The purpose of multiple supers

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by Eddy Honey, May 18, 2012.

  1. Eddy Honey

    Eddy Honey New Member

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    I see many equipment suppliers sell hives as 2 deep brood chambers and 2 medium/shallow supers.
    Then I see beekeeper that have 4,5,6, honey supers on their hives.
    If I keep after my hives (every 2 weeks or so) do I need more than 2 supers per hive?
    If one fills with honey I can just remove/extract and give it back to the bees for clean up and more honey based on the flow.

    Why so many supers? Is it just for convenience to avoid having to check the hives that often?

    Thanks,
    Ed
     
  2. CeeGee

    CeeGee New Member

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    Personally, I prefer to extract/crush all at once (around June/July) and be done with it instead of going back again and again.
    But I dont think it matters that much one way or another. Whatever works.
     

  3. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    Some folks that checkerboard would tell you to always be more than one empty super ahead of them, and checkerboarded hives can sometimes require a ladder to reach the top. Others would mention that nectar needs to be cured with as much surface area as possible to do it right, so if you expect one super of capped honey, they might benefit from having two supers to put the initial nectar in as they will consolidate it after curing it. The possible downside of too many supers (of drawn comb) early on is that a queen might initially go and lay eggs in all of them, but if she can't properly spread her pheromone throughout a big colony, they'll supersede her. Other folks get together with their bee club or a buddy and use a shared extractor and don't have the luxury of doing it a super at a time throughout the season.
    Also, honey tastes different at different times of the year. Some folks extract as early as possible to get the spring flower honey that can be lighter and sweeter and doesn't granulate as quick as fall honey. Of course, you may not like the darker fall honey like bitterweed and buckwheat or whatever is in your area, so if you want, you can extract in the spring and summer/fall but keep it in buckets until later in the year and blend it all together before bottling.

    This is a typical stack for me, but I'll do some extracting this weekend so it doesn't get any higher:

    5-16-12-hive-I.jpg
     
  4. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    ed, it's nice to have extra equipment, and dr. buzz mentioned cb'ing, and having to be one super ahead of them....i keep russian hybrids, you must be one super ahead of them, or more. depends on your style, how many hives you keep, nectar flows, how many supers you have to extract. you will be scrambling if there is a good nectar flow, and bees are filling supers, and you don't have extra equipment. i extract once a year, sometimes i will have 7 supers on the strongest hives (don't tell iddee i said that again, and have used a ladder dr. buzz :lol:), average 4-6. i don't have a designated honey house, setting the equipment up is time consuming, with minimum 25+ and more to extract, so done once a year.
     
  5. Zookeep

    Zookeep Active Member

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    Well for me, I want more pulled frames for putting nucs in 10 frame boxes and all kinds of things so I'm using thes 3 hives for that, so long as they keep filling the 9s Ill keep adding them:)
     
  6. Eddy Honey

    Eddy Honey New Member

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    Very good discussion. I have 3 mediums on top of my 2 deeps on my strongest hives and 1 and 2 mediums on some others.
    I was going through my equipment this morning and noticed I have 4 eight fr. medium boxes sitting in the barn. I was deciding should I just save them for honey flows or pick up top and bottom parts and start a new hive? I'll save them for supers and start putting all this 10 frame stuff I was given into service.
     
  7. DLMKA

    DLMKA New Member

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    In Central IL a lot of times we'll have 90%+ humidity and they can't cure a super and cap it before they start filling the next 2 or 3.
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip of a question...
    Why so many supers? Is it just for convenience to avoid having to check the hives that often?

    tecumseh:
    well actually the answer is two fold. the larger part of the answer you seem to already know in that rather than make multiple trip you just add super to cover the season's flow and you are done until fall. this of course only works in places were you have a constant steady flow which is typically the upper midwest and above.

    here I never supered up anything as extreme as your picture shows. In recent years with the arrival of the small hive beetle managing space (not too much and not too little) is almost a requirement.

    those tall supered hives do look impressive... right? those pictures however do not tell you the multiple down sides of operating bees in this manner.
     
