Leaving a super on over winter??

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Do224 

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I was recently told by an experienced beekeeper that bees would need ‘a full super of honey for themselves’ before you harvest any. They said some people would take the super and feed the bees instead but that the feed wouldn’t have the nutrients that the honey has. Apparently they didn’t harvest any honey at all from their bees last year for this reason.

Does that mean you would leave them with the first super all summer for extra food in case of a cold/wet spell......or does it mean you also need to leave a super of honey on over winter?

From everything else I’ve read I thought leaving a super on over winter was a bad idea as the bees might not want to move into it to get the honey when it’s cold....and therefore starve
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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They said some people would take the super and feed the bees instead but that the feed wouldn’t have the nutrients that the honey has.
Just that statement alone demonstrates their lack of actual knowledge
 
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Leaving a super on over winter is entirely up to you. Some do say why feed syrup when you can leave them with their own stores. Some say they should have enough in a filled brood box. Some leave the super on top of the brood box over winter (no Queen excluders over winter) and some leave it under the brood box (nadir). The colony tend to move up over winter so would most likely end up in whatever box was on top. Even if you just leave them in the brood box they can still become separated from their stores and starve. A commercial and small hobbyist may do things differently as a commercial enterprise would be focusing more on things like speed and efficiency. I am sure I have forgotten some permutations, but, as you can see, there is no standard practice. You do what suits you and your bees. I currently have 4 hives and one over wintered nuc in my garden in Cheshire. I prefer to overwinter leaving a super (if the colony is strong) and nadir, but last year I left 3 hives with supers on top and one as just a brood box. This was purely down to my circumstances at the time and the size of the colony.
 

enrico 

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I was recently told by an experienced beekeeper that bees would need ‘a full super of honey for themselves’ before you harvest any. They said some people would take the super and feed the bees instead but that the feed wouldn’t have the nutrients that the honey has. Apparently they didn’t harvest any honey at all from their bees last year for this reason.

Does that mean you would leave them with the first super all summer for extra food in case of a cold/wet spell......or does it mean you also need to leave a super of honey on over winter?

From everything else I’ve read I thought leaving a super on over winter was a bad idea as the bees might not want to move into it to get the honey when it’s cold....and therefore starve
Horses for courses!
Bees are fine on fed sugar over winter. Honey is £5+ a jar and sugar is 50p+ a kg financially it is therefore always better to take the honey and feed sugar. However..... I like to leave my bees with honey if possible. I do it as a hobby and am not squeezing every penny out. It is easier to leave a super with honey on than to feed. That is my choice. It doesn't always work that way and I do feed if necessary.
You should always know that your bees have food by checking during inspections. If they need it then feed it. They do not need a super of honey left on all year though. But ......? Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. If that is what you want to do then fine.
It is easy to leave a super on over winter. When the queen is laying in the spring make sure she is in the brood box and simply slip a queen excluder between the boxes. Before drones are laid is good. It is not difficult to separate them again and that super then stays on. A brood box full of food in autumn should be fine for winter food without any super at all. Emergency feed fondant if necessary but it shouldn't be !!!!! Having said that this long winter is one of those times when your care of your hive is important and checking weights of hives can mean life or death. Listen to what experienced beekeepers tell you and then adapt it for the way you keep bees. We are all different and so are the bees and the locations they are kept in so there are no rules just common sense, good luck and a little knowledge gained from reputable sources!
Best of luck
E
 

enrico 

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Leaving a super on over winter is entirely up to you. Some do say why feed syrup when you can leave them with their own stores. Some say they should have enough in a filled brood box. Some leave the super on top of the brood box over winter (no Queen excluders over winter) and some leave it under the brood box (nadir). The colony tend to move up over winter so would most likely end up in whatever box was on top. Even if you just leave them in the brood box they can still become separated from their stores and starve. A commercial and small hobbyist may do things differently as a commercial enterprise would be focusing more on things like speed and efficiency. I am sure I have forgotten some permutations, but, as you can see, there is no standard practice. You do what suits you and your bees. I currently have 4 hives and one over wintered nuc in my garden in Cheshire. I prefer to overwinter leaving a super (if the colony is strong) and nadir, but last year I left 3 hives with supers on top and one as just a brood box. This was purely down to my circumstances at the time and the size of the colony.
Sorry Fiona, I repeated alot of what you said as we posted at the same time!!!!
 

ericbeaumont 

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feed wouldn’t have the nutrients that the honey has
Nutrients are needed for brood rearing but sugar is fine for working wing muscles to maintain winter nest temps.

Only caveat is that warm winters may not switch off brooding and so honey & nutrients may be needed, but as winter stores are likely to be both sugar and honey, most bases will be covered.

Bonus of winter sugar is that less waste is produced which means less pressure to fly to empty, or to empty in the hive.
leaving a super on over winter was a bad idea as the bees might not want to move into it to get the honey when it’s cold
Nadir the super in autumn and remove in early spring: by winter, bees will have shifted the honey next to them as they wish.

A super above makes bees work to compensate for the loss of nest heat upwards, so they consume more, produce more waste and age quicker.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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But nadiring a full super means the bees have to work excessively to move the stores back up above the brood nest.
Plan things properly, nadir a super if there is some unripe/uncapped stores in it, early enough so you don't overwirk bees needed for the winter then, if you feed properly and in good quantity (not piddling, piecemeal amounts in a four litre feeder) the bees will have plenty of space to move down into as they pack in the stores above.
 

Gilberdyke John 

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I was recently told by an experienced beekeeper that bees would need ‘a full super of honey for themselves’ before you harvest any. They said some people would take the super and feed the bees instead but that the feed wouldn’t have the nutrients that the honey has. Apparently they didn’t harvest any honey at all from their bees last year for this reason.

Does that mean you would leave them with the first super all summer for extra food in case of a cold/wet spell......or does it mean you also need to leave a super of honey on over winter?

From everything else I’ve read I thought leaving a super on over winter was a bad idea as the bees might not want to move into it to get the honey when it’s cold....and therefore starve
The phrase "experienced beekeeper" sends a shudder down my spine. Experience and Competence are entirely different things.
 

pargyle 

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Plus... of course ...the size of brood box you keep your bees in. A 14 x 12 filled well with either their own honey (ideal IMO) or fed a top up prior to winter to make it full weight will be generally enough stores to see them through winter without leaving them an additional super. In addition a well insulated colony will not use all of the stores I provide them with for winter.

There is no standard formula for keeping bees ... you have to think about the variables:

1. Your colony's nature - are they greedy bees - some colonies demolish winter stores at a frightening rate -others are more frugal.

2. Your local climate - how long does winter really last ?

3. The forage available AFTER you have taken the honey off.

4. Hives - are they poly or timber, insulated or not insulated ?

5. Where your apiary is sited - is it sheltered or exposed ?

All these factors (and others) will have an effect on how much stores your bees need to overwinter, it's not a one size fits all consideration.
 

Do224 

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Thanks for all the advice. I’m in north Cumbria so we do tend to get a bit of a rough deal weather/climate wise and winter can drag on a bit
 

Levitt53 

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I nadir the bits and bobs left over and they tend to pack in more than enough ivy honey that they are set for the winter. This works for me as any ivy is in brood frames and I can use excess ones for nucs etc rather than have it in the super to try and extract. Err on the side of caution either way to start with is my advice. The biggest thing you'll ever learn in beekeeping is that there are lots of opinions so you have to work out your own way.
 

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