By: Chari Elam
Bring on the nectar flow!! In last month's issue we touched on “How to know when the nectar flow begins and when to add a honey super!” This month, it’s gettin’ real!! The time to add supers is NOW!!
What size super do I add? Medium or Deep?
2 factors can help determine which best suits you – Weight and nectar flow.
- A full medium super (both sides capped with honey) can weigh between 35-60 lbs.
- A full deep super (both sides capped with honey) can weigh between 60-90 lbs.
Personally, we have a mixture of deep and medium supers. Take it from me, mediums are much easier to manage. Depending on the size of your bee yard, you’ll want to think about how many you’ll be moving as well as how you will be transporting them and factor that in your decision.
Next, your area can make a big difference on how much nectar will be brought in by your bees therefore how heavy your boxes will end up being. For instance, bees kept in a pasture near a Tallow tree grove will likely bring the top end of the weight maximums in honey yields. On the other hand, a pasture in west Texas wouldn’t be expected to come even close! Subdivision bees (backyard beekeepers) can expect somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Area truly does depict the yield.
Another aspect that can affect your honey yield is “beekeeper experience.” You wouldn’t think this could, but it has a LOT to do with it. For example, if a beekeeper is doing a great job of keeping mites in check, nutrition of their bees consistent, requeening each year and overall staying on top of hive management – that beekeeper can expect the best honey yield possible from their area. On the other hand, the opposite on all points can be true as well.
Us ~ while pulling supers in this bee yard July 2020 ~
Can you tell we were HOT?!
Adding your first super Once your hive is 80% full of bees AND resources, you may add your first honey super. The reason I emphasized and is because if there is room to store nectar in the brood boxes, bees typically will fill it before adding to the supers.
Tip: Just because your fellow beekeepers are adding supers doesn’t mean your hive(s) is ready – inspect each hive first before adding supers.
In this issue, you’ll find an article polling beekeepers on whether or not they use queen excluders. Although it is your choice, learn the proper way to use them if you choose to do so. Adding only once comb is started to be drawn on new supers, is critical. Bees tend to not draw comb if they have to go through an excluder.
Then, once some comb is being built, add it. BUT verify your queen isn’t in the super! Trapping a queen above an excluder could be disastrous!
Adding additional supers
Once your first honey super is filled 80% (doesn’t have to be capped), add another super if it’s before July 4th. Why July 4th? Most areas nectar flow will have stopped or slowed to the point no more would be filled.
Do I add additional supers above the previous one or below it?
That’s a good question – and one I’m not going to answer definitively. We add them above the previously added super, but I can see the legitimacy of putting it under it. Logic says it could possible fill quicker if the bees didn’t have to travel through one to
Did You Know?
Out of 20,000 species of bees, only 4 make honey!
get to the other. But I’m also not in favor of lifting a bunch of full supers to add an empty under it. I’ll leave it at: It’s your call!
Monitoring your supers
Nectar flow only lasts about 2 ½ months. Knowing this can be a bit intimidating and make you feel pressured to gain the most honey yield possible. Be careful to not add additional supers too soon! The downside in doing so is that the bees may begin filling it prior to completing the first one – leaving you with supers not filled out or capped in some instances. Depending on your area and flow, you could easily add additional supers every 2 weeks. Typically, 2 or 3 supers all season is the most you could expect for most areas. But don’t beat yourself up if your bees only fill one. That’s still 35-60 lbs. of honey from that hive!!
Continue your bi-weekly check on your bees. But remember, while there is a nectar flow going, bees won’t be too happy for you to be opening their hive. Do it quickly just to verify things are going smoothly and to monitor the super(s) being filled.
IF you find your bees are not filling a super over the course of a couple of weeks or more, evaluate why and act accordingly. It may be that the colony just wasn’t strong enough to produce honey. If you’ve given it ample time and it’s still not filling, remove it - the added space will do more harm than good.
What a fun time of year! Start preparing for extraction time…. Getting equipment ready as well as buckets and containers will save last minute running around gather stuff.