  9. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    Everything is a trade off, potentially. I think the OP's question was regarding the use multiple supers instead of just extracting each one as it's filled and capped. I like to do my due diligence before taking any action, so I could just as easily have described all of the downsides to multiple supers, if that had been the question.
    And no, assuming you were referring to my pic above, that picture wouldn't describe the potential downsides of anything. That particular hive was one of several that I ran some two queen experiments on this Spring. It worked better than I thought and that hive above threw this swarm just last month:
    2queenswarm-april2012.jpg

    And that tall stack of supers is still completely full of bees, top to bottom, as well as the 200+ pounds of honey we will extract here in a couple of hours. I almost feel sorry for any SHB trapped in that colony with all those bees. And that swarm that came from that stack was put on blank black Pierco frames and is working on drawing and filling it's second deep super of them.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who was so anxious about moths and SHB that he used to keep bees in a double deep configuration and would put a medium super on every year and no more. They would fill that and swarm all Spring and he didn't catch swarms and didn't do anything until Fall when he extracted his medium super. He had no problems with mites, SHB or wax moths. His way worked for him and he maintained his psychological equilibrium with no interference from me.

    But in any case, after weighing the pros and cons and taking my particular level of risk tolerance into account, I find myself where I currently am on my perpetually evolving management style. Yeah, it could all end in disaster. That's life.
     
  10. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    tec said:
    "[FONT=&amp]Why so many supers? Is it just for convenience to avoid having to check the hives that often?[/FONT]"

    dr. buzz said:
    "[FONT=&amp]I think the OP's question was regarding the use multiple supers instead of just extracting each one as it's filled and capped.[/FONT]"

    tec, to eddy honey's original post and in general to answer his question, i think it's wise to have an extra super on hand, even for a smaller keep. when the bees fill a super, or partially fill a super and there is a good flow on, i think it's wise to place an additional super on above, [FONT=&amp]before [/FONT]the 1st super is filled. that partially filled 1st or almost 1st full super can be moved up, and the new one(2nd) placed on the bottom, and when the top one(1st) is filled, take it off, or leave the original (first) in place until it is filled(which is what i would do), take it off and move the second one(new) in it's place, because it's getting worked, and repeat the process for extracting these as the flow dictates. just my two cents. hope my description made sense.....?

    why so many supers?
    convenience for me is not a word in my vocabulary regarding avoiding having to check my hives tec, and neither is impressive. i check my hives every week without fail, and then some. there are times when I have comb honey frames in these supers and these frames need to be monitored to pull them out, move frames and maybe supers around, not to mention all other issues we deal with in our hives. to your point, i do live in the upper Midwest, in a rural area, in a river valley, and typically a constant steady flow, and then some, with many floral sources. my flow starts with the dandelion bloom (may 15 or later) and doesn’t quit until goldenrod(august-september). i don’t have to deal with shb, and to be honest, i have yet to have a problem with wax moths in my supers stacked 4-6 high . now this may be different for other keeps. i have yet to experience having multiple downsides to stacking my supers, except for the work involved for removal and extraction all at once (and bears poking around) in august. i leave in mid to late july for about 2 ½ weeks, and an extra super or two is placed on these strong hives in my absence, so I am not finding comb filled honey built all over the top of the inner cover. all is extracted on my return, and the goldenrod is left on for winter stores. I do not have a designated ‘honey house’. setting up equipment is time consuming for an early extraction. this is what works for me, and has for many years; extraction once at the end of the season. Until something goes wrong, I will do it differently.

