So, you want to be a beekeeper? Well, at one point or the other you’d come across the term honey super. Honey supers help hobbyists increase their honey yield, and make harvesting honey less of a hassle. Particularly during April or mid-May when flowers are blooming, this is when honey flows.
Honey super consists of a box in which 8 – 10 frames are hung. Beekeepers can then put a queen bee in the honey super to attract the rest of the colony. Honey bees will then collect nectar, process it, and store it in a honeycomb which they build on these frames. When the honeycomb is full, beekeepers can then take the full comb and extract the honey.
If you are wondering when you should add honey supers, or things to consider before adding one? You are not the only beekeeper wondering that. In this article, I’d answer this question along with other commonly asked questions among beekeepers. You will also learn how to build 8-frame honey super in this article, amongst other things honey super related.
What are Honey Supers?
Honey super is a box that holds frames hung inside where the bees store their honey. Think of it as a box used to manage a beehive. It makes rearing bees and collecting honey easy. Historically, honey supers were always either a shallow 5 ¾ inches tall box or medium 6 5/8 inches tall box. Both are traditionally referred to as supers, even the 9 5/8 inches deep box can be used as a super.
One thing you should note about these three common honey super boxes is that the greater the height or depth, the larger the frames in height. The implication is that the larger the frames, the more honey it can hole. Hence a 9 5/8 inches deep honey super box will hold more honey than a medium 6 5/8 inches tall box.
Conversely, since super is short for a superstructure, honey super can also mean any size of a box added or is extra to the 365 hives. Nevertheless, note that there is a certain amount of boxes a beekeeper leaves for the bees to live in for 365 days of the year. The boxes on the hive all year-round are called the structure.
But during times of a lot of nectar collection, or when flowers are blooming, more boxes would be added to the structure, this is called the supers. Whatever size of boxes used, shallow, medium, deep, 5-frame, 8-frame, or 10-frame, these boxes are considered supers.
What is the Purpose of a Honey Super?
Honey super is a bee rearing equipment that has several purposes. Understanding the purpose of having a honey super will not only broaden your knowledge about bee rearing, but it will make you a better beekeeper. As such, rearing bees wouldn’t be so dreadful or unprofitable with more knowledge. Here are three purposes of having a honey super.
● Maximize Honey Production
One of the main reasons why any beekeeper needs to consider having a honey super is to maximize their production. During summer when flowers are blooming, honey production is usually increased. This means that your bee will be able to harvest more honey. While the bees may have the capability to harvest more, they may not harvest as much as you may think because of limited space.
But when you add a honey space at the right time, the bee will work harder during summer to increase honey production. As such, honey super can help you maximize honey production. Because as long as there is more space to fill the honey, bees will keep working hard to store as much processed nectar as they can for the winter.
● Easy Honey Extraction
Another interesting purpose of having a honey super is that it helps make harvesting honey easy. While we all love honey, as they are healthier than the regular standard granulated sugar. Extracting the honey from the comb can be a bit of a hassle. But cultivating bees using honey supers helps make extracting honey a lot less of a hassle.
When the honeycombs are full, you can simply remove the frames from the honey supers one by one. The bees attach the honeycomb to the frames, so when you remove the frame, you remove a section of the entire honeycomb. You can then extract the honeycomb from the frame before replacing it. This process is easy and less of a hassle.
● Less Maintenance
Lastly, one particular purpose of using honey supers I love the most is that it requires less maintenance. Beekeepers wouldn’t find it hard to maintain honey super because of the construction. As long as you have a hose line and running water, maintaining honey super after every harvest cycle is no big deal.
After you must have removed all the honeycomb from the frames, wash the frames with water. Place the frames in an opened area and use a hose line to spray the frames clean for another cycle of harvest.
How to Build an 8-Frame Honey Super?
If you are a DIY enthusiast, then you can make your honey super. I’ll show you how to craft an 8 frame honey super with a table saw or router, lumber, and rabbet joints. The reason I’m using rabbet joints as opposed to the box joints which can support more weight is that rabbet joints have less surface area of ingrain of the wood exposed to the element than box joints. With that being said, follow these easy steps below to build an 8-frame honey super:
- Cut the lumber to dimension with a handsaw or a router. You’ll need two 19 1/8-inch x 6 5/8-inch x ¾-inch clear pine and two 13 ¾-inch x 6 5/8-inch x ¾-inch clear pine. Ensure the corners are square, else the box will not fit together properly.
- Form the rabbet joins by using a ¾-inch dado blade to get things done easily. You can also use a standard saw blade by making multiple passes, 1/8-inch at a time on the short sides of both short-boards. In the end, you are trying to achieve a groove that extends from the end of the short-board inward ¾-inch.
- After cutting the long and short-boards, what you need to do next is to join the rabbet joints with glues and nails. First apply the water-resistant glue to both sides of the wood, glue them in place, before using nails to hold them together. The reason for the glue apart from making the joint stronger is that it makes the honey super water-resistant.
- Use a carpenter square or speed square to attach the joints. But make sure the corners of the box are well aligned and square before nailing them in place. Make any adjustment at this stage before the glue sets.
