The remarkable amount of honey your bees need for winter

A frame full of honey. How much honey do you need to leave for winter? Nancy McClure

Many variables dictate how much honey your bees will use during winter. To be on the safe side, leave extra and check their supplies frequently, especially as spring approaches.

Inside: The amount of honey a colony will need for winter depends on factors that are hard to calculate. For best results, leave more than you think is necessary.

Honey consumption depends on winter conditions

How much honey will your bees need for winter? Good question. But before I answer, here’s a question for you: How much heating fuel will your household use this winter?

Well, you say, that is complex. It depends on where you live, your local climate, and the size and geometry of your house. It depends on what type of furnace you have, how warm you like it, and how many people live there. In addition, it depends on how much insulation you have, whether you have windbreaks, and what color it is. And it depends on air leaks and ventilation and the building materials. It depends on whether the seasons are early or late. And on and on.

Your bee colony has different issues, of course, but just as many. The climate and weather, the amount of ventilation, the structure of the hive, the number of bees, the genetics of your bees, the number of warmish days, and the number of especially cold ones are some obvious examples. The fact is, you can’t predict exactly how much honey a colony will need, so you should estimate on the high side.

How much honey does an average colony use in winter?

I checked dozens of sources and found an amazing amount of agreement on general guidelines. Colonies in the southern U.S. may thrive on as little as 40 pounds (18 kg), those in the middle states need about 60 pounds (27 kg), and northern bees may require 80 or 90 (36-41 kg). Those are average numbers for average years and average hives. What’s the average? That’s another vital question.

In all but the warmest areas, I recommend a beekeeper leave 80 to 90 pounds (36-41 kg) of honey on a winter hive. (Or about 90 to 100 pounds if you are including the weight of the box and the bees.) Most times, this will assure an adequate supply of natural food for your bees, and it will save you messing around with syrups and sugars and supplements. In short, it’s good for them and good for you.

If you are overwintering a nuc (nucleus hive) in a cold climate, allow about eight full deep frames, the equivalent of about 64 pounds of honey. Although nucs seem small, they undergo super-rapid growth in the spring.

How to estimate the amount of honey in a frame

The Mann Lake catalog used to have estimates for the weight of full boxes. According to them, a full ten-frame deep weighs 80-90 pounds (36-41 kg), and a full ten-frame medium weighs 65-75 pounds (29-34 kg).

Discounting the weight of the structure and dividing by 10, a full deep frame holds about 8 pounds (4 kg) of honey and full medium holds about 6 pounds (3 kg). (If you evenly space nine frames in a ten-frame box, a full frame will weigh a bit more because the bees draw thicker combs.)

According to Caron and Conner (2013), the ideal fall colony will have brood in the center of the lowest box. This will be flanked with frames of honey and pollen, and the two outermost frames will be filled with just honey. The second deep box should be filled to the brim with honey—all ten frames.

Applying the math to their ideal colony, you will have 12 deep frames completely full of honey, which gives you (8 x 12) or 96 pounds (44 kg), plus any additional that is stored on the pollen frames.

This setup should get you through any winter, but in the more temperate states, you could easily replace the second deep with a medium, which would give you (6 x 12) or 72 pounds (33 kg) of honey plus any additional on the pollen frames.

Warning #1: Look before you harvest

A common error that new beekeepers make is harvesting the honey supers without checking the brood boxes for honey stores. You cannot assume the deeps are full just because the honey supers are full. Often the bees use one or both brood boxes for brood and pollen during most of the season. Not until late in the year do they store honey closer to the brood nest.

If you take off the supers without checking for honey below, you may leave your bees with almost nothing for the winter. So above all, remember to look before you take.

Warning #2: Most colonies starve in spring

Every year, thousands of bee colonies die of starvation just as the spring nectar begins to flow. I can think of two main reasons for this.

First, the population of bees in a colony increases after the winter solstice, about December 21. So a colony in February and March needs much more food than it did in November and December.

