How many honey supers do I need?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Portland, OR
    Posts
    34

    Default How many honey supers do I need?

    Iíve finally figured out how to keep my bees alive and have 12 colonies this year, up from around 3 in previous years. This is a serious quantity of hives so I need to up my game on equipment planning. Theyíre liable to make some real honey this year.

    How many honey supers should I count on for each hive? Is two about right? I know everything depends on everything, but whatís a ball park number of mediums?

    Yours, Megan

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
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    2,822

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meghues View Post
    but what’s a ball park number of mediums?
    8 frame or 10 frame mediums? Not sure what your honey flow looks like, but for my area, I'd plan on 3-8 frame honey supers per hive and maybe have two to four extra in case a couple go gang busters.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    washington, vermont, USA
    Posts
    389

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    One thing to consider is do you plan to continue expanding your hive #s? If so you might benefit more from using deeps as "honey supers". You can then extract and store the combs like you would a normal honey super. Benefit is the next spring you can use those combs for swarm prevention, helping nucs build up, and for buiding splits. If you are where you want to be with your #s then I would talk to someone local and see how many supers their hives are filling as beekeeping is very local. Best of luck.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Portland, OR
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    I have mostly 8 frame mediums. I have 4 hives with a bottom deep and a medium and 2 deep nucs. I havenít made up my mind yet which I like best, deep or mediums for the brood box. I donít have much room to expand here in my suburban backyard, Iím already way over the legal limit. But I plan to raise some queens for nucs and requeening this summer as always. And I might expand to my brotherís place, but Iím still undecided. Iím thinking Iíll stay at about a dozen or so this year and see how it goes.

    I really donít want to use deeps as honey supers.

    The local beeks I know are on the other side of town with totally different forage. The club meets at a time I canít attend.

    Yours, Megan

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    1,240

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    I am a bit north of you in a suburban area and I have never needed more than 2 supers at a time. Your area is a bit drier than me and I would imagine that your summer dearth comes earlier than mine does. I cannot imagine you needing more than 2. I use all 8 frame equipment.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    4,600

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Megan. I have two 10-frame mediums for each of my hives. I generally average about 10-15 capped frames per hive before our flow dries up. I also have an extractor so if things go cray cray, I can spin a few out. Bees are in the backyard so no problem keeping an eye on things.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Farmington, MO, USA
    Posts
    131

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Local flows vary a lot. But, I like to put 3 mediums on each hive at the beginning of the flow. Nectar takes a lot more room than honey and I have had them fill 3 mediums with nectar before drying it down to 1 medium of honey. If the flow is good, I may have to extract them all and put them back on. I also use all plastic comb: Permacomb and Honey Super Cell. So, I don't really need to worry about having too much comb that's unguarded. The wax moths and small hive beetles can't damage it.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    Wakefield, Rhode Island, USA
    Posts
    289

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    " They’re liable to make some real honey this year. "

    I was averaging less than 40 lb. per hive while learning and expanding to my 8=10 colony level. I was always short on hardware. So, in my 4th winter, I built 16 10-frame, medium supers and bought 150 medium frames ( maybe 200), thinking I over did it. I started Spring off with an over-wintered nuc, 8 colonies ( lost two due to queen issues and laying workers). One colony was really week - tiny, 4th year queen and cluster ( put her on intensive care - wanted another daughter). Winter was pretty cold, Spring was awful with cold and rain but I had well insulated hives and a couple of Saskatarz queens - basically 7 developing foraging hives. Setting the stage - I also zero swarms in coming season

    One Saskatraz colony seemingly forage in the rain, brought the first pollen in on March 19th ( a month early? How??). I used every piece of hardware I had that summer and I was extracting frames to open supers. Four supers on one hive, three on everybody else and the little old queen/colony did something right as her colony grew and grew, up to my standard, winter brood chamber size of a medium-deep-medium. I had to add a QE and a medium - she produce 40 lb. The rains were perfect all summer, no drought, and into Fall. It became work! I had to learn to bottle properly with labels, filled every Ball jar I had, kept honey in 5 gallon buckets, bought more cases of jars - quit counting after 800 lb., likely extracted a 1000 lb. A rare foraging event I think. The prior year the flow ended in July, Fall flow failed, many hives starved to death, including those belonging to experienced beekeepers. I managed to avoid the problem.

    Punch line: You never have enough but at least two supers per colony. Three is nice so one can allow time for capping over (it's hot and humid by the seashore in July- AUgust). Foursupers was not enough for Super Woman colony. Plus, in peak flow periods, you may have to extract frames to make space. I was LUCKY! Good luck.

  10. #9

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    It depends somewhat on how you are able to react to a full-up hive.

    If you are retired, and have time on your hands, you can remove individual frames as they fill up, and extract them. You could get by with one super per colony, with a few extra frames. Doing that is intensive and putzy, but you get a lot better idea of all the different honey flavors from the different flows. This also works if you are doing crush and strain.

    If you have to borrow an extractor at the end of the season, or only have a limited time to tend your bees, then you need enough so you can do all of your harvesting at the end of the year.

    The important thing is to have a contingency plan. If you can build or buy equipment locally, then you can take a wait-and-see approach. I live quite near a dadant store, and the local Fleet Farm carries beekeeping supplies, so I can get more boxes this afternoon if I find out I nee them this morning. If you need to rely on the internet for supplies, that is a different situation.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    6,172

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    It's less a quantity issue as opposed to a management issue. If I pull two supers off...extract...and put back on the hive in a day or less I need less than if I have two filled supers that I add boxes to or that I pull, extract a week later and get the boxes back on sometime in the future. If we assume...yes, always dangerous, that we're adding or pulling boxes during a flow you'll always need at least one more box than you have.

    Bees can often fill boxes faster than you can extract the honey and give them the wet frames back to clean and fill. In a flow, don't bet against your bees....
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Northern Colorado, USA
    Posts
    706

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Right now I am assuming 3 or 4 supers/overwintered hive. I extract once a year (I borrow an extractor from the local club) and having extra boxes is better than not enough. Last year I had 4 supers on one hive, and 1 on another (that I pulled 2 splits out of). As others have said it is very location dependent though.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Catskills, Delaware Cty, New York, USA
    Posts
    1,852

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Megan as some have said above, having too many is better than not having enough! Deb
    Proverbs 16:24

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Skaneateles, NY
    Posts
    986

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    i have 4 x 10 F medium supers per hive in the shed.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Campbell River, BC, CA
    Posts
    1,800

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meghues View Post
    How many honey supers should I count on for each hive? Is two about right?
    My experience in our area, if presenting the bees with new frames to be drawn out, one super per colony will do, only in a very good year will they get to drawing out another one. OTOH, if presenting the bees with supers of drawn frames, 3 are required, and on a very good year 5. We are using mediums for honey supers.

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    woodland, wa usa
    Posts
    73

    Default Re: How many honey supers do I need?

    My opinion: For decent honey "surplus" you need to 2 major things; (in order)
    a.) extremely strong field force
    b.) ample flow surrounding the hives

    If you have 2-3, 10 frame med supers, that gets ya well into the ballpark of "full" supers in SW WA.

    After that, do you want the top deep of a double deep backfilled with surplus also, so your double deep is ready to winter with queenie downstairs and the upstairs deep full of capped honey? Me, yes absolutely! Then I just pull my supers (all for me) and excluders. (No, I don't do supers w/o excluders, period. Deeps and mediums kept separate, never the twain shall meet.)

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