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  • merits of putting an empty super under the brood box over winter

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #4818  by Bridget
 14 Sep 2019, 08:45
I have four colonies one of which is a colony in a single brood box which was combined from 2 small nukes in July. I added a super in the hope the bees would draw it out and make some late honey. By end of August the brood box was nicely full of bees with some good brood but very little stores and plenty of bees were up in the super but just hanging around, not drawing out. As I wanted to start feeding them syrup I took off the super at the beginning of Sept. Since then when I have been re filling rapid feeders I have noticed an increasingly large hanging cluster of bees under the open mesh floor.
My question please is if you think I should put a super back on under the brood to give them more space to get into the hive? I do that would you advise I give them an empty super or with frames of either drawn comb or foundation?
Thank you very much, Bridget
 #4819  by NigelP
 14 Sep 2019, 09:04
Yes, sounds as though too many bees for the space at the moment. Use drawn foundation in the super if you have it, but have foundation there or brace comb will be Daliesque come spring...
I'd also check you don't have a gap between your entrance and stand as bees may be heading underneath. If you have a gap block it off.

Another thought is your queen clipped? An unlikely possibility of a late swarm and she is with the bees under the open mesh floor.
 #4820  by AdamD
 14 Sep 2019, 09:17
In general bees will not draw comb unless they need to (unless you leave a space in the hive at which time they will invariably draw comb where you don't want them to) so your empty super should start to fill if they need the space for syrup. I guess I do need to ask how much feed you have given them - and what sort of room they have in the hive - hopefully you can inspect them this weekend and see what's going on. Unless it's a nuc-sized colony, I over-winter decent colonies on more than a single brood box, so if you have a super on top which they fill or partially fill, it will be no ill store.
 #4822  by Bridget
 14 Sep 2019, 10:20
Thank you very much Nigel and Adam for your replies and advice.
I will make sure there is no gap between entrance and stand and give them a super with foundation on top to fill if they need to. I have been giving them a full rapid feeder of syrup almost every night and each time it is completely empty and full of hungry bees tongues all around the edges looking for more. They are foraging and bringing back yellow pollen. The queen is marked but unclipped so I will inspect today and hopefully find all is well.
 #4824  by Patrick
 14 Sep 2019, 16:11
Hi Bridget

If you are putting on a super intending that to be filled with syrup, put it on top. Then when you have finished feeding remove it and put it underneath directly on the floor brood box over for winter. The bees will empty it and in the spring it is likely to be empty of stores and brood so can be removed. Also you can easily access brood box directly under crown board for oxalic treatment / fondant whatever.

Don’t feed syrup with the super underneath as the bees may well preferentially fill the brood box first - see below re needing laying space.

As an aside and apologies if I am taking you too literally, bees stropping with their tongues looking for more syrup doesn’t mean they are “hungry” as such simply they are trying to collect every drop of easy to find syrup. They may only stop when every last nook and cranny is filled up - which is actually not great as the queen will run out of space to lay winter bees.

Keep a note of how much you have fed them bearing in mind how much honey they may have had already rather than just feeding until they stop taking it. A brood and a half of stores should be ample.
 #4826  by NigelP
 14 Sep 2019, 18:00
Patrick wrote:
14 Sep 2019, 16:11
Don’t feed syrup with the super underneath as the bees may well preferentially fill the brood box first - see below re needing laying space.
In true beekeeping tradition....Not sure I'd go along with that Patrick... :D
If queens are laying (and easy to check) then there is around an 18 day window when those cells can't be filled and if queen is really going blazes she will lay in super under brood box. For my area I tend to think (perhaps wrongly) that Sept early Oct is the important time for the queen laying winter as soon as she has laid...then I'll feed heavily....and if anyone ever tells you bees don't draw comb this time if year....they do.
I tend to think that filling super and then "nadiring" means bees are wasting time and energy as they move the stores back up into brood box. Mine seem to hate having stores beneath them.
 #4828  by AdamD
 15 Sep 2019, 15:46
If there's too much syrup, bees will fill the spaces where the queen should be laying, so I would be inclined to put the super on top for now. However, Bridget, I think you do need to see what's going on in the hive rather than feeding 'blind'.
 #4832  by Beckley.Bees
 15 Sep 2019, 19:23
Hi I am in my second full year as a beekeeper.
Last year I only had one hive starting late in the year so had no Honey.
Feeding was easy and I got them though the winter.
This year I have three hives.
I have taken off the last of this years Honey about a month ago then put the supers back on above the crown board to be clean out.
Three on each hive.
My bee’s clean out two from each hive which I removed.
Then when I had one honey super on each hive they started filling them up again.
I had done my mite treatment and all good there.
Now they are on the ivy down there in East Sussex.
I have not done any feeding.
All hives have got two full frames of stores in the brood box and a nearly full super over.
Do you think that would be ok now to leave them to it
 #4833  by NigelP
 15 Sep 2019, 21:38
Beckley.Bees wrote:
15 Sep 2019, 19:23

I have not done any feeding.
All hives have got two full frames of stores in the brood box and a nearly full super over.
Do you think that would be ok now to leave them to it
No is the answer. Not because they haven't got enough current stores at the moment..but different hives will use their resources differently. Some will be fine, some will just eat and breed and use all their stores up by Xmas.... So heft and note weights and be prepared to feed fondant to any you think might be light later in the year.
There is no simple answer, It's a hive by hive issue as they are all different.
You will probably be alright but a few regular checks on hive weights will tell you more about what you might need to do. It's just judgement, there isn't a universal one weight suits all..