    With that said, having an extra super on hand, or any extra equipment, in my opinion, is a good thing.:grin:
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip...
    And that tall stack of supers is still completely full of bees, top to bottom

    tecumseh:
    being somewhat the devils advocate here (and not a legal degree one I might add) how would you know what is in the bottom box?

    as I think I have suggested there are places* (and riverbee seems to be in one of those) where supering them up high is a good idea with little down side risk. I myself am not in that situation so I super up in a very conservative manner and try to always (as riverbee suggest) have a few supers on hand for those small number of hives that do need extra space. at some point in the season (quickly approaching) I begin harvesting so extras are available at a steady rate.

    a dr buzz snip...
    I like to do my due diligence before taking any action, so I could just as easily have described all of the downsides to multiple supers, if that had been the question.

    tecumseh:
    it seems to me a salesman almost always tells you only the plus features of anything they wish to sell???? to my own way of thinking this is not totally intellectually honest. I myself think that in almost everything there are + and - to anything and without knowing ALL of these no one can anticipate the risk involved. some folks think this is negative in tone but to my way of thinking it is simple honesty and giving someone (who I assume has little experience in these things) a more complete understanding of the question.

    *for most folks some state wide average on honey yield would likely give you a good ball park number that you could easily convert into the size and number of supers required for your particular area.
     
  12. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    Good question. Normally it would be difficult to know what was in the lower boxes. I wanted to test some things this year, which was very difficult, but I learned an incredible amount. I mentioned it more in a different thread, but I basically created a situation in a few colonies where there were eventually two queens and a huge population. We went through all five boxes of this colony in April, removed a queen and a few frames to make a nuc and, I thought, confirmed lack of swarm cells. However, a few days later this colony threw the swarm pictured above. So we went through the entire colony again a few days after the swarm, just to make observations. That's how I happen to be very aware of the amount of bees and honey in that particular colony, pre-swarm and post-swarm.


    You got me on that one. I am a morally and ethically bankrupt charlatan, utterly lacking in scruples. There is a good reason for my dishonestly trying to recruit novices to follow my lead.... I am amassing a global army of Tall Stack beekeepers and we will prevail. No, really, I am a Tall Stack supremacist. It's not that I hate you Short Stackers, I just don't want you running up and down the street in front of my house listening to your crappy music and trying to date my daughters and stuff. Short Stackers are OK individually, but you get them in a group and you got problems.
     
  13. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    :rolling::rolling::rolling:

    It's getting deep in here. I'm gonna roll up my britches legs.
     
  14. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    roll em up and wade right in iddee! :lol:
     
  15. dr.buzz

    dr.buzz New Member

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    Yes, indeed. Of course, there are some potential downsides to the rolling up of the britches, and one should always anticipate the risks of wading right in. I thought I should mention that and give both sides just to be honest and ethical.

    Oh, but speaking of being a devil's advocate, I just recently learned the origin of that term. Apparently the Roman Catholic church used to appoint a lawyer, "to argue against the canonization of a candidate. It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view of the candidate's character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on."

    You learn something new every day.
     
  16. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    dr. buzz,
    now that's some funny stuff you said "I am amassing a global army of Tall Stack beekeepers and we will prevail".......
    so i'd be a short beek but a tall stacker? :lol: do i pass?!

    and "and one should always anticipate the risks of wading right in." i can say for myself, with my illustrious fishing career, it's not right if i don't fall in at least once during the season and fill up my waders, same goes for keeping bees......just fill up the coveralls....:grin:
    and also gain the perspective and experience of other keeps and good discussion, so i'm not 'filling my coveralls' :grin: well, that's not true, i might try things once.......

    tec,
    your snip, "And that tall stack of supers is still completely full of bees, top to bottom" and "being somewhat the devils advocate here (and not a legal degree one I might add) how would you know what is in the bottom box?

    because i often times look, the bees are, as i would describe it as 'on patrol' if it is not 'full of bees'. because of how i extract once a year, leaving the supers on for the bees to 'patrol' is a better alternative than trying to store them until i do, then i would have more problems to deal with.

    someday, i might have a more permanent solution to my extraction endeavors. if i had that luxury now, i would be more inclined to take advantage of extraction more than once a year.

    also tec said, "I myself think that in almost everything there are + and - to anything and without knowing ALL of these no one can anticipate the risk involved. some folks think this is negative in tone but to my way of thinking it is simple honesty and giving someone (who I assume has little experience in these things) a more complete understanding of the question."

    tec,there is a + and - to anything even when we anticipate and know the risks involved, and i don't think this is a negative, it is just being honest and practical.

    btw i always appreciate your perspective and your honesty, even though i disagree with you on this subject, others will find this helpful for their situation.
     
