What is a section super?

Instead of building honeycomb in long rectangular frames, honey bees can be encouraged to build comb in small sections. These small sections are usually square or round. In the photo below the square sections are about 4 inches on a side and the rounds are 4 inches across, so the area of the squares is about 16 square inches and the area of the rounds is about 12.5 square inches.

Section-honey
A square section and a round section. They were harvested at different times of the year so the honey is different colors.

Both square and round sections are put in frames that have the same orientation as a regular frame. In other words, the frames are parallel to each other and run along the length of the super. The frames for each type hold four sections. As you can see in the photos below the wooden frames hold four square sections and the plastic frames hold four round sections. The geometry is similar to a regular frame that holds foundation.

Frame-of-squares
This frame holds four square sections. The propolis stains can be avoided by painting the section boxes with paraffin before putting them in the hive.
Frame-of-rounds
This frame holds four round sections. The plastic disks prevent burr comb and cross bracing.

These frames fit into specially designed supers called “section supers”—basically these are just supers sized to hold sections. As you can see in the photo below, a section super designed for squares can hold seven frames of four sections—28 altogether. A section super designed for rounds can hold eight rows of four sections—32 altogether.

Square-section-super
This section super holds seven rows of four sections.
Section-super-rounds
The Ross Round super holds eight rows of four sections.

There is extra space in both types of section super because the dimensions of a Langstroth hive are a little bigger than the size of the frames allow, but not big enough to hold another whole frame. This extra space is taken up with a follower board and springs. The board and springs keep the sections tight within the box. They also maintain “bee space” between the frames so propolis and burr comb are kept to a minimum.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Chris
Reply

Rusty, *why* would you use a section super? Is there a specific purpose for it?

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

Price. I’ve seen 12-oz square sections go for $27. I’ve seen rounds go for $15. Multiply $15 x 32 and get $480/super. These are gourmet shop prices, but people are willing to pay a huge premium for honey that is not processed in any way. You just take the sections out of the super and drop them in a box. It’s one of the few foods people can buy that is virtually untouched by other humans. Plus, non-beekeepers are fascinated by the whole idea of honey in the comb. Sections are ridiculously easy to sell.

Chris
Reply

That… is pretty cool. So “pre-packaged”. I like it.

nick
Reply

So in preparation, do you need to have little squares/circles of foundation?

Rusty
Reply

Nick,

You can’t see it in the picture, but the sections are split down the middle. You use one long, continuous piece of foundation for the entire frame of four. After the sections are finished, you just trim away any excess foundation with a knife. I plan to show how this works in a future post.

Toby
Reply

Do you have a preference for one style over the other, and is one more economical?

Rusty
Reply

Toby,

For various reasons I prefer the wooden sections. I am planning to do a in-depth series on comb honey very soon, but for now I’ll just say that I try to keep plastic out of my hives and all the plastic parts of the Ross Round system turns me off to it.

Lucy Padula
Reply

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Dave Strickler
Reply

Thanks for posting this explanation, and yes, the pictures made all the difference.

So basically “sections” are used for creating comb honey that’s easily sold. But how is it sold? Do you sell the wood along with the comb in it, or do you carve out the comb (sounds like the former). If it’s with the wood, that means replacing the wood after the harvest, and I’d guess that where part of the expense comes from.

Thanks,

Dave

Rusty
Reply

Yes, you just drop the wooden sections in a cardboard box—or the round sections in a plastic box—and sell it. You never touch the honeycomb in any way, which is way people like it so much.

Dave Strickler
Reply

As I’m planning on giving away some comb honey this fall, I’d like to give these section supers a try (your post on using dental floss instead of a knife on regular frames was brilliant). I’ve done 5 min of Googling, and I can’t seem to find a wooden (non-plastic) supplier. Rather than build them myself, do you have a reference for a company in the States?

Thanks,

Dave

Rusty
Reply

The Walter T. Kelley Co at kelleybees.com.

Nancy
Reply

Hi, Rusty,

Don’t the bees build bridge comb in the corners next to the round sections?

Do you have a specific post on plastic vs wax foundation? I have to demonstrate wiring frames for wax at our club in April. Our senior beekeeper is always preaching plastic, and we have half a dozen beginners who are undecided so it should be lively ;-) Thanks!
Nan

Rusty
Reply

Nan,

Any bridge comb is easy to scrape off with a knife.

You know, I’ve been going to write about plastic for a long time; it’s the major reason I don’t like Ross Rounds. In any case, this quote is from my post called “Extracted honey vs comb honey“:

“This is a personal preference, of course, but I try to keep plastic out of my hives altogether. Plastic off-gases in the heat and can impart odd “plasticky” flavors to foods, especially high-acid foods like honey. Some people can taste this and others can’t but, in any case, I strive to keep my honey away from plastic.

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