The main flow in Alberta started approximately two weeks ago, but it was a historically weak start. The cool wet weather at the end of June put the flow a few weeks behind, but rest assured, it has started. Once we get some warmer days above 20°C, your honey will start coming in.
We anticipate six to eight weeks of the main flow, which we would classify as hives gaining 5 to 25 lbs per day. Honey flow can continue until the first frost.
In the summer, your colony can have anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 honeybees! They bring in a lot of pollen and nectar during the main flow and they need room to store the honey.
The main flow in Alberta consists mostly of canola, clover, sweet clover and alfalfa. Depending on where you are located, you may have a mix of these or just one.
Adding a super provides the bees more space to put their nectar and honey. The queen doesn’t lay or go into the honey super (you want her to stay in the brood box). Adding supers on top gives the bees plenty of room to store nectar and honey and hopefully plenty of honey for you!
Timing is everything when adding a new box. So far we have been managing our hives to get to the main flow. Now that we are in the main flow, you need to manage for what is coming in. You need your colony at peak strength to super your hive. This means the honey bees should be using all of the frames in your box and ready for more space.
To manage during the main flow, you need to ensure there is always room for the queen to lay in the brood box. So you may need to rotate frames into the center of the brood chamber.
Basically when you super a hive, you add a box for honey with 9-10 frames of wax foundation on top of your hive. It’s that easy. See our Adding a Super Video.
Auto-Extract Supers are easy to use and get to watch your honey flow straight into a jar. A couple of tips:
Selecting a foundation depends on what you want to achieve. As you do beekeeping you will try different things and see what works best for you. Here is a quick break down on few ways we recommend. Check out our Meet the Beekeeper discussion.
In a super, to encourage bees to make honey comb, we recommend using a wax foundation. Wax foundation does two things for the bees:
You can also use a waxed plastic sheet foundation sheet. These work really well in super boxes and can be reused.
Some people choose to go foundationless. If there is a strong flow, the bees will build comb, however it may not be straight and often comes out wonky. Most people find it easier to harvest honey with tools and find using foundation easier.
Not everyone agrees on using excluders. Every beekeeper has a different opinion. If you need to use them, they do work well. They are built so that the queen cannot fit through them and move up into the honey box and lay eggs, but the bees can still fit through them and use the super box to store honey. You need to make sure that the queen always has room to lay in or your bees will swarm. So ensure you always rotate frames in the brood box.
However, like with all things with beekeeping, you may have to test what works for you.
When you need an excluder
Sometimes you need to use an excluder. If you have a situation where you know the queen will go up into the honey box, you may need to use one. An excluder can slow things down, especially on a cold day. You will need to entice the bees to go above an excluder. We recommend placing a frame of capped honey in the honey box to encourage them to move up, on a good flying day they will start going up into the super.
When you don’t need an excluder
There are a couple of other ways to get around using an excluder.
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If you are a beginner beekeeper, knowing if there are enough honey stores can be hard to figure out on your very first overwintered hive check. The simplest way to check if there are enough stores is to gently lift your hive from the bottom board (without disturbing the hive too much). If it is very light and easy to lift, you DO NOT have enough stores.