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By: Blake Shook

It just happens sometimes! I’m going to address this from two perspectives:

  1. You did not use a queen excluder, and the queen is laying brood in your honey super during the honey flow & you are trying to figure out what to do before extracting.
  2. You have already extracted honey, and the queen is laying in the honey supers you added back to the hive after harvest.

For #1, that is very common! You have a few simple options.

  • If the frame(s) with brood are less than ⅓ covered with brood, and the rest is honey, you can proceed with extracting. Just leave the brood alone and put it back on the hive after you extract the honey from the frame.
  • Some of the brood can survive the extraction process if it is done the same day and left capped.
  • If your honey super is a deep box, simply swap the frames of brood in your super with frames full of honey from your brood box.
  • If your honey super is a medium box, you can follow step #1, or leave the frames with brood in the super, extract the frames with honey, and replace the empty extracted frames post extraction.

For #2, again, this is very common.

Many beekeepers let their queens lay in the supers post-extraction. If your hive already has 2 brood boxes, and the top box is not more than 80% full of bees, you don’t need to leave the supers on the hive. The only issue with allowing queens to lay in the super is, it ages your comb and makes it a bit more attractive to wax moths as the developing bees shed their cocoons as they develop. However, this is a minor issue, and most supers end up with some brood in them over time. If the queen is actively laying in your supers, and you want to remove some of the supers, you can consolidate all the brood in the supers into just 1 super and leave that on the hive above a queen excluder. Once all the brood hatches, you can remove & store the super. However, if the top brood box on the hive is more than 80% full, and you are more than about 2 months from your first freeze, it is a good idea to leave the extra super on top of the hive to help prevent swarming.   

You used a queen excluder but there is still brood in my supers!

Unfortunately, this can happen occasionally! A couple of things could have happened:

  1. Your queen excluder has a broken bar, or got bent, allowing the queen to pass through and lay in the super. If this is the case, simply replace it or fix it. At this point you will need to find the queen or shake all the bees out of the super into the brood boxes to ensure she is no longer in your supers. Smoking the supers, then gently brushing or shaking the bees off the super frames into the lower boxes is also sufficient.
  2. Your queen was trapped in the supers when you put the queen excluder on the hive. The quickest way to tell if this has occurred is to see if there are eggs & larva in the lower brood boxes. If not, she was trapped in the supers. If there is, follow the previous suggestions in #1.
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