Adding Honey Supers

I inspected both of my hives today, but didn’t have my regular cracker jack film crew along. No video. No photos. But you can pretend I saw something similar to this:

Report on Hive #2: Full inspection. Used sugar spray mist instead of smoke. Two beautiful full frames of natural capped honey. Gorgeous. I wish I’d taken photos. Plenty of brood at various stages. Pattern seemed spotty but most open cells were filled with eggs or larvae. Couldn’t spot the queen. Lots of honey and pollen. No single frames full of drones but a fair number of drones nonetheless. Comb being filled in fast on two empty frames added probably less than a week ago. Didn’t count exactly what I found on each frame this time around. One queen cup. No queen cells. All frames in bottom box were full. Most of the frames in the box were full. Ergo, added medium super with five foundationless frames in the middle. Will add five more frames as soon as I can, but five frames should be enough for now. No feeder on the hive.

Used sugar spry mist instead of smoke on Hive #1, but wish I had the smoker on the go. Although I like the idea of not smoking the bees, I can see how it could come in handy. The bees in Hive #1 were in a bad mood right from the start. It was also 4:00pm by this point, which was three hours later than I had originally planned. I will never delay a hive inspection to the late afternoon again. Too many bees coming home to roost, and none of them happy to find me there.

Report on Hive #1: Inspected only the top box. Found five foundationless frames full of drones and honey. Oddly enough, the frames on the edges of the top box were full of worker brood. I expected to find worker brood in the middle, but oh well. Didn’t rearrange any frames. Didn’t look at the bottom brood box. Added medium super with five foundationless frames in the middle. No feeder on hive.

No plans to touch the hives again until mid-June.

February 2019 Postscript: When using foundationless frames with no comb in them, I make sure to put them between two frames that already have drawn comb or at least have some kind of foundation in them (plastic or clean wax). That’s the best way to get the bees to build comb evenly. To get the bees to move into an empty super, as mentioned in the comments, drawn comb seems to encourage them the most. But even with a honey super full of nothing but empty drawn comb, the bees will start working the comb when they’re ready. I’m sure other beekeepers have their own thoughts on this, but from what I can tell, assuming the nectar is flowing strong, once the population of the colony increases to the point where the bees have nowhere else to go, then they’ll start working the honey super. A small population in the hive just won’t do it. The comments in this post are worth reading.

9 thoughts on “Adding Honey Supers

  1. The bees have shown no interest in building on the foundationless medium supers. I might place an empty medium frame in the brood box just to get them building on it, and then pull it up into the medium. Or maybe they just don’t need to build up there yet.

    We inspected one of our hives today, one that was grumpy last time (Hive #1). We smoked them and they were fine. We saw a couple of small queen cups but no sealed swarmed cells. And still plenty of room for the queen to lay.

    I sure hope this foundationless route pays off, because man, I’m
    guessing at least 1/4 of the frames are full of drone brood. I know they’re supposed to switch to worker brood eventually, but Newfoundland has a very short summer and the clock is ticking. They better get to it soon. It’s disappointing compared to last year when frame after frame was full of solid worker brood. We saw some worker brood this time, but no single solid frames of it.

    In total I would say there are about five of six frames or worker brood in the entire hive. Scattered honey and pollen, but not a great deal of either of them. No single solid frames of honey either.

    Most of the hive is drones. As disappointing as that is, it does seem like a healthy colony with a good sized population.

    I’ve decided to buy foundation for my nucs this year. I want to have one hive with all foundation and another hive with none right from the start so I can compare. I’ll probably still go foundationless with the honey supers though.

    I’m trying to keep the faith with the Backwards Beekeeping approach, but man, drones suck.

  2. The bees are showing no interest in building comb inside the foundationless medium supers. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m beginning to have serious doubts about going foundationless. I assume the bees will begin building some comb when they’re ready to expand, but I don’t have a good feeling about this.

    The bees in both hives have been taking down syrup, but the weather over the past two weeks has been rainy and cold. I don’t know what to think.

  3. Dan mentinoed this to me the weekend and I think Dan he has the right idea. You need some comb up in tha ttop box to encourage the bees to move up there. The comb trick you are working on in the picture may help. All you need is some honey drizzled over that empty comb and you are off to the races.

    • I cut out some comb from my spare drone comb frame and placed it in two medium frames. Then I put each frame in the middle of each of the supers. That should get them interested.

      Cold and rain and virtually no sunshine for the past two weeks probably didn’t help either.

  4. The weather hasn’t been great out my way, but it has been better than in town. I guess you are going to have some more nucs added to the back yard after this weekend.

  5. Hi – I know you are gone fishing – but I am hopefully going to get a reply – We are hopefully going to make the drive out to Cornerbrook to pick up bees at the end of June – haven’t heard back yet – Miranda Squires who runs The Tree Of Life with Ian Goudie up in Salmoneer Line [don’t know if you have heard of them and their retreat centre] is wanting to start beekeeping along with myself and two other people – We are going out to Paradise Farms for a lesson from Aubrey on Thursday – the point I am trying to get to is – what if we don’t get our bees? Are you or anyone else locally – a resource? Thanx for taking the time to read this – and also you are doing a wonderful job with your website – the information on the beekeeping is really appreciated.
    Hope to hear back from you.

    • I’m not sure what the weather has been like for the NL Bee Company this year, but if it’s been anything like St. John’s weather with cold temperatures and just a few patches of sun shine here and there over the past month, then I wouldn’t be surprised if their nucs aren’t ready until mid-July like they were last year.

      I ordered two nucs from them last fall. I got a brief confirmation of my order from them before Xmas and haven’t heard from them since. I’ve emailed them a few times to ask about getting marked queens with the nucs, but still no word. Hopefully they’ll make contact soon.

  6. Be thankful man. Those queens will take care of you drone problem. That’s less feeding of drones and more honey produced for yourself.

    Hi Flo,

    Not certain how much I can really say. There are several of us in the same boat as you regarding getting nucs from the west coast. I am told when the nucs are ready they will give us a call. That is all we can go on for the time being. At this point there is no one else available to provide nucs.

    Best of luck

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