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When should i add supers to my hive?Updated 2 years ago

So, your colony has made it through the winter months and now we need to start thinking about the next step - When to add supers.   The bad news is there is no exact date, but then if beekeeping was that easy, everyone would be doing it! :)
The timing will depend on how big your colony is, where you are located and what the weather is like.   Bear in mind why you are wanting to add supers on in the first place.    You are wanting to give them room to expand.   From January, the queen will actually start laying brood.  Small amounts at first and increasing in numbers as the weather warms up and when the colony can support it.     Generally there is enough room in the brood box alone to allow this, bearing in mind there would have been much more brood the previous autumn and with more stores of food too.   However, this situation will change as soon as the Spring arrives and the flowers start to produce nectar as the bees will start to bring this back and store it in the brood chamber.     This is fine early on as much of it will be used as the bee numbers are increasing BUT it will get to a point that the brood is expanding in the box while being backfilled with nectar.     Something you don't want as they can become 'storebound' - stuck with so much food that the queen is limited to where she can lay and that can be bad for the colony growth at the time they need those new influx of bees in the hive.

So, now we have a better understanding of why we add supers on, the big question is when.   Putting them on too early could mean the bees struggle with the extra room if the weather turns cold, and we've already talked about leaving it too late.    The normal advice is to wait until there are around 6 frames of brood and for us in the South East, we tend to be looking at end of March, into April.
You will want to put one super on only, allowing them to fill till around 70% full, before adding an additional super to it.   If you are using drawn super frames, then it doesn't matter where in the stack you put them, either at the bottom of the supers, just above the brood box, or on the very top of the stack.    If you are using new frames and foundation, then most people prefer placing that at the bottom of the stack, closer to the brood box and thus allow better heat from the colony to help draw out the new frames.   Ultimately it doesn't matter, if the bees need the space, they use it!

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