Summary: If you want the bees to pull honey down from a honey super into the brood chamber in a timely manner, scrape the honey first.
We left one medium super full of open and capped honey on each of our hives about two weeks ago so they’d have enough honey for winter storage (and so we wouldn’t have to feed them sugar syrup). Beekeeping is one manipulative trick after another — and the trick with leaving the bees honey is to get them to pull the honey down into the brood chamber. One method is to place a queen excluder above the brood chamber, then an inner cover and then the honey super above that. The honey super is interpreted by the bees’ brains as being apart from the hive, so, in theoretical land, they’ll tear into the honey and move it down into the actual hive, the brood chamber, before winter sets in. When we did this last year on October 23rd, we made sure to scrape open the capped honey first so the bees could dig in right away. We used this do dad called a capping scratcher (or you could just grab a kitchen fork):
I passed on scraping the honey this year, mainly because I didn’t have time to scrape every frame in all seven hives. (Our beekeeping sessions have become quick and dirty since the bees moved to the country. It hasn’t been ideal.) So a couple days ago when I checked on the hives, expecting to remove all the empty honey supers, I discovered that hardly any of the capped honey had been touched. What a drag. I didn’t have a capping scratcher, so I had to use my hive tool to scrape open all the capped honey like this:
When we did this last year, after scraping the honey, the bees pulled down all the honey in about two days. I know some beekeepers will say it’s not necessary to scrape the capped honey. Okay, maybe, if you want to wait about a month for the bees to pull down the honey. But if you have to be quick and dirty with your beekeeping like I’ve had to this year, then don’t waste two weeks waiting for the bees like I just did. Scrape that honey and the bees will have it cleaned within days (if the days aren’t too cold). It may not be pretty, but I think it’s fair to say it’s better than feeding them sugar syrup.