Bee Keeping 103

Lesson 103: The Super

Today, let’s take a look at the honey super. Some new beekeepers can confuse what we call a super with the brood chamber.  Although supers are typically the boxes the bees store honey they come in different sizes.  Since we have already discussed the two deep hive bodies, sometimes also called deep supers as  you can use the deep to store honey in as well.  Today we are looking at the supers that are placed above the hive chambers, on top of the deep hive

Medium super 10 frame

bodies. These are the supers we place on hives with the intent to remove whatever honey the bees store in these supers.  Generally speaking we don’t want the queen to lay eggs or start brood laying in these boxes no matter which size you go with.  The width (16 1/4″) and depth (19 7/8″) will be the same for all boxes, including the honey super. The difference with the super is the height. There are three sizes used for honey supers. Beekeepers with strong backs sometimes use the deep size, 9 5/8″ in height. A very common size is 6 5/8″ in height. This is also called  a medium super. Then there is the small super. It is 5 5/8″ tall.  Not as common here in the west.  All three sizes do function for honey storage however the  height is important to remember. This is important to understand as you don’t want to order the wrong type of frames for your boxes that you have.  The greater the height, the larger the frame in height, and the larger the frame, the more honey it can hold. Therefore, a deep super full of honey can weight up to 100 pounds with honey frames and box. A medium close to 65 pounds and a small 35-40 pounds. We recommend medium supers because it is more commonly used by the average beekeeper.  When choosing the smallest size of super there are some limitations. During a heavy nectar flow, you will have to super your hives more frequently. Also, it takes the same amount of time to uncap and small super as it does a deep or medium super. And, you get a lot less honey from a small super for the same amount of work.  Do some math and see whats best for you.
In the 10 frame equipment some beekeepers use only 9 frames in the box, while others use all 10 spots. There is a difference. Obviously, if you use 9 frames, the comb on each frame will be drawn out wider by the bees, thus making much more space for the honey. It is true that a 9 frame super will usually contain more honey than a 10 frame because all nine frames are larger and can hold a total that exceeds 10 smaller drawn frames. Wider combs are easier to uncap because the comb exceeds past the wooden frame, allowing the uncapping knife to ride along the wooden frame as a guide and uncapping all cells. Sometimes if the frames are not pulled out past the wooden

Spacing tool

frame edge, the uncapping knife cannot uncap the recessed cells.  The only disadvantage to running 9 frames is sometimes if the frames are not spaced just right the bees will make a lot of burr comb.(random comb in between frames)  Not to worry you can extract it, cut it, or screen this honey too.  To help achive the 9 frame spacing, a metal spacing tool, or metal spacer assembled within the super is used. This frame rest is different from the plain frame rest.  The 9 frame metal spacer actually has notches to hold each of the 9 frames, giving you a perfect space between all 9 frames. Be prepared for a few challenges with 9 frame spacers. First, you cannot slide your frames horizontially. They are held tightly in the notches. There are times when you need to slide your frames. But if you use 9 frame spacers, you will have to lift them straight up and out to move

In box spacing

them. Secondly, the various gaps around the metal notching gets pretty gunked up with propolis, giving nice hiding places for wax moth or small hive beetle to hide and lay eggs. If you don’t have problems with these pests, then it’s not an issue.  If the spacer is not built into your super, than the spacing tool works great too.  Remember that in some cases it would not be unusual to have upwards of 2-3 supers or more on your bee hive by the end of the summer.  Lifting them of off can be harmful.  Be sure to use proper lifting techniques.  A mature hive can use up to 4-7 mediums if it’s in a great area.  Wait and see just how big your hive gets but we recommend have at least extra frames if not extra supers.  You just don’t know if yo might need them.  But for now consider getting two supers designated for your honey harvest.