Second, when beekeepers see flowers in the lawn or on the trees, they may sigh with relief, thinking that now that things are blooming, the bees won’t starve. But not all flowers produce nectar and not all days are warm enough for bees to fly. Don’t risk making the mistake that flowers = food. If their food stores are low, feed them!

Frequently asked questions

Should you remove honey supers for winter?

Once you estimate the amount of honey your bees will need for winter, you can remove the rest. Remember that the further the honey is from the brood nest, the less likely your bees will use that honey because it is too cold. But more to the point, some other creature may decide to use it if it’s not being patrolled by the bees that own it.

If you remove the honey, you can save it for the bees in case they need it later. Or you can harvest it. You can even feed harvested honey back to your bees if you discover they need it.

On the other hand, honey has a high thermal mass, meaning that a hive with lots of honey will not change temperature as fast as an empty one. It means that during the night, the hive temperature will not drop as fast, but during the day, it won’t warm up as fast. A stable temperature is most often a good thing.

What if it’s too cold to feed my bees?

It is never too cold to feed your bees. If your bees need food during cold weather, you have two choices. One, you can open the hive, feed them quickly, and probably lose some bees. Or two, you can not feed them and let the entire colony die of starvation.

Apparently, beekeepers have trouble with this concept. Each year, dozens of people tell me they didn’t feed their bees because it was too cold, and then they all died. No surprise.

Can you overfeed honey bees?

You can overfeed bees in the spring and summer if it causes the colony the swarm. This can happen if the queen runs out of places to lay more eggs.

However, in preparation for winter, it is basically impossible to overfeed. But remember, feed doesn’t have the same nutrient profile as honey, so a majority of their winter feed should be honey, if possible. If no honey is available, add a pollen supplement after the winter solstice when brood rearing begins anew.

What is the best winter feed for honey bees?

Honey is always the best feed for bees, but sometimes you don’t have it. And because bees will not drink syrup that gets too cold (less than about 50 degrees F), something like fondant, sugar cakes, or dry granulated sugar are good choices.

When should I stop feeding my honey bees in spring?

If your colony is thriving, you can stop feeding your bees when nectar-producing flowers begin to bloom. Often, flowers like dandelions are among the first to open in early spring. If you see honey bees foraging on them, that’s a good sign that the temperature is warm enough to wean them from their feed.

In any case, stop feeding your bees before adding honey supers to your hive because you don’t want syrup stored in them. Save the supers for pure honey.

In the fall, when you’re feeding to maximize winter stores, you can feed as long as the bees keep eating. At that time of year, you can’t feed too much.

Can you feed bees sugar water in the winter?

Cold syrup in a hive won’t hurt your bees, but it won’t help them either. Once the syrup becomes too cold for the bees, it just sits there and eventually grows mold.
Once daytime temperatures drop below about 57° F, you should switch to a solid sugar board or granulated sugar instead. Solid food does not chill the bees the way liquid food can.

In an emergency, some beekeepers heat the syrup, which can work long enough to tide the bees over until you install a different feeding system.

Honey Bee Suite

About Me

I backed my love of bee science with a bachelor’s degree in Agronomic Crops and a master’s in Environmental Studies. I write extensively about bees, including a current column in American Bee Journal and past columns in Two Million Blossoms and Bee Craft. I’ve endured multiple courses in melittology and made extensive identifications of North American bees for iNaturalist and other organizations. My master beekeeper certificate issued from U Montana. I’m also an English nerd. More here.


  • Rusty, my question relates to that last point of yours. How do you manage harvest and frame arrangement for a colony that takes its time consolidating for the winter. Last year, I had one robust colony that didn’t bounce its drones until September, and was happily using the full hive until then (2 deeps full of brood and eggs with minimal storage there, all the capped honey for the season in 2 supers above). I kept expecting them to move honey down, but they didn’t, and I ended up adding a little filler board on the bottom of 4 super frames to put into the deep box, feeding syrup, plus leaving on a super of honey (which I do anyway for winter, marked so I don’t harvest those frames in case they get filled with syrup). So with this big booming colony, I only harvested about 5 frames of honey. (They wintered great and were very strong in the spring.)