- Keep the box aside to allow the glue harden. Once the glue cures, the box will be ready to use. Remember to add the frames, and a bottom to the honey super before adding it to the beehive.
Best 5 Honey Super You Can Buy
If you are not much of a DIY person, you can choose to buy a honey super. Below are 5 top Honey super you can buy for your beehive.
The Miller DeepBox10 is a honey super made of wood. The wood has been treated and finished with wax to increase its durability. This wooden hive body is made of precision-milled interlocking box joints which also increase the strength of the box. Moreover, the beautiful unfinished pine is great for bees.
Miller designed the DeepBox10 body to measure 19.88-inch in length, 16.25-inch in width, and 9.5-inch in height. In the box, you can fit 10 standard size frames which are completed with wax-coated plastic foundation. And the black foundation also provides you with easier viewing of the activity of the hive and inspection.
One advantage of buying this Miller DeepBox10 apart from its affordable price is that it comes pre-assembled. So, after purchasing this honey super, you don’t need any tool to assemble, simple buy and use it as a honey super or brood box.
Apart from that, the precise hole size of this Miller honey super prevents the queen access to honey supers. The extended tray makes it easier to feed and more accessible inside the hive. The entrance feeder allows you to see the feed levels without disturbing the bees. And most importantly, it is super easy to clean this Miller honey super.
Another affordable honey super you can consider buying is the Mann Lake HK190. This honey super made in the USA is designed with quality pine. Pine honey super is durable and water-resistant to a certain level, meaning this honey super is quite durable.
To further increase the durability of the HK190 honey super, Mann Lake coated the exterior of this super with protective paint. This paint makes the pinewood a bit more resistant to water from rain or dew. Included in this Mann Lake honey super are 10 frames measuring 9 5/8 inches. Overall, this honey super measures 9 5/8 inches in height, 16 ¼ inches in width, and 19 7/8 inches in length.
For added strength, Mann Lake stapled every box which keeps the wood together for longer. I also love that this honey super comes completely assembled and ready for bees. So, when you purchase this honey super, you can start using it without worrying about tools to assemble it or how to assemble it.
Importantly, Mann Lake ensured the design of this honey super is up to standard. Meaning you can use the frames of any other 10-frame honey super on it or use its frame on any other 10-frame honey super. So, if you are looking for a tough honey super that can hold up to temperature fluctuation or severe storms.
If you are after something massive for a start, then I’d recommend you go for this Lafuria 20-frame honey super. This honey super is affordable compared to other honey super in its class. Moreover, the durability of this Lafuria is one feature that makes it a top choice for many bee hobbyists.
Amongst many features, this honey bee hive box is made with a wood bottom and a metal roof. The bottom wood will ensure inside the hive box is at the right humidity and temperature. While the metal roof with snow cover is durable, preventing harsh weather conditions. The premium cedar wood material is stable and comes with long service life.
As for the frames, Lafuria made this honey super with a pinewood that is resistant to dampness from the honeycomb. Whereas, the foundation made with high-quality food-grade plastic ensures the honey you harvest is healthy and safe to consume. Interestingly, the bottom board is detachable, which makes it easy to clean.
The medium box measures 6.6 inches in height, 19.9 inches in depth, and 16.3 inches in width. Whereas the deep box measures 9.6 inches in height, 19.9 inches in depth, and 16.3 inches in width. Each box holds 10 frames and a foundation, giving you a total sample space of 20 frames for honey collection.
Do you have a bad experience with wooden honey super because of the condition of where you live be it the weather or terminates? Well, then I’d recommend you check out this Bachin Thermo Beehive honey super. Unlike other honey super in this article, this Bachin honey super is designed with plastic insulated thermo boxes.
Bachin made this honey super with bee-friendly plastic which is made from UV-resistant and food-grade plastic. This plastic offers an all-round double layer insulation that helps keep the colony cool in the summer and warm in the winter. To summarize, this Bachin Thermo Beehive honey super is suitable for use in winter and summer. So you wouldn’t have to take it down during winter.
Unlike other honey super, this Bachin super has an average economic life span that is three times longer than other types of the honey super. Apart from the durability, the Bachin honey super is also convenient to use as it features an easy to open and inspect lid to move or feed the bees or to fight Varroa mites and other small hive beetles.
Moreover, the colony management system provides the bees with a trouble-free working environment. This lets the bees concentrate their effort on producing honey and other bee products.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the Oumij cardboard NUC box honey super. This honey super is a well-made disposable honey super that fits any existing beehive house. One thing I love about this honey super is that it can perform the function it is intended use despite it being affordable, lightweight, and easy to carry.
Oumij designed this honey super with a soft plastic thickness that holds its shape. However, it doesn’t come assembled on purchase. Nevertheless, it doesn’t require any tool to assemble. All you need is a few steps and this honey super is ready to be introduced to the beehive.
The Oumij cardboard NUC box honey super comes with a secure lid that fits tightly keeping the honeycomb secure so you don’t lose any syrup to any unwanted insect. The Oumij cardboard NUC honey super is great for beekeepers beginning her or their first colony of bees.
