A part of a beehive you may hear about often is the super. If you are new to the hobby, you may wonder, what is a super in beekeeping? This article is all about the super. It will discuss what exactly a super is, how to use it, and when to add a super.
Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no cost to you and helps to keep this website running.
What is a Super in Beekeeping?
Super comes from the word superstructure, which means a structure built on top of something else. So in beekeeping, a super is a box (or boxes) that are placed on top of the hive that is used to collect honey.
There are a few different configurations used in setting up a beehive, but most go like this: 2 deeps for brood, with a medium on top. These boxes will stay on the hive all year round.
Once those boxes get full, you’ll need to add a super. This is called supering. Supers are not only necessary for honey collection, they also help in relieving congestion and overcrowding within the hive which will reduce the likeness of swarming.
What Size Box is a Super?
Supers are usually either medium or shallow boxes, but a super can be any size box you want. The reason medium or shallows are mostly used is because of the weight. When a super is full of honey it can get quite heavy. Therefore, lifting a smaller super is more manageable than a heavy deep box.
When To Add a Super
In Langstroth hives, supers are added on top of the hive. To know when to add a super, check the top brood box. A super should be added when 8 out of the 10 frames are filled with brood, pollen, and honey. When this happens depends on the nectar flow in your area.
If you are unsure of when to add a super, it is generally better to add it too early, rather than too late. Adding a super too late increases the chance that your colony will swarm and you’ll lose half your bees.
Adding supers too early does come with issues though, such as temperature control and pests, such as wax moths. The key to supering at the right time depends on hive inspections. Just be sure to take note of what is going on in the brood box.
At this point you may want to use your queen excluder. A queen excluder is made up of thin plastic or metal bars that sits above the brood box. The bars allow the workers to get through, but the queen’s larger body will not fit. This is to prevent the queen from laying eggs in the super.
Some beekeepers have found that the queen excluder works best after the bees have drawn comb on the foundation. That’s because if there isn’t any comb built, the worker bees may not bother to move up to that box.
If this is a problem for you, simply remove the queen excluder until the bees have started drawing out wax into comb. At the next inspection, make sure the queen is not in the super and replace the excluder.
If this is the colony’s first year, however, most beekeepers recommend leaving all honey for the bees. In that case, a queen excluder will not be necessary.
How Many Supers to Add?
The amount of supers to add at a time depends on how often you will check on your hives. The rule of thumb is that you should add as many supers as you think the bees will fill until your next visit.
Strong colonies have been known to fill a super in less than 2 weeks, so if you don’t plan on visiting your hives within 2 weeks, you should add more than one box.
Think of it this way. You do not want the bees to have to use up all of their comb. If they are getting close to that point, another super must be added. Many beekeepers add another super once the previous super one half to two thirds full.
What to Do When Supers are Full
When your super is full, it’s time to harvest honey. Remember that you must leave enough honey for the bees to survive the winter. The amount varies by region, but will be at least 50 lbs per colony.
You also want to make sure that the honey in the super is cured and capped. By the end of summer, the frames in the super should contain 80% capped honeycomb. Now you can either harvest the honey, or wait until the last major nectar flow.
Storing Supers When Not in Use
When your supers are not in use, it is important to store them properly. Supers should be cleaned, dried, and stored in such a way that will prevent pests such as mice or wax moths from getting to them. Below are some ideas for storing supers.
What is a super in beekeeping? A super is a box that is placed on top of the hive that is used to collect honey. Supers are usually either medium or shallow boxes, but a super can be any size box the beekeeper chooses.