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When To Remove Honey Supers For Winter

When To Remove Honey Supers For Winter

When the weather is warm, most beehives will produce more honey than they use. This excess honey is what beekeepers will harvest to use, share, or sell. To collect the extra honey, the beekeeper puts honey supers in the hive, which are boxes for the bees to store the honey in. After the honey has been harvested, some of these honey super boxes are removed from the hive by the beekeeper.

So, how do you know when to remove honey supers for winter?

Typically, the time to remove honey supers is mid to late Fall in most regions, after the last honey harvest of the season. Some honey supers will remain in the hive during winter for the bees to use, too.

Keep reading to learn more about when to remove your honey supers for winter!

Honey Supers and Bees

It is standard beekeeping practice to remove some of the honey supers in mid-to-late fall, before winter but after the last honey harvest of the season.

Remember that your bees need honey in the hive to get through the winter months when they cannot leave the hive to forage for nectar. When a beekeeper winterizes the hive, they check on the food reserves of the bees to make sure they survive the winter ahead.  

If it gets cold where you live, a single brood box is not going to be enough to get the hive through.

There is a balance that beekeepers need to attain with their hives, however, as bees can have too much room in the hive and too much space to guard.

During winter months especially, the colony’s population is at its lowest and it is possible that your bees simply cannot protect their honey and comb. Also, when you leave the bees with too much space, they can get cold and possibly die during temperatures under 50-degrees F.

A good rule of thumb is to remove any extra boxes but to leave enough for bees to thrive during the winter. The best time to remove the supers really comes down to a number of factors. There is no way to give an exact date, as every climate, region, and apiary is different.

When it comes to the best time to remove supers, it is all about location, location, location.

Some areas have a bevvy of fall flowers that bloom and provide bees with plenty of nectar late in the season, which means you should leave the honey supers on for a while.

Remember that when winterizing the hives and removing honey supers, it is also time to treat the hives for varroa mites, too.

Wax Moths

One of the biggest problems that beekeepers face when protecting their hives is moths. Wax moths wreak havoc and destroy weeks of work in a flash when they gain access to your hives. Warmer climate hives are more at risk of damage or infestation from wax moths, but cooler climate apiaries can also be affected.

The moths fly into the hives and lay their eggs in the honeycomb. When the larvae hatch, they burrow through the comb and attack the bee larvae and cocoons.

Wax moths can destroy the comb which, in turn, compromises your entire colony in a matter of a couple of weeks. Keep moths out and away from your hives at all costs.

Protect your hives from wax moths by freezing honey supers for a couple of days to kill off any eggs and seal them in airtight bags upon removal from frozen storage. Storing the honey in the super is easiest and keeps the comb intact best. Since wax moths are deterred by light, store your honey supers and extra boxes in a cool, but a well-lit place.

Wax moth larvae in mid air

Storing your Honey Supers

So, there is a lot more to know about storing your comb frames during the winter months. Many claim that it is the storage of the empty wax frames that is the beekeeper’s biggest challenge- after all, the bees put a lot of effort and energy into making these, and they can be destroyed in a flash.

Drawn comb is a valuable commodity so the beekeeper must put thought and care into how and where they will be stored until such time that the bees need them again, or until you can use them again next season.

Being caught without enough drawn comb for bees to store honey can jeopardize their wellbeing as well as cut into potential revenues that beekeepers make from excess honey.

These are reasons why it is so important that these empty frames of honeycomb- or drawn comb- are stored properly. It is easy for these to become damaged or destroyed- a waste of time, effort, and money.

Remember that in the course of producing honey and drawing comb, many worker bees will lose their lives-it is very hard work. Preserve and protect the beautiful handiwork of your bees with simple honey super storage suggestions:

  • Use a stacking method to store your frames. This method saves on space and also allows for better airflow. Try a crisscross pattern that allows for optimal circulation.
  • Remember that with more light and air circulated, there is less chance of moth damage.  Moths do not care about either light or fresh air. You can never be 100% protected, but this will definitely lessen the likelihood of moths.
  • An overhead shelter or some kind of roof can help protect stored supers from weather and precipitation. Your stored supers are worth this added effort and level of protection.
  • Cold weather preserves your honey supers well. Moths are not an issue during chillier temperatures and the chilly temperatures preserve and firm up the wax in storage.
  • Never use moth balls to deter wax moths. These could be toxic and even deadly for your hive.

Now you know when to remove your honey supers, after you have harvested for the last time before winter, usually mid to late winter in most climates. Use these tips and insights in your own apiary when winterizing your hives and taking care of your bees.