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Bee-Ginner's Guide
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Bee-Ginner's Guide

This will be your fifth or sixth week after installing your bees. Is it still exciting?
It is about to get better as you continue to build your hive. By now you are starting to notice that the current brood box is pretty full. Your hive is ready for the next complete super once the outside frames are beginning to be drawn out. Adding that next super signifies the expansion of your colony and your growth as a beekeeper. Are you going to continue expanding the brood chamber or are you ready to add that first honey super?

Your basic goal for the first year of having bees is to help them build up the colony so they are strong enough and have their own reserves of honey to survive their first winter. Be careful though. You don't want to put a new hive body on too early. Bees like to build their hives vertically instead of horizontally, so if you put the next hive body on too quickly, they will automatically start to build up, leaving empty frames in the current hive body.

Expanding the Brood Chambers
Many beekeepers believe that the first super they add onto the hive is their first honey super. This can happen but is not best practice. A good productive queen will need more than one hive body (deep or medium) as the brood chamber. A hive that consists of either one deep and one medium super as the brood chamber, or two (even three) medium supers for brood will ensure the colony has a strong population to survive winter. Expanding above that second hive body begins their honey supers.

Honey Supers
We do not want to get carried away and begin adding deep hive bodies on as honey supers, thinking you will obtain more honey. No matter what style honey super you intend to use, the amount of honey stored will be the same. It is best practice to add on Medium or Shallow supers for honey storage. The colony will be able to build up the hive quicker, allowing the opportunity to pull off a complete super in less time; their weight is easier to manage when transporting to the honey room; and you will be able to rotate out medium frames from your brood chamber if you are working with all medium supers.
Remember that a first year hive may not produce enough honey to harvest.

The same rules apply when adding on honey supers: When the outside frames are beginning to be drawn out with comb it is time to expand the hive.
What if the bees will not move up into the honey supers? Sometimes the bees feel comfortable with the space they are in and don't have the need to expand. Entice them by spraying the frames with sugar water. This will bring the bees up into the super to clean and draw out comb.

To ensure a clean honey (no larvae) some beekeepers use a queen excluder. A queen excluder is a filter made of either plastic , metal, or wood bound, placed between your hive bodies and honey supers that allows the worker bees to move freely through the hive but prohibits the queen from moving higher because she is too large to go through the grooves. This keeps the queen from coming up into the honey and laying unwanted eggs. You do not want to include the queen excluder at the same time you are placing on the honey super. Bees are sometimes hesitant or unwilling to move past the excluder into the honey super. Yes you can spray the frames with sugar water to entice them but it is best practice to wait until after the frames are being worked before adding on the excluder. The main objective is to make sure the queen ends up below the queen excluder, otherwise she will be stuck in the honey super.

Additional Brood chambers and honey supers are integral to making sure your colony runs at its best, but know that the exact amount of brood chambers and honey supers needed can vary for every beekeeper. Depending on your environment you may choose to put in a few brood chambers and some beekeepers will only end up having one brood chamber. It never hurts to find a local Bee Club in your area and learn from fellow beekeepers in your area. No one knows better what might work in your environment more than beekeepers who have experience with it.