Monday, June 1, 2009

Supering Made Easy

Every beekeeper knows that if they want to produce honey that they must have a colony which is strong enough to draw and fill supers. Here is a quick rundown on how I super my honey producing colonies. When the colony is strong enough only then is it appropriate to add a super. When using frames with foundation I will use ten frames in the super. When using foundation only add one super at a time. When this super is 90% drawn it is time to add another super with foundation. Always use ten frames when using foundation.

The title to this post, "Supering Made Easy," is named so because I intend to show you the easiest way to super a colony in order to achieve the most harvest. For this post I have used supers of drawn comb. These supers were extracted last year and have been stored safely away from wax moths, mice, and other unwanted pests. In the below picture I intend to super the colony on the right. This is a rear view of the colony. There are two empty supers over the inner lid on this colony. They are there to surround t6he feeder jars which are over the inner lid. These feeders will be removed so the honey from the colony remains pure.

After the inner lid is removed a queen excluder is put in its place before the first super goes onto the colony.

The supers which I am placing atop the hive contain nine frames of drawn comb. Once the comb has already been extracted it is OK to use only nine frames. The bees are less likely to build any burr comb between the frames after they have drawn out. Also the frames are easier to uncap as the bees have drawn the comb out past the frames. Uncapping goes a lot faster when you are uncapping frames that are drawn out farther than when the bees have ten frames per super. Always use ten frames with foundation or else you could end up with a nice mess. When superimg in the way I am disclosing to you be sure to only use drawn comb as pictured below.

When using multiple supers of drawn comb it is pertinent to have an upper entrance. This allows the field bees easy access to the supers when returning from gathering nectar. This relieves congestion within the brood chambers since the field bees do not have to traverse the combs which contain brood and are covered with the bees which are incubating the brood. It also helps the field bees to bypass the queen excluder. If you have a colony strong enough the bees will have no problem using the upper entrance. In the picture below you can see I created the upper entrance by notching the bottom of the second super.

In this picture I have added three additional supers of drawn comb. The fourth super from the bottom, or second from top, can also be notched for another upper entrance.

The advantages to having drawn comb over using foundation are immense. The bees must consume approximately eight pounds of honey in order to produce one pound of wax. Since nectar has a moisture content of over 80%, which is over four times the moisture content of honey (which is between 16% and 18%) a colony must obtain around 32 pounds of nectar to get the 8 pounds of honey (after evaporated) to make the one pound of wax. Save your wax!!! Of the five supers of drawn comb which I placed atop this colony, the bees must nearly fill all five supers with nectar in order to evaporate the nectar down to one super of honey. It is extremely beneficial for your bees for you to save the comb that they have labored to construct. I know people like cut comb or chunk honey but they get very little of that from me. The comb does so much more for the bees than it does for any human being who chews on it for awhile just to spit it out.

This is the easiest way I know of to super a colony. If you have drawn comb you do not need to labor over installing foundation into frames or assembling frames to hold the foundation. Do yourself a favor and protect all your comb.

I could not help myself, but after taking these pictures I used the top deep on this colony and the one beside it to make up some more nucs so we will not have any future posts showing how beneficial using drawn comb in your honey supers is. I can testify from past years experience that you can obtain more than twice the amount of honey from a colony when using drawn comb as opposed to using foundation.