Top quantity beekeeping – The Apiarist

Synopsis : The Spring honey harvest, heavy supers, further supers, clearers and the gap all that spare apparatus occupies. You at all times have an excessive amount of … till you run out.


It’s normally about this level within the season that I get started operating out of apparatus – brood packing containers, supers, clearers, frames, buckets, jars and so on. Surprisingly, it’s no longer took place this yr … but. Then again, as I drove again house with a automotive bulging with weighty supers on Monday, it did make me take into consideration the area wanted for beekeeping.

Beekeeping calls for reasonably a little bit of area … each in space and top.

Is there a passion that takes up extra space?

Stray ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) within the apiary

Scorching air ballooning most likely? However the balloon is deflated and packed away when no longer in use, while unused supers take in precisely an identical quantity of area as the ones in use. They’re simply in a distinct location.

Moreover, for a vital a part of the yr, all the ones supers stay in teetering stacks looking ahead to the nectar to start out flowing. They could simplest get used for three months a yr.

And what about feeders and the ones different pieces that get used for every week or two a yr, or when it comes to clearers, just a day or two?

But extra space.

Containers, packing containers, packing containers

The quantity of additional packing containers you want depends on your location and the way prolific and productive your bees are.

One nook of 1 shed … there are extra

Should you reside within the south of England, operating overflowing packing containers stuffed with prolific yellow bees, with countless get right of entry to to acres of oil seed rape, you’re going to wish extra packing containers than anyone operating darkish, local, bees in Caithness.

After I lived within the Midlands the vast majority of my colonies would most likely be on double brood packing containers one day within the season. Now I’m in Scotland, it’s the exception (and I’ve were given none this season). That is each location- and bee-dependent.

I favour darker bees and over the seasons have decided on those who overwinter on a unmarried brood field, are frugal with shops and that don’t necessitate me spending lots of the chilly months of the yr on the gymnasium in preparation for the weightlifting concerned.

I’ve by no means used 14×12’s, in large part as a result of I already suppose there’s an excessive amount of selection in body/field sizes, and yet one more choice would simply confuse/infuriate me. If I used to be beginning once more (and was once bodily more potent) I’d imagine a unmarried measurement brood/tremendous setup, acknowledging that this most likely brings its personal issues with regards to extracting.

The bodily power level is essential. I’ve simply weighed some Nationwide supers previous to extracting. Relying upon how complete they’re and whether or not they’re cedar or poly, some are simply over 18 kg (40 lb) … 5 of the ones on a hive is a large number of lifting.

The nectar glide

However will you want 5?

Sure, even in a median space for forage, in a just right season you could want as much as 5 supers on a hive.

By way of the appearance of items, this spring is most likely going to be about moderate and about 20% of my manufacturing colonies have 5 supers. Then again, maximum have 3, and if I averaged out the ‘supers in use consistent with hive’ on all colonies it will most likely be 3.

Hives and nucs in overdue Would possibly

If that is your first season and you purchased one of the crucial ‘brood plus two supers’ programs from Abelo or Thorne’s you’ve most likely already run out of supers.

And in the event you didn’t this spring – most likely since you’ve simplest simply began with a nuc or a 2023 swarm – you could this summer time, and you most likely will subsequent yr.

Should you’re lucky sufficient to stay bees in a space with plentiful forage then 4 could be a more secure guess.

All the above assumes you stay the colony in combination by means of making use of suitable swarm prevention and regulate measures … you’ll want so much fewer supers in the event you let part of the personnel disappear over the apiary fence 🙁 .

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Extra normally, robust colonies will want extra supers. As my beekeeping enjoy and talent larger (or as my incapacity reduced) I’ve run more potent colonies, desiring extra supers and gathering extra honey.

Rather then the nectar glide, there are a couple of different occasions when supers are used e.g. to deal with a touch feeder or block of fondant within the autumn, however it’s hardly ever multiple consistent with hive for those duties .

