Begin Beekeeping

When to Add Supers

Once the frames in the first super have been drawn out and filled with brood, pollen and honey, you will need to increase the size of the brood nest by adding another super of frames and foundation. If you have started with undrawn frames of foundation, it will sometimes assist the bees in drawing the outside frame foundation by moving the frame over one place or so and replacing it with a drawn frame. Do not spread your brood out; the frame you are moving should not have brood on it.

Once your second brood super is drawn out and eighty to ninety percent full, and there is still a good honey flow on, you will need to add a honey super. Usually with nucs or packages you will not get a lot of surplus honey, the bees are using the nectar to build comb and strength. They need both brood chambers full to survive over winter.

When placing honey supers on the colony, most beekeepers like to use a Queen excluder to keep the Queen from laying brood in the honey super. If your honey super has undrawn foundation, it is not prudent to use a Queen excluder: the bees will often not go through the excluder to get to the foundation and may swarm instead. In this case, you would put the super on without an excluder. Once the bees are established in the super and are drawing the wax into comb, the frames can be checked to be sure the Queen isn’t on the drawn foundation. If she is here she can be put down into the brood chamber and the excluder put in place. To assist in getting the foundation in this super drawn out, you may move the drawn comb to the outside against the super wall and the undrawn to the centre of the super where heat from the brood chamber is greatest, giving considerable help to the bees making the comb.

The rule of thumb for honey supering is that the bees should never be using all the comb available to them. When the super is one-half to two-thirds full, add another super. When the second super is half full and the first completely full, add a third super, etc. The honey crop may be removed when the frames are fully or two-thirds capped with wax.