sun
> gets really hot. Putting a fume board on hive with 4 supers
> and a queen excluder can really send a hive into a frenzy
> and drive the bees right out of the front entrance.
> Plus the idea of using another chemical in my hives flies against
> my approach to drug free beekeeping and untainted honey.

I have to agree.

We've had a report on BEE-L recently of escape boards failing to work. I've never experienced any problems whatsoever (as long as I got the boards right side up) , and have to attribute the problem to using them on overly crowded hives or at a time when the bees were not mobile (clustered?).

Fume Boards

The chemicals available for fume boards these days are butyric anhydride and benzaldehyde -- at least in North America. Carbolic acid was previously used for many years without problems, but is no longer permitted, even though, apparently it is a mjor ingredient in cough drops.

Benzaldehyde is also known as 'artificial oil of almonds', and has a most pleasant smell. In concentration, I doubt you would want to breathe it all day or wear it on your skin, but it seems pretty benign. Unfortunately it does not work reliably in many different conditions and we gave up on it long ago.

Butyric anhydride (Bee Go or Honey Robber) is a really pungent material. I will not allow it in my building -- even for a minute, in case it spills. Boxes removed with it smell like dog feces long after and any honey house where they are extracted smells bad. The user soon gets used to the smell, and only visitors notice it, but it gets in your hair and your clothes. Honey Robber has a cherry oversmell, but as one commercial beekeeper says: " the only difference is that it smells like _cherry flavoured_ dog shit".

In the field, butyric anhydride works *almost* as well as carbolic used to, however I personally am choked by the fumes no matter where I stand. It's not the smell, but the fumes actually hurt my bronchia.

(If I were a hobbyist, and not selling to any large market, frankly I'd get some carbolic and use it. It's the best. But do not use it if you are selling honey).

Using fume board chemicals requires at least average intelligence and careful handling); never place the open container on top of a beehive that is open -- it might tip. Apply the chemical sparingly and make sure that it is on the cloth and soaked in, not sitting in drops on the wood, waiting to drip on your top bars as soon as you invert the board. Use smoke to start the bees, and of course, make sure the bees are not in a cluster, but moving freely in the hive and responsive to smoke.

Bee Escapes

All in all, for comb honey production, we found the triangle bee escapes to be reliable and had the advantage of leaving the burr comb in the supers clean and non-drippy.

In a hurry, we have used fume boards, but a bee blower --with or without abandonment (tipping) was the fastest.

Abandonment (Tipping)

The abandonment method also leaves the burr comb free of dripping honey, and having a blower allows one to take the boxes within the hour in case robbing is likely, or an extra trip would be required.

Abandonment is the very best method, but it is an expert method and requires some considerable expertise. It is not normally suitable for most beginner or intermediate beekeepers because they cannot recognise the difference between bees leaving, and robbing bees, and cannot understand the conditions -- seasonal, and weather related --that determine exactly how the procedure must be accomplished (there are many tricks).

Having said that, however, a knowledgeable commercial operator can look out the window in the morning and send a crew of trained labourers out to tip without too many worries.

Tipping can be used in both flow and robbing conditions without loss or contamination of honey, and with minimum disturbance to the bees. It is our primary means of removing honey, but we always carry a blower.


Blowers come in may guises, from the home vacuum cleaner in reverse mode to the Huskvarna and Stihl two stroke 'big mothers' that approach 200 MPH air speeds. We use the latter, but seldom turn them up all the way. The top speeds are for partly empty combs on cool days -- days when the bees should actually be left alone, but there are a few boxes that have to be cleaned out and we are 60 miles from home on a Friday afternoon.

We don't turn them up because if we do, the bees are blown up in our faces instead of thu the top bars, and there is a risk of damaging bees with too much force.

BTW, we blow from the bottom of the box to the top, since the frames can be moved easily by their bottoms -- like leafing thru a book.

Under some circumstances, we blow down through a box that is still on the hive before removing it. Temperature must be considered when doing this.

