When is a good time to add queen excluders and honey supers? Adding these two hive components is not reliant on a date in the calendar. You can only add more space to the hive when the hive needs more space. If your colony is week or there are other issues in the hive, adding a honey super can be detrimental to your honey production. Alternatively, if you hive is busting at the seams you need to get a super on there soon or those bees will swarm. Queen excluders are also a controversial topic. Using a queen excluder and honey super together is a personal choice and definitely optional.
Background on our bees
It was an exciting day in the bee yard. The bees were angry my friend, like an old man trying to take back soup at a deli. Three hives were roaring with bees and activity, one was not. The dandelions were in full bloom across the valley. It was time to add our first honey supers. This article will
We currently have 4 hives. This amount of hives works great for our needs. Last year that produced 600lbs of honey and took roughly 1 full day to extract with our little 3 frame spinner.
Earlier in the spring
Two weeks ago we had removed our Apivar strips which is the recommended varoa mite treatment in our area as recommeded by the provincial apiarist. We were now within our window to add honey supers to the hives. We needed to make sure that the hives were ready for supers.
Cracking Open the Hive
First, as always, we were looking for signs of a queen. Was there eggs, larva, and capped brood? If yes, then we were looking for ample stores of honey and pollen. Or rule is that if the brood boxes are about 80% full and there are flowers blooming (dandelions in our area) then the hive is ready for a honey super.
Using Queen excluders
A queen excluders main goal is to keep queens from laying eggs in your honey supers. They are either made of metal or plastic and have small slats that are big enough for a worker bee to get through but not the queen. The queen excluder is added directly onto the top of the last brood box on the hive.
Some people swear by them, some call then honey excluders. It is really up to you. When ever I try to go without, I always find brood above the brood boxes. I personally don’t like the dark comb that the brood creates so I try to avoid this. That being said, when I have one full super full of honey I will remove the excluder and add more boxes. What happens is that the full honey super creates a barrier that the queen will likely not cross. I hope that this will encourage the bees to increase production but I have no empirical proof.
It is also important to note that it is sometimes difficult to get worker bees to cross the queen excluder. This is especially difficult when you only have foundation and no drawn frames.
Where to buy Queen Excluders
If you are in Western Canada use Beemaid
If you are in Eastern Canada use Innisfil Creek Honey
If in the Lower 48 states use Dadant
I have used all these companies and they have all had great customer service and were very professional with all my needs. If you know of, or wish to reccomend another company in high standings, please leave a comment in the comment section.
Adding Honey Supers
I only add one super at a time unless I know that I won’t be able to make it to the bee yard every two weeks. Adding too many supers at a time may stress out the bees because it is more space than they can handle. Maybe your population isn’t ready to keep that much space warm. Being from a cooler climate even in June we can have colder nights that drop below 10C. Again, our rule is to only add another super when the current box is at least 80% full. Bees like to fill frames vertically and sometimes they leave the last two frames untouched. On future inspections I like to move those to the center and add another box.
Where to add the Honey Super
I always add my supers above the two brood chambers. Yes I keep two brood chambers. In Saskatchewan Canada bees winter for almost 6 months in the hive and need lots of stores. Some more experienced commercial beekeepers keep single hives over the winter but they are multi generational full time beekeepers.
Some people will bottom super. Meaning that they put down a honey super onto their bottom board and lift the brood chamber on top. Honey is naturally kept below the brood in wild hives so they feel this helps in production. I have never tried it but I thought it was worth the mention.
Hive 1 (L Bee C)
We cracked our strongest hive first. I pulled three frames and found honey, pollen and a healthy brood pattern. We put the frames back so we didn’t disrupt the hive any more than we needed. This hive was ready for a queen excluder and a honey super. Hive complete! Easy!
Hive 2 (Fort McKlintock)
This has always been my favourite hive. It contains the ancestors of my very first hive, and reminds me of how far I have come in the last 5 years. This hive was practically the same as the last. It was teeming with bees and we found honey, pollen, and brood. We added a queen excluder and a honey super. Again, easy!
Hive 3 (Lickety Split)
This hive was struggling. Two weeks ago it looked great. Now it was lacking bees and we pulled a few frames. There was lots of honey stores, and pollen but we noticed that there was little activity around the entrance and no new brood. We decided that we needed to do a full inspection. I will discuss this inspection further in another post. This hive did not get an excluder and super. This hive needed to sort itself out.
Hive 4 (MDM)
This hive was not as strong as I would like and it was so close to being 80% full. We decided to add an excluder and super because there was clearly a spring honey flow on and we wouldn’t be back for a week or two. This was more an attempt to control swarming by giving them more space.
I hope this will help you decide when to add honey supers and queen excluders or not. There are so many variables but that is what makes the hobby so much fun. Please leave a comment or questions in the comment section.