Swarm prevention and regulate

Supering early and adequately i.e. don’t be stingy when including supers if the colony is increasing speedy and wishes extra space, is helping lengthen the urge to swarm, however is not likely to stop it.

Sooner or later it is important to observe some kind of swarm regulate.

Many swarm regulate strategies require an extra brood field. Some additionally want separate flooring, roofs, and crownboards. You’ll due to this fact want suitable numbers of those as ‘spares’.

However, in the event you use the nucleus manner of swarm regulate, you will have to have the ability to save you the lack of a swarm just by housing the queen in a nuc field … till, in fact, the nuc you break up off expands sufficiently to justify its personal hive.

Getting ready a nuc

Don’t overestimate how lengthy this takes … a two body nuc made up with the queen laying like loopy can very swiftly outgrow a 5-6 body nuc field. Two weeks could be all it takes … no longer lengthy sufficient to get the brand new queen mated and laying (and due to this fact making the ‘previous’ queen surplus to necessities).

So that you’ll most likely want extra packing containers 🙁 .

To lengthen this proliferation of hives you’ll be able to periodically take away brood from the increasing nuc, most likely the use of it to spice up different colonies or – pooled from a number of nucs – to make up a queenless cellular elevating colony for queen rearing.

This occasional ‘weakening’ of a nuc is an invaluable solution to grasp. It’s no longer one of these factor that may be finished by means of the calendar, or learnt from a e book (or web site 😉 ). You want to stay the nuc robust sufficient to construct new comb, protect itself and forage, with out permitting it to expire of area and make swarm arrangements. In June this may increasingly take extra widespread intervention than in August if you find yourself making ready nucs for overwintering.

Clearing supers

Rather then a couple of specialist break up forums for queen rearing, it’s the clearers I exploit for honey supers that most likely see the smallest quantity of ‘motion’ doing the season. At maximum they’re most likely used for two% of the yr … about 8 days, after which truly simplest two times in a single day for each and every of the spring and summer time honey harvest.

Two times as a result of I’ve were given about double the choice of hives as clearers and/or the honey is taken off in two batches (see underneath).

This restricted utilization makes it comprehensible why many beekeepers use Porter escapes fitted into the appropriately-shaped holes in a crownboard. The crownboard is used in any respect kinds of occasions, and the Porter escapes can merely be saved in a small field till wanted for clearing the supers.

Apart from they’re no longer an overly environment friendly manner of clearing supers.

Porter bee escapes

They get gummed up with propolis or drones get caught in them. I ended the use of them many moons in the past.

As an apart, right here’s a fascinating article in Bee Tradition at the historical past of escapes for clearing supers.

It’s price remembering that no clearer – then again environment friendly – will paintings nicely if both of the 2 following stipulations don’t seem to be met:

  • area for the bees to ‘get away’ down into
  • a queenright brood field

The latter may also be a topic in case your colony swarms – or is having swarm regulate implemented – while you’re setting out the honey. It simply approach it’s a must to manually shake the remainder bees off the tremendous frames ahead of taking them again for extraction.

Environment friendly clearers

You’ll make sure that the ‘area’ by means of offering an empty or part-filled tremendous beneath the clearer for the bees to transport down into. However, you’ll want to use a clearer which has an integral deep decrease rim.

Clearer boards

Clearer forums – word two well-spaced exits and a deep decrease rim

This sort paintings truly nicely and can successfully transparent more than one supers temporarily.

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I really like clearing the entire hives in a single apiary on the identical time – in spite of everything, the honey could be able at just about the similar time (and, in the summertime, it reduces issues of robbing). Clearly that implies I would like the similar choice of clearers as there are hives within the apiary.

A few of my clearers are botched in combination from Correx, zip ties, gaffer tape and a typical 50 mm eke. Those paintings simply in addition to one constructed all in picket … with the benefit that I will separate the board section from the eke section, storing the previous and the use of the latter for different issues.

Zip tied get away on a Correx clearer board

They’re additionally ‘affordable as chips’ 😉 .