Although the Oumij cardboard NUC box honey super is made with plastic, you may think it isn’t durable. But on the contrary, it is built to last. It even features a sturdy handle that makes it easy to move this honey super around. Lightweight, yet rugged, creating a one-of-a-kind portable experience, which is perfect for outdoor and indoor use.
Things to Consider Before Adding a Honey Super
So far so good, I have talked about what honey supers are, their purpose, how to build one, or which one to buy if you are not much of a DIY person. Now I will be sharing with you some things you need to consider before you add a honey super. Perhaps you are about to start keeping your first beehive, and you are wondering when you would know it’s time to add a honey super to the beehive. Whatever the case may be, here you will learn three things you need to consider to know your bees are ready for a honey super.
1. Construction of the Comb
One of the first things I normally tell beekeepers to look out for is the construction of the honeycomb. Bees are very orderly creatures. And they need to do their construction in an orderly fashion. As such, before you add a honey super check below the box to see if the construction of the honeycomb is at least 8 – 10 frames below.
If the bees have drawn honeycomb then the bees are more likely to welcome more space to draw more honeycombs. But note that each colony is different. So, don’t make the mistake of assuming that if one colony is ready for honey super, that all the others will be ready as well.
2. Nectar Flow
Another thing you can take note of is the availability of nectar in the area. If the bees don’t have anything to store, then there is no need of putting a supper over the hive. The supper wouldn’t automatically inspire the bees to travel farther distances to find nectar. So, first, check how well the trees and weeds are blooming that would provide nectar to the bees.
If there has been a drought or a cold that minimizes the flourishing of the wildflowers, it would also affect the yield of honey by the bees. You can become a member of an association, this can help you get information on the nectar flow in the area, how long it lasts, or what affects it.
3. Strength of The Colony
As I said earlier, every colony is different. Sometimes, the genetics of bees is what determines how quickly the colony will grow. And other times, the colony may be suffering a loss caused by disease or pest. Whatever the case may be, weaker colonies means weak bees that can’t adequately stock up a new honey super.
Note that if you have more than one colony they can behave differently as such, they need to be treated differently, even if they are from the same breeder. One more thing to remember when adding a honey super is that worker bees don’t seem too excited drawing combs where the queen cannot access. So, it helps to keep the queen excluder away till some comb has been drawn. And to dissuade the queen from laying her eggs in the super, arrange the frames such that those with honey are situated above the brood.
When Should I Add a Second Honey Super?
Adding a honey super, be it the first or the second, have similar rules. When you check and notice the bees have drawn about 6 – 7 frames, then you can add the honey super. The more space a beehive has, the more they will want to store provided there is nectar around.
But if it is your first time adding a honey super, you don’t expect to find a drawn comb. So, what you do in this case to get them to build a comb on the foundation is to use the checkerboard system. To achieve this, alternate the frames of the first super with the second one to get the bees building the foundation flanked quickly.
When is it Too Late to Add a Honey Super?
To determine when it’s too late to add a honey super depends on several factors. For example, the floral calendar in your area is one of the main determinants. This is because the sole purpose of adding more honey super is so that the bees will have more space so they can store the nectar from the flower. If there is no bloom, then there is no need for adding more honey supers.
As soon as the blooms are over for that period, that means there will be no more nectar for the bees to collect. This means that there will be less honey produced in the honey super. This is why it is recommended beekeepers add supers during springtime and harvest it in the summer.
During this period, the bees will have enough time to dehydrate the nectar. So, to know if it’s too late to add a honey super, first look around to find out in your area the main source of nectar is and when it blooms disappear and appear.
Observing the behavior of the bees could also clearly give you an indication of their foraging behavior. And if the bees are coming back with pollen, they are likely to also collect nectar.
Should a New Super go on the Top or the Bottom?
Adding a new supper can go on the top or the bottom. Adding a new super above the brood box and below other honey, supers are called bottom supering. While putting a new super on top of an existing super is called top supering. There is no wrong way of doing it. However, each method comes with its advantage making the entire subject depend on the beekeeper’s preference.
Benefits of Top Supering
- Top supering is faster to install as you just drop the new super on top.
- Top supering requires less work as you don’t have to lift the other supers off and put them back on.
- Top supering is easier to see when you need to add another super. Simply take off the lid and look.
- A filled honey super placed above the brood nest acts like a queen extruder. And because the queen wants to keep the brood nest together in one place, she will not cross barriers of honey to lay eggs in a new location.
Benefits of Bottom Supering
- Bottom supering encourages the bees to begin to work in the new super sooner if it is close to the brood nest.
- Bottom supering reduces travel stain because the bees wouldn’t have to walk over the capped honey to get to the new storage location area.
- ● Bottom supering reduces the energy the bees expand because they don’t have to walk so far.
When you want to add new honey supers, allow the bees to be the deciding factor when it’s time. Be observant of the bees, and let their language determine the number of frames with drawn honeycomb they have constructed as well as their foraging patterns. As a beekeeper, you may get it wrong sometimes as to when you should add a honey super, but the bees will never do.