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Adding a Super to the Beehive

My Honey Bee yard in Richmond, Virginia (well, in Varina) continues to hop! The Berkeley Hive has pretty much been without an inspection for a month. This was the strongest Nuc that I picked up from Tom Fifer this Spring (well, the only Nuc with at least 4 frames of bees). When I installed them, I started them on the smallest hole in the entrance reducer and up’d it to the medium-sized slot once they covered 6 frames.

Up until this inspection, they had not demonstrated a ton of progress, but they continued to dutifully post guards at the exit, eat syrup and otherwise appear healthy (from the outside.) I never had to put a robber screen on them and was reluctant to open them up, due to the robbing that kept happening with my other hives (starting in June.) But, things have calmed considerably in my yard (I am wondering if the Albo hive was the big robber, as it is now at the Mountcastle Apiary,) so looking seemed like a good idea. In truth, they are eating me out of house and home (I have started to feed them 10 lbs of sugar mixed with 2 gallons of water, which approximates to something like 1.25 Sugar to 2 Water,) so I wanted to see what was going on under the covers.

I opened her up and immediately noted that they had filled out 8.5 frames! My rule is to put the second super on once they fill out 7 frames. They were working their tails off on the final 1.5 frames and now I was wondering if there was a swarm cell in there (bees were all over the place.) I was not using smoke and everything was calm, but I never do a full inspection of a hive that has a full deep without smoke at this time of the year. Those little things can get ornery if you don’t watch out! Plus, I really didn’t have a prepared deep super ready for them.

So, I left them for a day while I put together a few more frames to complete a 10-frame deep super. I also mixed a lot more syrup, as they were going through a gallon in sometime under 2 days (it was always empty 2 days later.) I wanted to start increasing the volume given to them, especially if they would take it. Ideally, I’ll get this top super fully drawn by October (boorah!)

Now, with smoker in hand, I opened them up to have a look. Again, very gentle and easy to inspect. They had 4 solid frames of capped honey, 4 frames of brood/pollen/nectar and a couple of frames that they were nearly finished drawing. I took a frame of honey and put it in the new deep, replacing it in the bottom deep with a frame of foundation. I made sure to do this as far from the brood nest area as I could. But, I also left the outside frames intact, as my honey bees can sometimes be difficult about drawing them out. Since this hive had drawn both out, I didn’t want to move them. The reason for moving this one frame up was to simply encourage them to start drawing up top. I have had 100% success with this strategy. Drop a drawn/working frame into an otherwise empty super and they bees start working the foundation around it immediately.

During the full inspection (remember, they were packed full in this deep and I wanted to be sure that no swarm cells had been started), I discovered that they had already done away with the old queen (or they cleaned the mark off of her.) I now had an unmarked queen in the hive! This is somewhat surprising, as the queen always seemed to be doing a good job. Makes me wonder if the old mark simply fell off of her. I will probably mark her on my next inspection.

The moral of this little side story about the queen is that you definitely do get better at finding queens as time goes along. In my first year, I rarely ever found the little mischief-maker. This year, I probably find her 3-out-of-4 inspections.

At any rate, once I got the new deep on top of the hive, I put a gallon-and-a-half of syrup on them. We’ll see if they continue to suck it down. I also did not increase the entrance. Normally, I would open the entrance fully when I put on the top super. But, I have recently been reading where a lot of folks keep the entrance reducer on year round. Add that to my recent robbing issues and I think I will keep it restricted to the middle setting for now. I look forward to seeing what I find in August!

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