The spring honey harvest

The spring honey in Fife is predominantly, even though no longer solely, oil seed rape.

I love to take this off as quickly because it’s able slightly than chance it crystallising within the frames. Inevitably this normally approach taking just a subset of the supers, and even simplest one of the crucial frames from each and every tremendous.

The bees have a tendency to fill and ripen the honey within the center frames ahead of the ones on the facets of the tremendous. Due to this fact it’s no longer odd to search out the central frames able, while the ones at the edges are nonetheless unripe.

As a part of a typical inspection I take each and every tremendous off and ’guesstimate’ its weight. In reality, the load is beside the point, what issues are which can be the heaviest and which can be the lightest … presuming that the heaviest are those perhaps to be able. I then reassemble the hive with the lightest on the backside, with the clearer inserted beneath the primary tremendous I reckon is able for harvest.

The next day I’m going throughout the bee-free supers above the clearer, checking each and every body to decide whether or not the honey is ‘ripe and able’.

If the tremendous is capped then the honey is able.

If the honey (even though it’s most likely technically nectar on this state) drips out of the frames it’s for sure no longer able.

The shake check

However in between those phases are the frames which are incompletely capped.

You’ll simply decide whether or not the honey is able for extraction in those partly capped frames by means of maintaining the body by means of the aspect bars and giving it a pointy shake over an upturned hive roof. If you’ll be able to shake out drops of nectar the body will have to most likely be returned to the hive.

The shake check for unripe honey

Normally you’ll in finding the central frames of the tremendous both all capped or surely all ripened, with the ones on the facets having variable quantities of unripe nectar in them.

After I checked my hives on Monday I discovered a couple of frames within the lowest cleared tremendous(s) weren’t but able. Those have been returned to the hive and will have to be ripe (and perhaps additionally capped) by means of subsequent week.

This ‘shake’ check is a coarse and able manner of figuring out the water content material of the nectar within the supers. If nectar may also be shaken out (don’t dangle again on that onerous sharp snap/shake … it’ll simplest purpose issues sooner or later) then the water content material is above 20%, that means there’s a chance that the honey will ferment in garage.

The spring OSR crop is continuously poorly capped however nonetheless passes the ‘shake check’ … don’t let it crystallise!

(Very) partially capped honey super frame ...

(Very) partly capped honey tremendous body … however able for extraction

You’ll ‘dry’ honey by means of stacking unripe frames/supers in a room with a dehumidifier, or blowing air throughout them, and even merely stacking them for a couple of days at the honey warming cupboard. Then again, it’s a lot more straightforward to let the bees do the paintings 🙂 .

Even though ‘ripe and able’, my supers all get stacked on my honey warming cupboard set at ~38°C to make extraction extra environment friendly.

It spins out a lot higher if warmed.

Weighty issues

I’ve by no means troubled an excessive amount of with the productiveness of my bees.

With sufficient hives I appear to get sufficient honey .

Then again, there are marked variations between the productiveness of various hives and apiaries. Being vaguely clinical, slightly than simply considering “Hmmm … attention-grabbing” I assumed I’d attempt to get some actual numbers to make some comparisons.

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I retrieved a stack of supers from two apiaries on Monday. Each and every gained a gaffer tape sticky label with the hive quantity as I got rid of them, therefore annotated with the load ahead of extraction. Since all my supers take 9 frames – an extractor complete – I’ll merely have the ability to re-weigh the supers after extraction to decide the honey yield.

Hive numbers (queen marking pen) and tremendous weights (written the other way up)

I’ll be extracting as this put up is going reside, so must remark sooner or later at the weight of extracted honey and whether or not explicit apiaries outperform others (and if this trend is constant for spring and summer time harvests).

The extracted supers get piled up – taking but extra space – till I go back them to the apiary. I’ll do that on the identical time I retrieve the following batch of supers for extraction.