  17. bamabww

    bamabww New Member

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    On the first day I had bees, I, not knowing any better, put two medium undrawn supers with plastic foundation on top of two deeps (with drawn comb and some stores). As the season wore on and I was learning a little more about handling / working the bees I noticed the bottom two deep boxes filled up as expected. Nothing was being done in either of the medium supers.

    I read somewhere to spray the plastic foundation with sugar syrup to get the bees to use it. I did that to each frame of foundation and in a few weeks found the top medium super had drawn comb and honey from the left side to the middle and the bottom medium super had drawn comb and honey from the right side to the middle. Nothing at all on any frame in the other two halves of either super. I was using a queen excluder 100% of the time then. Talking with local beekeepers I was told the bees do things different sometimes.

    Anyway, it was weird and from that time on I have only put one super on at a time without a queen excluder and watch it. When I see 8 or 9 frames capped or even if not capped but will pass the "sling" test, I pull it and place another super on it.

    I have the capacity in my freezer to store several frames of honey and do so and then harvest the honey in one setting, more or less.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2012
  18. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a snip or so..
    You got me on that one. I am a morally and ethically bankrupt charlatan, utterly lacking in scruples. There is a good reason for my dishonestly trying to recruit novices to follow my lead.... I am amassing a global army of Tall Stack beekeepers and we will prevail. No, really, I am a Tall Stack supremacist. It's not that I hate you Short Stackers, I just don't want you running up and down the street in front of my house listening to your crappy music and trying to date my daughters and stuff. Short Stackers are OK individually, but you get them in a group and you got problems.

    tecumseh:
    oh my goodness the bee keeping taliban... evil doers for certain!

    quite funny.... but then again I have been accused of having something of a twisted sense of humor by Iddee several times before.

    a riverbee snip..
    even though i disagree with you on this subject, others will find this helpful for their situation.

    tecumseh:
    to be forthright.... I really don't mind folks disagreeing with me although when folks get so 'knee jerk' that they feel compelled to disagree with any and all things someone else says (often times because they have some unrevealed burr in their saddle) I can get some what annoyed. after keeping bees in more states that most folks have lived I would say that 'how' you keep bee in each of these places is quite different. there are common kinds of things that apply to all for sure, but I would be the last person in the world to tell anyone to keep their bees exactly as I keep bees here in the central Texas when I do know from personal experience this was not how I kept bees in Florida or North Dakota or etc..... having some commercial exposure I also know how I kept bees as a hobbyist is not how I kept bees when I worked for commercial folks. the particular context of all these issues can and does paint everything quite differently. at the end of the day my over arching advice to everyone is 'find something that works for you'.
     
  19. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    What works best for me is NOT keep bees any more than necessary. I have found that bees can keep bees much better than I in most cases.
     
  20. riverbee

    riverbee Active Member

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    tec said:
    "after keeping bees in more states that most folks have lived I would say that 'how' you keep bee in each of these places is quite different. there are common kinds of things that apply to all for sure, but I would be the last person in the world to tell anyone to keep their bees exactly as I keep bees here in the central Texas when I do know from personal experience this was not how I kept bees in Florida or North Dakota or etc..... having some commercial exposure I also know how I kept bees as a hobbyist is not how I kept bees when I worked for commercial folks. the particular context of all these issues can and does paint everything quite differently."

    riverbee says, and this is why i value your opinion tec. i prefer to 'gather honey and not kick over the beehive'.......:grin:

    iddee said:
    "What works best for me is NOT keep bees any more than necessary. I have found that bees can keep bees much better than I in most cases."

    iddee, i think i shall follow this advice for the bees as of late, have been showing me up:grin:
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2012