Supering Up & Supering Down

Supering-Up & Supering-Down

Supering-Up – What Is It?

Supering, or supering-up, is when beekeepers add supers (the small boxes for honey) on top of the brood box.  This is where the worker bees store the honey that we can then harvest and extract.

How Many Supers Do I Need?

Beehive packages usually come with 2 supers. An average honey yield in the UK for a hobby beekeeper is the equivalent of 1 super, so in theory 2 supers would be enough most of the time.

However, in a good season you might have 3, or even 4 supers, on a hive (though probably not every hive). You could manage on less if you harvested and extracted during the season.

I now have 4 supers per hive.  This is based on the advice of Ian McLean (National Diploma In Beekeeping), 40 years experience and who has written for the “in the apiary” section of the BBKA news.  In turn, his advice is based on his experience and research by “Rinderer & Baxter” who gained 30% more honey with the practice described below as compared with the 2 supers approach.

His advice also appeals to the optimist in me.

Bee Hives - Mid July
Bee Hives – Mid July

When Do I Add Supers?

In advance of the Spring nectar flow – which is approximately mid-April in the UK.

The standard advice is to add another super when 7 of the 10 frames in the super below are covered in bees.

Ian’s advice is to add 3 supers at the start of the Spring nectar flow. The theory is that the bees use all the space in the 3 supers like a drying room, allowing the water to evaporate off the nectar and thus produce more honey.

What If I Have Flat (Not Drawn) Foundation?

  • If all your supers are flat foundation – use 2 supers. This will encourage them to draw them out
  • If you have one super that is drawn and one super that is flat – put the super with flat foundation on top

When Do I Remove Supers?

You can remove supers and extract them at any time so long as the comb is capped.

In areas of oil seed rape, it’s pretty much essential to do an extraction after the first nectar flow before it granulates in the comb – about the end of May.

Many beekeepers do one extraction at the end of the Summer nectar flow – about the first week in August in the UK. I aim to remove the supers in the last week of July so that the bees still have surplus nectar to forage whilst I add Apiguard and then they forage on ivy in September/October.

The 4th super is used when you remove the 3 supers for harvesting,  You put this super on the hive to give the 60,000 bees the space they need rather than squashing them into a brood box. The foundation can be flat, you are just making space for all the bees. They are unlikely to draw the comb at this time of year.

Variation – Just Using 3 Supers

I think you could try a variation to the method described above. You could put the 3 supers on at the start of the Spring flow, but at the end of Summer you could make up 2 supers of capped honey and leave a super of uncapped or partially capped honey on the hive. I have been advised to place this super below the brood box at the end of the flow so that (a) you can place the Apiguard on top of the brood box and (b) as the bees go into Autumn and Winter the cluster will start at the bottom of the hive and then make their way up giving more stores and better ventilation (see post link below).

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Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

2 thoughts on “Supering Up & Supering Down”

  1. I will have a go at this. That said in the past when I have supered up early I have found the bees only go up when they are ready. Plus there is the problem of unworked edges which makes for some frantic frame swapping. Perhaps that doesn’t happen if they are on from the start? What’s your man’s experience there?

    Last year was a good harvest of course and I left the supers on way into August and hauled a lot off and still had plenty of heft in the BB. We will have to see what the weather brings us this year. A warm autumn helps with the Apiguard of course and global warming seems to provide a bit of that if nothing else!

  2. Will be interested to hear how this goes. What is the theory behind putting the super of foundation above the drawn out super combs, is this because the top of the hive is warmest?

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