Supers in winter

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  • #2340
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    Nicky

    Can you help please? All the books I’ve read talk about when and how to add supers, but none tell me when/ if I should take them off, other than for extracting honey. Are any full supers left on over winter? I’ve just finished Apigard treatment and am about to start autumn feeding, and would like to know if my bees should be filling a super (or however many) or just filling up the brood box with stores. Thanks :-)

    #2341
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Hi Nicky,

    Well there are a few factors here. First of all what size is your hive? Is it a strong well established hive or a nuc you got this year?

    I guess it also depends where you are in the world and how harsh your Winters are etc.

    Im in Scotland and our Winters have been quite bad for the past two years especially. In my experience of having a new nuc the bees are unlikely to fill any super and it makes sense not to take any honey in there first year anyway to get them strong. I tend to put the super on but used just to store the feeder.

    The bees will have a good balance of brood and stores through Summer and Autumn then it will change and less brood will be laid and more stores created for the lead up to Winter.

    So iits a new nuc you have I would advise letting them get on with it in the broodbox, use a super to store the feeder. Then before Winter really kicks in remove the super (and feeder) and pack the top of the broodbox with fondant (i.e. pack it on top of the actual frames).

    Make sure you hive is secure and a good bit off the ground so no damp can creep in.

    If however you have a strong well established hive then adding supers is a must (might be a bit late in the day to be doing it now but Im not sure where you are from in the world). You can utilise a super to be used as another broodbox giving the Queen more space to lay and hopefully negating the swarming instinct. You can then add a queen exluder and add another super on top for pure honey stores. These supers above the queen exluder and fine for you to take. When Winter comes do the same as above but this time keep the brood box and the next super (which was acting as the second brrodbox). Then pack the top with fondant.

    I think the thing to remember is that the bees create their own heating in the hive. If they are a small, relatively weak hive then trying to heat a broodbox and a super over the Winter may prove to be too much for them. If they are a strong, well established hive then heating that internal area shouldnt pose a problem.

    I have noticed that a lot of books focus on the beekeeper and what they can get out of it and not necessarily on how to keep your bees alive year in, year out.

    Hope that helps you anyway and feel free to ask any other questions.

    Dude


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    #2342
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    Nicky

    Ah! Thanks The Path, great reply.

    The issue of heating the hive hadn’t occurred to me at all.

    I’m in East Anglia, and have two hives, both of which came to me as nucs in very early May. One has built up really well, and is so populous that I think it will be ok with a super of food on (will remember to remove the queen excluder so she doesn’t get left in the brood box if the cluster moves up into the super). The other is doing ok, but is not quite as full. I shall leave that one without a super, I think, and put some fondant in. It’s too late to advise me not to take any honey off, I’m afraid…..the deed’s already done! I took about 7 lbs from the vigorous hive (feel really mean now) but nothing from the other hive. I suppose I could give it back, but like it on my morning toast too much! So….the focus now is on making sure my bees have enough stores to last through the winter.

    I feel much more confident now that I’ve asked that question. I’m a member of the local beekeeping group, but if you ask a question there you’ll get more different replies than there are people in the room! I just end up spinning round in confusion.

    Thank you Big Smile

    Nicky

    #2343
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Hahaha dont feel mean, if its been a prosperous hive then taking a super is fine. Its sounds like they are doing well if they have another super for stores. Stick a bit of fondant on the top of the frames just incase though, this will give you a safety margin in Spring too.

    Beekeeping is funny like that, different things work for different people and there is so many techniques, hives, tools, not to mention bee types and temperament blah blah blah. A lot of it comes down to personal choice really, with a common sense approach.

    The main thing is that you enjoy it, the bees are healthy and the hive can survive for years to come and that you get some nice sticky honey or yer toast.

    If you are in East Anglia then the weather wont be that much different from up here, bit milder but youve had some bad snow too I reckon.

    So make sure you are all prepared for the Winter.

    Meant to ask do you use mesh floors?


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    #2344

    Hi!

    Yup, mesh floors. National hives, currently mid-shin height off the ground with good air flow underneath. Erratic weather, and large local population of woodpeckers, but that’s another story!

    Bee

    #2345
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    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Cool mesh floors are the best from my experience.

    Mesh floors are great for a number of reasons one being if its open underneath your hive with good ventillation you dont have to worry so much about clearing snow from the entrance.

    I also meant to say remember your mouseguards! Should be putting them on soon.Dude


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    #2346

    You say feed with APIFONDA or similar. This comes in 2.5kg polythene bags. OK, place them on top of the brood frames, or in a skep just above the brood frames. Question, If you leave the APIFONDA in the bag, how big a hole do you make in the bag, and do you make the hole underneath, or on top. If you make it underneath, will the APIFONDA just drip out?

    #2347
    Profile photo of ThePath
    ThePath
    Keymaster

    Hi Bob, Take it all out of the bag it should be fairly solid stuff which you can shape, kinda like dough. So simply take it out of bag and squish on top of frames. It should not drip!

    You dont have to use Apifonda, you can make a fondant up yourself. Although the Apifonda stuff does have extra ingredients you may not be able to find.Dude


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