Lesson 9: Inspecting the Hive Part 1
Lesson 3: The Super
In lesson one we took a look at the placement of a hive, the hive stand and the bottom board. Then, in our last lesson, we examined the deep hive body. These lessons can be viewed at anytime by simply scrolling down in the blog.
Today, let's take a look at the honey super. Some new beekeepers pronouce "super" incorrectly, calling it a "supper", like what you eat at night. It only has one "p", so it is pronounced the same as when you say, "super size it please". Since we have already discussed the two deep hive bodies, sometimes also called deep supers, today we are looking at the supers that are placed above the hive chamber, on top of the deep hive bodies. These are the supers we place on hives with the intent to remove whatever honey the bees store in these supers.
The width (16 1/4") and depth (19 7/8") will be the same for all boxes, including the honey super. The difference with the super is the height. There are three sizes used for honey supers. Beekeepers with strong backs sometimes use the deep size, 9 5/8" in height. A very common size is 6 5/8" in height. This is also called the Illinois super or a medium super. Then there is the small super. It is 5 5/8" tall.
Here's a picture of all three sizes, side by side. As you can see, the only difference is the height, which is very critical, because the greater the height, the larger the frame in height, and the larger the frame, the more honey it can hold. Therefore, a deep super full of honey can weight close to 90 pounds. A medium close to 60 pounds and a small 30-40 pounds. We only manufacture medium supers because it is more commonly used by the average beekeeper.
There are some limitations when using the small super. There is no plastic foundation made for that size super. And, during a heavy nectar flow, you will have to super your hives more frequently. Also, it takes the same amount of time to uncap and small super as it does a deep or medium super. And, you get a lot less honey from a small super for the same amount of work. In an upcoming lesson, we'll discuss when and how to add supers. But for now, we are merely getting familiar with the hive components.
Some beekeepers use only 8 or 9 frames in a honey super, while others use all 10. It does make a difference. Obviously, if you use 9 frames, the comb on each frame will be drawn out wider by the bees, thus making much more space for the honey. It is true that a 9 frame super will usually contain more honey than a 10 frame because all nine frames are larger and can hold a total that exceeds 10 smaller drawn frames. Wider combs are easier to uncap because the comb exceeds past the wooden frame, allowing the uncapping knife to ride along the wooden frame as a guide and uncapping all cells. Sometimes if the frames are not pulled out past the wooden frame edge, the uncapping knife cannot uncap the recessed cells. In our hives some have a total of 9 and some have a total of 10 frames.
To help achive the 9 frame spacing, a metal frame rest is used. This frame rest is different from the plain frame rest in that it actually has notches to hold each of the 9 frames, giving a perfect spacing between all 9 frames. Be prepared for a few challenges with 9 frame spacers. First, you cannot slide your frames horizontially. They are held tightly in the notches. There are times when you need to slide your frames. But if you use 9 frame spacers, you will have to lift them straight up and out to move them. Secondly, the various gaps around the metal notching gets pretty gunked up with propolis, giving nice hiding places for wax moth or small hive beetle to hide and lay eggs. If you don't have problems with these pests, then it's not an issue. Notice the build up of propolis in this picture on a 9 frame spacer rail below.
We'll discuss supering a hive in a future lesson, but for now, you can place as many supers on your hive as your bees want to fill up. I typically have at least 2-3 supers on my hives duirng the Spring and Summer.
Our next lesson will be the two final pieces to the hive, the inner cover and the outer cover. See you then!
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