Leaf blowers are a cheap and ubiquitous alternative to specialised bee blowers. They are adequate for most (95% of all) jobs, and we carry one as back up blower for when our main blowers fail. They are not as rugged as the big ones, but they do last well -- even being trucked around the country.

I like to put 15 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose on my blowers and set them far from the bees -- and me. If they are close to the hives, bees can get into the air intakes and gum everything up (we screen the intakes and the motors). If they are near me, I go nuts from the noise, and my helpers get tired of being shouted at (over the racket).

My son wears the Stihl like a knapsack -- it is designed for that -- and uses the trigger to rev it only when needed. So, as you can see there are different tastes in this.

A blower is very useful if you misjudge how fast the bees will abandon your boxes and they are still full of bees when you are ready to load, or if there is a patch of brood in a super, and the bees have not left.

Well, I'm out of time. I hope this clarifies some of the choices available.



W. Allen Dick, Beekeeper
RR#1, Swalwell, Alberta Canada T0M 1Y0
Internet:dicka@cuug.ab.ca & allend@internode.net
Honey. Bees, & Art <http://www.internode.net/~allend/>


From this BEE-L post

Subject:Re: Fume boards vs Escape Boards
From: Allen Dick <allend@internode.net>
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 1996

Tipping is a method of removing honey without using chemicals, blowers, brushes, etc.

It is the most elegant solution, but requires at least advanced or master level bee knowledge to succeed consistently without complications.

Here's how:

1. Choose a day when temperatures are sufficient for free bee flight, and a good flow has been on for several days.

2. Remove full or partly full supers -- preferably with no brood, and preferably from above an excluder.

3. Place each one _on end_ either on the ground to one side near the entrance of the hive from which it was removed, or on top of a hive nearby that has it's lid on normally. (Perhaps that latter hive has just had its honey removed and a super added). Do not block flight paths.

4. Shortly the bees should finish their tasks, clean up any drips from burr comb, and fly out. They will then fly into the hive from which they came. This may take minutes or it may take hours, depending on the intensity of bee and flight activity.

5. Pick up the supers and take them away. You are done.


Weather changes fast, and so do bees. Bees that were happy at one moment, may turn to heavy robbing, resulting in (total) loss of the honey and serious stinging of passersby.

Queens, if excluders are not used, may be in the super(s) of some hives. Careful blowing, brushing or shaking toward the correct hive is then required, as the bees may not leave by themselves. Brood in supers will have the same effect.

Backing out

In the worst case, the supers may simply be lifted back on the hive from which they came, and an attempt may be made again later.

With our experience, we are able to leave boxes tipped -- sometimes for days -- without incident, if the truck does not have a chance to return due to breakdown or some other cause. But then we do know exactly what we are doing, ands seldom have a problem. There are only a few weeks a year that we can get away with such 'careless' behaviour.

Rain or dust storm can be a problem, however the honey is largely protected from rain because the boxes are on end.

Questions welcome.



W. Allen Dick, Beekeeper
RR#1, Swalwell, Alberta Canada T0M 1Y0
Internet:dicka@cuug.ab.ca & allend@internode.net
Honey. Bees, & Art <http://www.internode.net/~allend/>


From this BEE-L post

Subject:Re: The tipping method for honey removal
From: Allen Dick <allend@internode.net>
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996

At risk of providing too much on this topic:

I was just out tipping a few boxes. Light robbing is happening. Of course things are proceeding nicely. I'll go and pick up the boxes in a few minutes -- they are in the home yard.

I realised that I discussed conditions where there would be a flow, or conditions where there would be robbing, but did not explicitly state that: -----------------------------------------------------------------

Tipping _will not work_ if the bees are not flying freely!


The reason: If they have not flown for a few days, they will not know where to go when and if they do fly up, and as a result abandonment will fail.

Bees forget where home is in as short a time as a day or two at some times of year, and it is a safe bet that after three days of confinement or low flight activity, most will not remember their hive location.

Some of these things are so much second nature to me that it is hard to remember to explain every little detail. Sorry if anyone ran into difficulty.