Those richly honey-smelling supers are used to under-super the clearer and the total supers, pretty-much making sure that the higher honey-filled supers are successfully emptied of bees. The rest honey dregs lend a hand the bees via any scarcity of nectar in June, and so they’ve were given the gap to start out storing the summer time honey if wanted.

Extraction potency?

My extractor is radial (frames organized likes the spokes of a wheel) which, no less than for some honey, is much less environment friendly than a tangential extractor, even though a lot much less prone to injury the frames.

My recollection is that radial extractors are about 60-70% environment friendly i.e. a few 3rd of the honey stays within the body after extraction, even though I’ve no thought the place I needless to say quantity from and a snappy Google seek failed to show up the rest without delay related.

Do any readers have an authoritative determine? And supply?

If I’m sufficiently nicely organised (and consider) I may attempt to re-weigh one of the crucial supers after the bees have cleared them of the honey dregs (assuming that the summer time nectar glide hasn’t began) to permit me to calculate this extraction potency.

Or I may take a look at a extra thorough Google seek … anyone can have measured this 🙂 .

You’re going to desire a larger boat truck

I’m no longer a beefarmer. If I used to be I’d have a Toyota Hilux or a Unimog.


As a substitute I’ve were given a small hatchback.

Frankly it’s impractical and nearly fully improper for beekeeping. At maximum I will get about 16 supers within the automotive … a complete weight of most likely 250 kg, an identical to about 3 adults.

Off to the following apiary – there’s a nuc at the passenger seat!

I’d love a truck however there’s no manner I may justify one. The operating prices on my own would bankrupt me until I were given a lot more hives (so necessitating a fair larger truck 🙁 ). A Hilux will get – at highest – about 33 mpg, about part what I reach in my super-laden automotive.

I daren’t take a look at the gas financial system of a Unimog.

Then again, actually, there are simplest about 3 times a yr when the beekeeping quantity automatically exceeds the automobile quantity. Those are the spring and summer time honey harvests and when my jars are delivered from C Wynne Jones.

1400+ jars

If I lived someplace instead of the howling desert this wouldn’t be an issue. Then again, our power is simply too lengthy and steep for a big lorry so the driving force leaves the pallet at the roadside verge and I ferry them up … but extra beekeeping issues that take in a large number of area in garage.

Different prime quantity beekeeping actions

‘Top quantity’ additionally implies that one thing is loud .

Thankfully beekeeping is normally a calm task.

The delicate buzz of returning foragers is rarely an intrusive sound.

A swarm finishing up for takeoff appears like a helicopter, however a slightly quiet helicopter. The ‘roar’ of a queenless colony isn’t truly regarding the quantity of the noise

The loudest noises are normally made by means of the beekeeper, no longer the bees.

That ‘expression of marvel’ when a bee crawls beneath the again of your jacket and stings the unprotected small of your again, or when a clump of bees falls off the nook of the body you’re examining, without delay into the space on the best of your boots.

Each may also be reasonably loud.

Tacwise nail gun


Body making is usually a bit noisy. The incessant faucet, faucet, faucet of a hammer riding in body nails, or the sharper (and far louder) ‘kerchunk’ of a nail gun … even though each are drowned out by means of the sound made by means of the beekeeper hitting his thumb, once more, with a misdirected hammer blow.

Honey extraction ...

Honey extraction …

Extracting is usually a noisy affair, even though the noise is someway attenuated or compensated by means of the sparkly, bubbly glide of golden honey from the extractor gate into the bucket. I simplest truly understand the noise of a recklessly unbalanced extractor bouncing across the room.

The demise of the sunshine … Rum and Eigg

Then again, the noisiest factor I’m acutely aware of is the sound of 16 encumbered, creaking, poly supers bouncing round in a small automotive negotiating ~25 miles of shockingly deficient singletrack roads at the far flung west coast of Scotland. In spite of strapping the packing containers tightly in combination the noise is deafening … and I’ll be doing it in all places once more within the subsequent couple of days.


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