Many new beekeepers often ask when they should add a super to a new beehive.
The timing of and method behind adding a honey super is crucial to the success of your beehive.
In this article, we hope to teach you about when to add a honey super.
The requirements will essentially be the same for conventional Langstroth beehives, as well as Flow Hives.
When to add a honey super to a new beehive
- 80% of the frames in the brood box are drawn out with honeycomb and brood/honey.
- Bees are covering all frames and bees spill out of the box upon the lid being lifted.
- There is an abundance of flowers and nectar sources in the area, and the bees are actively bringing in nectar.
- The colony is healthy and queenright.
- Spring, Summer or early Autumn (depending on region).
Essentially, prior to adding a honey super to your beehive, you want to be sure that they actually need more space. While some beekeepers may get away with adding a super too early, many will not, and you can actually severely affect the wellbeing of your hive if you add a honey super too early.
Think of a beehive as a house. In order to be healthy and prosperous, the bees have to be able to tend their entire property and keep it warm, dry and free of pests.
If you give a beehive too much space, they can struggle to keep their hive warm, and will expend lots of energy (honey) trying to. This loss of energy can prevent the bees from building their numbers as they may struggle to keep brood warm, and will spend their surplus energy simply surviving, rather than expanding.
Similarly, a bee colony with too much space to maintain can end up being exposed to pests such as wax moths, who can take advantage of the free space in an underpopulated cavity.
A honey super only needs to be added when the bees actually NEED it. For a new beekeeper, this can be a difficult thing to gauge.
How full is too full? Ideally, you would have a beekeeping mentor with a few seasons under their belt that can show you what this looks like, but for a beginner flying solo, a good guide is to look for bees ‘flowing’ out of the box.
In essence, if you lift the lid on the brood box and can close the lid a few seconds later without any bees being left on the outside, then your hive is not yet ready for a honey super.
While this is just a guide, and the other points listed above must be considered, it is a fairly good indicator that the bees are ready for more space.
One final key point to remember is to be patient. Adding a honey super too early is listed as one of our common beekeeping mistakes. Yep, we get it, you’ve seen beehives stacked three, four even five boxes high and are in a hurry to collect your first harvest. You want to throw honey supers on as soon as possible… Just wait!
Make sure the environment is suitable (not too cold, plenty of nectar available) and that your colony is actually strong enough and needs the extra space. Just be patient, wait for the bees and conditions to be suited, and the hive will reward you for your patience by producing more honey in the long run.
By following the steps above and making sure that your colony is ready for a honey super, you will give yourself the best chance of managing a successful colony.
For more beekeeping information and blog content, we suggest you check out some of the resources available from Feedspot. Their list of the Top 70 Beekeeping Blogs contains some very handy links to pretty much any beekeeping topic you could ever need.