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Winter Arrives – Removing Supers

We have snow hitting some of the western areas of Virginia tonight and it looks like the temps around Richmond, Virginia will drop into the lower 30’s over the next couple of days. This marks the beginning of Winter for this year. I feel pretty good because I have confirmed the following on all hives (with one exception – a hive at Pop’s, which is another story):

  • Good or Great weight (honey stores)
  • Strong brood patterns through last weekend
  • Evidence of a Queen (I am satisfied with finding larva)
  • Entrance reducer (both to keep the draft out and the mice out)
  • Ventilation chuck (more on this one in a future post)
  • Leveled and with a brick on the top
  • at least 8 inches off of the ground

What have I not done?

  • About half of my hives are on screened bottom boards (I am still not sure whether SBB’s are worth it or not). I have not put the plastic board on any of these hives (beneath the screen) to fully seal them
  • I have not reduced all of my hives to just the brood chamber (1 Deep and 1 Medium)

The last point is what prompted this post, as I continue to get emails/newsletters from various Honey Bee resources recommending to remove all extra supers before Winter. I think the primary reason to remove the extra supers is the space. You are making the bees patrol/cover an area that is too large for them. I suppose this makes it possible that they will need more resources to stay warm or that you are increasing the risk pests will get to the sections that the bees cannot adequately cover.

But, for the time being, I am not going to remove my extra supers that still have honey (capped or otherwise). Effectively, I harvested honey in September (after letting the bees clean these, I have removed them from the hives). Everything that was left was consolidated into a super or two above the brood nest. For example, I have one hive with 2 Deeps, 1 Medium and 1 Shallow. If all goes well, I will not have to mess with them. But, if I have a hive that needs a boost, I’ll take it from these guys (and a couple of other hives that I have with more resources then that need.) I might regret this, but for now I am not taking the general advice on extra supers.

3 comments to Winter Arrives – Removing Supers

  • David Stover

    Hi Jones,

    I just read this from the Walter Kelly newsletter, thought it might be interesting per your “winterizing” post.

    “Are my double brood boxes full of honey and have I removed any surplus boxes above
    them? I do not like to leave any supers above my brood nests as I feel the bees will not use them if you have adequate
    stores in the nest area. In my opinion this is just extra space that the bees cannot defend and probably
    won’t use until spring anyway. If I am not going to harvest the honey in my supers
    at this point I will scratch the cappings and set them out some distance from the hives
    and allow them to be robbed out. After they are clean and dry they will be stored for the winter. I want all honey and
    pollen stored around the middle of the brood nest, where I figure the bees will cluster (this is above and to the sides of the bees) in individual
    colonies.”

  • That is interesting. It is a common recommendation, so there must be some truth to it.

    But, I have decided that I am going to see what happens if I ignore that advice. I probably have 5 hives, with an extra super or two on them, going through the Winter. I hope to be able to use any extra honey in these hives to shore up possible issues in late Feb/early March and for Nucs in mid- to late-March.

    But, maybe it will prove to be a big problem for these hives (as so many people seem to say.) Only time will tell.

  • Doug Ladd

    i often dont see the science or logic behind many things. The whole area to cover is a summer thing in my opinion as common pest are not an issue in winter…

    Another thing, people say its too much space to heat. well the bes DONT heat the space only the cluster.

    Second think about moisture, the more room the less moisure and the further the inner cover is from the cluster, meaning if there is a moisture issue (you dont know unless you check once a month atleast) the cluster will be a whole super below with less chance of getting wet.

    Also what if we have a warm winter (sure are having a warm fall), a warm winter means active bees for no reason and eating up all the stores. So in my opinion if you winter in singles, single and a medium which i believe is the minimum for our area, if we have a hard bee winter (warm) they will starve. On the other hand a double deep or even a double deep and a medium the bees have a fighting chance.

    its the cold winters that are best for bees as they can become efficent and use little food.

    As far as to screen bottoms, who really knows although the recent discussion on Bee-L abotu varroa drop is interesting…

    I have left some open and some closed and see no real difference, although i believe (cant prove) that i have more mositure issues in my closed hive and solid bottom hives… especially the ones NOT in 100% full sun… i do close the ones that are more impacted by direct field winds…

    I just purchased commercial fondant to cut and place on my hives, build 1×2 spacers this weekend. Although many of my hives are in solid double deeps i find $1 per lb for fondant to be cheap insurence and then i can relocate it if not used or needed in late winter.

    Keep in mind its late winter after brood rearing starts when most bee hives starve (late march…)

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