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Let's Talk About Honey! The Role Of Honey Supers In Beekeeping

The Role of Honey Supers in Beekeeping

Let's dive into the world of honey supers and how they play a crucial role in beekeeping. Bees work diligently, and as a beekeeper, it's essential to provide them with the space they need to store honey efficiently.

When Bees Store Honey

Bees collect nectar from flowering plants within about a one-mile radius of their hive. Late April through June, they gather more nectar than they need, which is then stored as honey, causing the hive's weight to increase. For the rest of the year, hive weight either remains stable or decreases. In some regions, colonies may put on a bit of weight during the fall nectar flow in September and October.

Managing Honey Storage

To prevent bees from storing honey in the brood chamber and reduce the risk of swarming, beekeepers must provide ample space for honey storage. Remember, as a beekeeper, you're working to control swarming, while bees have a natural instinct to swarm. Having a plan for honey management is crucial.

The Ideal Location for Honey Storage

Bees typically store honey above their brood nest. This is why vertically oriented hives tend to yield more honey than horizontal ones.

Nectar to Honey Transformation

Nectar contains around 80% water, and bees need to reduce it to less than 18% water content to turn it into honey. Generally, if a frame of honey is more than 75% capped, the honey's overall water content is less than 18%. Honey with over 18% water content has the potential to ferment if not consumed promptly. Always check the moisture content of your extracted honey with a refractometer; it should be between 14% and 18%.

Understanding The Keeper's Hive Configuration

To review, The Keeper's Hive configuration includes an 8-frame brood chamber, a queen excluder, a medium nuc spacer box, and a deep nuc exchange box. Honey supers, the boxes where bees store honey, are placed above the deep exchange box. I recommend using two mediums but you could use one deep nuc box as a honey super.

Appreciating Seasonal Honeys

It's a delight to savor the different types of honey produced throughout the season. Each time a new tree or plant blooms, the honey's flavor and color change. Spring honey is light and floral, summer honey is standard, and fall honey is dark and caramel-like. Harvesting honey regularly allows you to appreciate these unique flavors.

Honey Harvest and Production

Two medium or one deep honey super can yield about 30 pounds of honey, a perfect amount for your family and to share with friends and neighbors. You can also harvest honey more frequently, and the bees will continue foraging to fill the supers. If abundant honey production is your goal, we recommend trying the Two Queen Keeper. 

Balancing Honey Harvest and Bee Health

Beekeepers sometimes worry about taking too much honey. Remember, as a beekeeper, you're managing bees in a hive, not tending to free-living bees in a tree. A typical tree cavity size is about 40 liters, equivalent to the volume of a deep 10-frame box. Bees will fill your honey supers, but they only need a 10-frame deep of honey to survive the winter. If you choose to leave the deep exchange box, full of honey in the fall, on the hive for the winter, it's all they'll require. Any supers placed above the deep exchange box contain honey for you. The bees don't need it, and it may even make their winter more challenging if left on the hive.

A Unique Approach

Please consider harvesting the honey the bees put in your honey supers, even if it contradicts traditional teachings to leave it in the hive during the first season. I'm a dissenter in this regard, and I encourage you to explore this approach.

Prioritizing Bee Health

Ultimately, don't let honey production be the sole driver of your beekeeping journey. Focus on keeping healthy bees, and rest assured, healthy bees will produce plenty of honey. No need to worry!

Happy beekeeping, and may your hives thrive! 🐝🍯


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