    How do you handle a situation like that? I am getting ready to harvest for the season and am curious about what I will find. My bees never got the memo about which box they are supposed to use for what.

    • Gretchen,

      For me, the thing that works best is a standard inner cover between the brood boxes and the honey supers. This is the kind of inner cover with a big hole in the center. Whenever I have bees slow to move their honey down, I just put an inner cover in there. It seems to provide enough separation between bees and honey that they get “anxious” about it, and so they begin to move it down. Just recently I did it with some partially filled section boxes. I put them on a hive above an inner cover and they were emptied out within a week.

  • This is our first year with bees (a package) and we were pleased to get some honey. We took 3 frames of honey from a medium and the remaining frames were almost all filled. The hive consists of 2 deeps and 1 medium and we were planning on 2 deeps for overwintering (Oklahoma). We are not planning to take more honey but will they automatically move down into the deeps to keep ‘compact’?

    • Cathy,

      Yes, they usually do, and you can help them along by moving the frames of honey to where you want them. But it is still early. As the weather gets colder, and the days shorter, the colony will contract. To get them out of the super, just use an escape board.

  • One of the things you mentioned is ventilation. I have screened bottom boards and screened top boards/moisture quilts. At what temperature point do I need to fill the quilts with wood shavings and block off the bottom board?

    • Chris,

      As always, it depends on your climate. When I Google “average first fall freeze in Olympia” I’m told September 30. Usually, I fill the quilts right around that time, like mid-October. You start getting lots of condensation when the nighttime temperatures dip significantly, so that’s what I go by.

      As far as bottom boards, I never block them off. They are wide open all year under the theory that bees do not die of cold, they die of a wet/cold combination. Condensation, mold, and fungus have all drastically decreased since I began leaving them open, and my survival rate increased as well.

      I would probably do it differently in a very cold climate, but I live in USDA hardiness zone 8.

      • Rusty, I just realized you live near me, and I’ve been looking at your site for months. 🙂 I’m in Puyallup. You never use a bottom board, just screen? I just added my board back on a couple of weeks ago after the nights started getting colder. Should I take it back off? As a side note, I have a long hive, not top bar, but a horizontal hive with regular frames in it, (not by choice, it was made for me that way, lol….) so would that make a difference as to if I should keep the bottom board off?
        Thanks again, your articles are always so helpful.

        • Michele,

          The thing to understand is honey bees are extremely well equipped to keep themselves warm. Even colonies exposed to weeks of below 0 weather keep their brood nest in the 90s by a process of exchanging places in the cluster. The warm bees go the the outside and the cold bees go to the center in a continuous rotation. But all bets are off if the bees get wet. Evaporation is a cooling process (think air conditioner) so wet bees get chilled.

          So your job is to keep the bees dry, and the bees’ job is keep themselves warm. Removing the varroa board is a way to increase ventilation and therefore keep the bees drier. Yes, it will be slightly colder inside, but that doesn’t harm the bees.

          All hives are different and the only way to know if you are getting condensation is to look. If you are not getting condensation with the board in place, then you don’t need to take it out. If you are getting condensation, then you need to take steps to get rid of it.

          I can’t tell you a rule for taking the board out or leaving it in. The amount of condensation you get depends on hive shape, tightness of the joints, size of the cluster, prevailing wind currents, sun or shade, thickness of the walls, the amount and type of food stores, presence of a top opening, height off the ground, and on and on.

          The easiest way to come to a conclusion is just to have a look. This being the mold and mildew capital of the New World, I opt for no varroa tray, a top entrance, a moisture quilt, and dry candy boards in my Langstroths. I get less condensation in the top-bar hive, so I don’t use a quilt on the top-bar, but I still leave out the varroa tray.