Feel free to ask if you have problems understanding my explanations..



W. Allen Dick, Beekeeper
RR#1, Swalwell, Alberta Canada T0M 1Y0
Internet:dicka@cuug.ab.ca & allend@internode.net
Honey. Bees, & Art <http://www.internode.net/~allend/>


From this BEE-L post

Subject: (Fwd) Re: The tipping method for honey removal
From: Allen Dick <allend@internode.net>
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996

This is a reply to a private email that resulted from a recent post. I imagine the content is of general interest, so am sending it to all.

> Yes, some odor does  get into the honey house, but I have
> found that a quick ventilation  of the building when warm
> removes the odor.

As I said those who use the Bee-Go, cannot smell it, even though the smell lingers for months.

> Anyway, I'm intrigued by the tipping method and would prefer
> to use that vs. boards. I'm probably somewhere intermediate in
> the group that you mentioned who don't have the expertise
> to use this method.

Well, if you think you are an intermediate, then likely you are humble and observant enough to get away with using tipping :) Lots of beginners quickly think they are *experts* because they read the books and/or got elected to an executive position in the local bee club -- hence my warning.

> I can tell the difference between bees leaving a super and those
> robbing. However, I don't have much of an idea of what
 > weather and flow conditions are good.

Here's a good indicator of a good flow: Many bees come and go rapidly from all hives (without stopping to orient), and there is no serious defensive behaviour at the entrances. bees do not 'hover' like bullets at every potential hive crack in the characteristic robbing position. Honey left on the ground in front of the hives is left *untouched* for days. There is humming at night as the bees fan the moisture from nectar, and often some of the bees will 'hang out'.

> I'm surprised that you say this method can
> work under robbing conditions.

I am really leery about recommending tipping without a flow because I have often been surprised to find what other beekeepers might do -- or not know that I would have never imagined from just talking to them -- things that might have a huge influence on the results.

Using abandonment during 'no flow' conditions is tricky because of the possibility of robbing activity overwhelming weak hives (and an inexperienced beekeeper), and conversely the difficulties posed by the bees being semi-dormant in the supers.

Using tipping during a good flow is reasonably idiot-proof, but if there is *even a chance* of robbing, well... Then it gets unpredictable.

(So, Remember -- don't try this at home kids -- unless you happen to be -- or have the supervision of -- a well experienced beekeeper)!

Here's how it is done:

Firstly , you don't just go away while the boxes are tipped when robbing is possible. You watch closely.

Since one way to stop robbing (temporarily, at least) in a yard is to remove*every* hive lid and leave it off while you work, a similar effect can be used to have the bees leave the supers -- without robbing problems:

When you tip boxes from every hive in a yard on a hot day with many bees flying actively and perhaps light robbing already occurring, the bees will depart quite rapidly. In the confusion, there will not be much robbing or violent defensive behaviour until the boxes are picked up, and even then there should be little problem -- if it is accomplished with reasonable speed. Be careful not to leave scraps of honey around when you depart.

Once begun, there will be *a lot* of bee activity -- enough to intimidate novices. If you plan to work with this, try it on a limited scale at first.

A method I consider much safer is to place full supers (with bees) -- not necessarily from only one hive if you use excluders) on a single pallet with the top of the stack open, about two or three hours before dusk on a day when the hives are active.

Light robbing starts and gets the bees stirred up enough to depart, but the declining light puts a natural end to robbing and flight, and stimulated the bees to want to go home to mother. If things go awry, just placing a tight lid on the stack ends the problem.

You return to claim the boxes any time before 8 AM or so (Don't be late). It's slick, and when done right, few -- if any -- bees remain, and none are killed. The burr comb is nicely cleaned up and the honey either deposited in the combs or taken back to the parent hive. It works best in a home yard, and that's where I have often used it without any problem.

Of course, you can just put a bee escape board on top of the above stacks to begin with (with the triangle up), and if you have taped the cracks, you can even depart for a while.

