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How Fast Can Bees Fill A Honey Super?

How Fast Can Bees Fill A Honey Super?

If you are planning on keeping bees, you will need to consider honey supers. Honey supers hold the honey, basically a box with frames hanging inside; it is on these frames that honey is collected – but how fast can bees fill a honey super?

A decent-sized and strong colony of bees can fill a honey super in as little as one day- but possibly several. Note that any bee colony needs time to establish, which on average takes two or three weeks for a strong colony of bees.  A strong colony may be able to establish themselves and fill a honey super in a week! It typically depends on the weather, hive conditions, and your bees. A weaker colony of bees may take a couple of months to fill the same honey super.

Thinking of keeping bees? Keep reading to learn more about your honey super!

Honey Supers

Honey supers are one aspect of your beehive and it is where honey is collected for you to harvest later. Basically, a super is a box that contains wood frames, typically around 7-10 of them.

These frames are accessed by the bees and hold the honeycomb and excess honey produced by your bees. These should not be confused with the brood box in the hive which holds the queen and her larvae. Brood box frames look similar but are usually a bit deeper than a honey super is.

So, when should you empty the honey supers and how fast can bees fill one? These are questions that will be addressed here!

Harvesting Honey

How big is your hive? This will dictate the number of honey supers that you need. If you have excellent nectar flow due to abundant sources nearby, this should lead to a good honey flow.

Honey flow occurs when bees produce optimally, and the results are a lot of honey. Typically, a honey flow means that the bees are producing more honey so your hive will need more honey supers.

Usually, a beehive has two or three supers. The process is to add a super when the existing honey super is around 2/3 full. It works like a cycle, removing full frames and replacing them with empty ones.

The key is to make sure that your frames are capped with wax before removing them and adding another. Never leave your bees without a honey super to work with! This is a big part of beekeeping.

Honey Supers

All this talk about honey supers: so, how long will it take to fill a honey super? If the hive and colony are strong and conditions are fine, it may only take a week- perhaps less.

Weaker colonies or less-than-ideal nectar conditions could cause it to take a couple of months to fill a super.

Most honey supers hold nine or ten individual wooden frames. Keep in mind that the thickness of your frame is how thick the resulting honeycomb will be when harvested.

Therefore, using ten frames creates a thinner comb than if you use nine. Less cramming the super with frames means more space for bees to work and produce honey!

Remember that if the nectar supply should suddenly stop, bees will use honey from the honey super frames to sustain themselves.

Hive Strength and Nectar

If you want the flow frames of your honey super to fill up fast, you must accommodate honey production. How do you do this? Hive strength and availability of nectar are the two basic requirements needed for bees to produce excess honey and fill their frames.

Hive Strength 

Consider the following aspects of hive strength- and how to make your hive stronger:

  • A strong hive needs a young, active queen and a healthy brood of eggs, larvae, and bees.
  • A strong hive must be disease free.  
  • Enough bee brood to cover several frames in the hive.

A strong hive with plenty of bees is a good start. Good nectar flow is the second element to getting bees to fill the frames of the honey super. Bees will fly for miles to find nectar and pollen- if they are not producing honey, either there is a shortage of nectar sources, or you need to evaluate the strength of your hive.

A hand scraping some honey from a comb

Optimal Conditions for Honey

Are there conditions that are better for honey production than others? There most definitely are some factors and environmental influences that greatly impact honey production for bees.

These are:

  • Geographic location
  • The time of the year
  • Seasonal conditions, rainfall, temperatures, etc.
  • Flowering plants and vegetation nearby; available nectar resources

Also, if there is simply not enough nectar in the surrounding area for bees to forage and find, they will not produce enough honey to coat and fill the frames. It is that simple.

Hive and Honey Super FAQs

When should you add the Flow frames?

Add flow frames whenever you have ideal conditions in your apiary, which include a strong hive and good nectar flow.

How long does it take bees to fill a honey super?

It takes a strong colony of bees one or two weeks to fill a honey super, depending on many external factors.

How often should you add honey supers to your hive?

There are some factors that influence how often you should add honey supers to your hive, but many beekeeping professionals say it should take one week to draw honeycomb and one week to fill. This is contingent on nectar availability near your hive.

How long does it take to fill a hive with honeycomb?

On average, it can take bees up to a week to fill a hive with honeycomb- but it may only take a single day!

Use these tips to remove and replace your hive’s honey super, as needed. This is an integral part of cultivating and harvesting honey, and not difficult at all to do. Never open a hive or expose your bees to temperatures below 50-degrees Fahrenheit, as bees are vulnerable to the cold and they could perish.

To check the condition of bees during cold weather, gently knock on the side and listen for the humming sound of your colony- it is much safer for your bees.