          • Thanks Rusty, your insight is helpful. I never thought of it as the bees being able to keep warm in such cold weather, so I’ll keep that in mind. I understand about the condensation and will keep taking a peek for a while to see if it is a problem. It sounds like taking out the tray is going to be a good thing.
            Thanks again.

    • William,

      While that is certainly an accurate statement as far as it goes, many colonies—especially in northern areas—would starve to death on 45 pounds of honey.

  • So , after reading this post I’m more confused than before. This is my first year, so discovering that everyone has a different solution to a problem has been very overwhelming at times.

    My last inspection, I found my second deep brood box packed with honey on all ten frames. I was told by many that this was no good, that I was honey bound and needed to give them more room for the queen to lay in that top brood box. I was advised to remove 3 frames and replace with empty ones. Which I did.

    After reading your blog post, I’m worried that I did the wrong thing and should have done some more research before disturbing what they had done.

    Based on the bit I’ve described, might you have any insight on this?

    • Erin,

      First off, it would help to know where you are. For now I will assume you are in the northern hemisphere and you are heading into autumn, not spring. (I have much international traffic, so I have to be careful on that point.)

      Second, it would be helpful to know when your last inspection was because the answer to your question is one of timing. While your colony is expanding, you do not want your bees to be honey bound: you want the queen to have lots of room to lay eggs. So that advice is perfect for those times when the brood nest is expanding.

      However, going into fall the brood nest is no longer expanding; instead it is contracting. As the colony gets ready for the winter, the bees shrink the size of the brood nest and bring the food stores down closer to it. That is why, before the beginning of winter, the ideal colony is isolated in the bottom brood box and they have lots of honey stores overhead. The colony will move up during the cold weather, eating their way through the honey stores.

      Come spring, when the colony is once again expanding, then you can worry about being honey bound again.

  • Rusty,

    I live in Rhode Island. I installed my bees on May 12th of this year and had been under the impression that I missed the spring nectar flow, having installed them so late. I discovered the problem two weeks ago, and asked questions on the online forum for my local beekeepers’ association. I got a variety of answers (some conflicting) but the consensus was that I wouldn’t have a large enough population to get through winter if I didn’t get some of that honey out of the top brood box to free up space for the queen to lay. Some had even suggested that my queen had failed and the workers were filling in unused frames that no longer had brood.

    When I did a full inspection this past Saturday, I did not spot my marked queen but the bottom-most brood box has brood in all stages. So whether my original queen is still there or if a supersedure occurred I don’t know. But I was relieved to see uncapped larvae.

    I still have a honey super, with 3 or 4 frames of partially capped comb, on above a queen excluder. I’m hoping that if I did take more than I should have from the second brood box that they will move some down from the honey super.

    • Erin,

      You have a colony, installed in mid-May, that has filled a whole ten-frame brood box with honey, and in addition filled part of a honey super, and someone surmises that your queen has failed? Are they nuts? Who exactly do they think made the honey? The Easter bunny?

      It sounds like your colony is doing great. The queen produced a workforce large enough to store a lot of honey in a very short time. She (wherever she came from) is actively raising brood. I’ve never heard of a colony failing to overwinter because they were honey bound. Honey bound hives often swarm in the spring, something which makes the population really small, maybe even small enough to fail over winter. But certainly if they didn’t swarm, you are going to have plenty of bees. What nonsense.

      Also, after the summer solstice (June 21) when the days begin getting shorter, the brood nest naturally contracts. The workers fill cells that once held brood with nectar (yes, they are supposed to do this) so that the food will be close to the nest. Often honey that is stored higher up in the hive is brought down into the main brood boxes and that is a good thing.

      Here’s a question: you said you opened the upper brood box to give the queen more room to lay. How did the bees react to that? Did the queen lay in it? Did they store honey in it? Is it even drawn out? If not, are they drawing it out? Just curious.

  • Erin,

    Just wait a couple of weeks. The queen will begin laying like it is going out of style to raise a young population of winter bees. Then half of these honey stores will be used in a hurry. I read a study of Canadian beekeepers a few years ago and they found that contracting the hive to a single deep gets the bees nicely packed for the winter. Once they do, simply add a medium full of honey above.

