When I Add Honey Supers… sort of

Another one of my beekeeping Gmail reminders came in a few days ago and it goes a-something like this:

Add medium honey supers soon if they’re not already on and note that if the bees haven’t filled a super by the end of July like this…

IMG_0383-thick-comb

…then you might as well remove the honey supers before August and let the bees make winter honey stores for themselves.

That’s a general reminder for me in my local climate. It assumes the colony is in good shape and the weather hasn’t been total garbage.

Again, this reminder is based on my experience with keeping bees in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland, since 2010. My honey bee colonies usually live in 2 to 3 deep Langstroth hives and my honey supers contain fully drawn out comb on plastic foundation. I put a queen excluder beneath the honey super. I might insert blank frames for making comb honey once the nectar flow kicks into high gear. If I only had frames with bare foundation, I would leave the excluder off until the bees had drawn out the comb. But however it goes down, my honey supers are usually on by June 15th at the latest. The population inside the hive is usually rising fast by then and the first significant nectar flows have the bees working fast and furious at making honey.

This isn’t an exact how-to post about adding honey supers. It’s more a reminder for myself that it’s about time to put on the honey supers. I’ve had a honey super on one of my hives since the beginning of June. I added a honey super to another hive about a week ago. I rely mostly on experience, not an exact date (there are no exact dates for anything in beekeeping). I can usually tell when the hives are getting crowded, when a large amount of capped brood is about to emerge, when the bees need the extra space provided by honey supers, when a nectar flow is about to start up — any or all of those conditions and I add a honey super. I’d probably have greater success if I had an exact formula (this much capped brood + that many empty frames + this much honey, etc.), but my brain doesn’t like to do that kind of thing. I go with my gut most of the time. Though I usually don’t wait much longer than mid-June to add the honey supers where I live.