The problem with this in no-flow conditions is that the bees may be sluggish and not inclined to leave unless stimulated by repeated smoking or the stimulation caused by some light robbing. But then, you can wait days with no problem if the escape board can stand weather.

*Tipping*, on the other hand causes some stimulation by changing the normal orientation of the super, and allowing light to enter. Nonetheless, smoke may be required to get the bees to start moving.

> This year we have had excellent honey production and many
> hives have 5 or 6 packed full shallow supers on  them. Because
> they are packed, many have burr comb between supers
> and thus honey is exposed when supers are separated from
> the hive.  Under robbing conditions, I'd expect serious robbing
> with this exposed honey and 50-60 supers standing on end (?)
> waiting for bees to abandon.

Well, robbing from an open source becomes a huge problem mainly when the open supply runs out, and the bees start to seek honey everywhere. If the supply is removed at dusk and the bees have the night to settle down, things are much better.

If you can control robbing and you can move the boxes away quickly when most of the bees are gone, and if the hives in the area are all strong, and there are no neighbours with bees -- no problem. Otherwise... Hmmm. Quite a few 'if's in one statement!

BTW If you do this during mid day, you'll want to pick up the boxes well before every last bee is gone, and be prepared to clean up with brushing, shaking or a blower if necessary. The last few bees will leave the stacks as you prepare to drive away. If you wait for them all to be gone, you will not be able to complete.

I've never had a problem using the stacking technique, and can't really see a problem using tipping -- if a flow is on. If you are uncertain or want to try it when robbing is possible (or certain) do it late in the day until you build up confidence, so that if things go awry, you can tidy up at dusk.

Disclaimer: YYMV.

I am not recommending by describing these methods that the unwary start a robbing frenzy, and caution those who are in areas where robbing can turn into bedlam to be careful or people can be stung, nucs can be robbed out, etc.

I've never kept bees where most of you live, so I sure can't predict the outcome of trying abandonment during a dearth in your district. Where I have bees, I am usually the only beekeeper for a mile or so, so I don't have to worry about other peoples' bees participating unexpectedly. Beekeeping neighbours will affect your decisions. Please bee careful.


From this BEE-L post

Subject: Re: removing bees from supers
From: Allen Dick <allend@internode.net>
Date: Sat, 23 Aug 1997

> ... Some colonies leave each super in a matter of minutes; others
> are slower. If any brood is in the extracting super, the bees may not
> leave no matter what the beekeeper does. I would like to know
> when a professional beekeeper would consider a super empty
> of bees. The supers I take off often still have a good many bees
> in them.

This varies with the circumstances, however as a general rule, for each 500 to 1000 standard boxes we extract, we have at most one or two basketball sized clusters of bees that arrive in the hot room and go to the windows. We probably lose as many again on the way from the yards.

Since we remove honey only in good foraging weather where possible, the bees start leaving the boxes voluntarily from the moment they are removed from the hives, and continue while they are being stacked on the truck.

If you are able to pull the honey during a good honeyflow, simply removing the super(s) and standing them on end on the ground will result in virtually no bees remaining after a timespan of somewhere from several minutes to a day depending on circumstances. A bee blower is a handy device to have if things do not work out as planned and we always carry one (when we remember), however we seldom use it, since it is noisy, smelly, and time-consuming.

The method described above is called 'tipping' or 'abandonment' and is widely used in Western Canada. There have been exhaustive discussions on this method of removing honey previously here on BEE-L and Gordon has preserved them at http://www.apis.demon.co.uk/December-96.html 

If you don't have web access -- or just prefer an email copy, just reply to me [log in to unmask] -- not to this list, please -- with a message that has the words "send abandon" in the subject line and you will receive the text of that discussion as an email message.


(Note: I n 2013, the article is not available by email any longer).

Disclaimer: This information is presented for education purposes only and describes expert techniques that could be dangerous if practiced carelessly or by inexperienced users.  Readers who choose to try these techniques are cautioned to be careful and avoid areas where people or animals might be stung.
Use at your own risk.

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