    With my carny queen I think I will winter them in a single deep with two mediums above, but only 6 frames in each box, flanked by 2in Styrofoam on the ends. My carnies do not populate more than 6 frames anyway, so all they will need to do is move up for the stores. It will be a trial, but it should work well. Checkerboarding should be very easy in that configuration.

  • Fantastic timing (as usual!). I had this long-ish post all lined up asking about many of the issues covered already above. I was worried because a hive that swarmed in June has not done much in the way of anything in the honey super I placed on top (2 deeps). I removed it to “right-size” the hive (I hope), but wan’t sure if I should leave it on to allow for a fall flow. Should I place it back on top and then remove it if not used when I place a quilt box on top? I’m in NW Washington.

    Thanks so much!


    • Aaron,

      In my experience the fall flow isn’t heavy enough to warrant a super, and the bees have plenty of room to store the honey in the brood boxes. However, if you think the flow is heavier where you are, there is certainly no harm in adding a super. You can always remove it later.

  • I’m hoping you can answer my question. I’m a first year beekeeper with an established hive that was given to me. I keep seeing how much honey is needed for the bees in the winter, but not a word about how many frames of pollen is needed. I live in Utah, and started winterizing the bees last weekend, reducing the hive from 4 supers to 3. I found 7 frames with brood, and probably about the same number with mostly pollen. I put 4 frames of brood in the bottom chamber, with a frame of pollen on either side, then 2 frames of honey. Second chamber I put 3 frames of brood, pollen on either side, then filled the remainder with honey. The 3rd chamber is all honey. But I have several extra frames with pollen and I don’t know if the bees need that, or what I should do with it for the winter if they don’t. What are your thoughts? And is the configuration I used to reduce correct? I am hoping that I can reduce one more time and get them into 2 supers, but if I can’t, I hope 3 supers will work.

    • Miriam,

      That is a really good question. Unfortunately, I don’t have much information on winter pollen needs, but I can tell you what I do personally. I try to leave one frame that is mostly pollen on each side of the brood nest. Then I fill the rest of the box with honey. If the nest is in two boxes, I would put pollen frames on both sides in both boxes.

      That said, Caron & Connor in Honey Bee Biology & Beekeeping, show several frames of mixed honey and pollen on each side of the nest with solid honey on the two outermost frames.

      Pollen is needed for brood rearing, and there is some amount of brood rearing going on in all but the coldest parts of the year. But I find that excess pollen goes moldy or dries up if left in the hive long enough, and pollen patties can attract hive beetles. You can wrap pollen frames and store them in a freezer for later, or you can just leave them in the hive, especially in cold climates.

      If anyone else has ideas on this, please chime in.

      • Thanks for that information! That gives me peace of mind that I haven’t shorted the bees of much needed pollen! I thought it had more to do with brood than a winter food source…BUT this is ALL so new still! Thanks again–your site is a wealth of easy to understand information.

    • The amount of stores required for a colony of honey bees during the winter is approximately 45 pounds. It is a very bad practice to feed bees with honey from other hives as this spreads disease. In the UK we feed our bees with syrup, 2 pounds of white granulated sugar to 1 pint water NOT brown sugar as this causes dysentery in bees. In the spring we feed bees with a light syrup, 1 pound to 1 pint;this encourages the queen to lay.

      Can I suggest that you subscribe to our Bee Craft Magazine which contains masses of information from well established and qualified beekeepers.

      Well-established beekeepers sometimes collect pollen and feed it to the bees by rubbing it into drawn empty brood frames or made into a patty and placed on top of the brood frames. This can be purchased commercially.

      • William,

        The amount of stores required for winter depends on your local climate. In the states, for example, much more is required in the northern states than the southern states.

        Indeed, Bee Craft is a great magazine, the best in my opinion. Be sure to read the column, “Letter from America.”

  • Rusty,

    I’m in the Buffalo, NY area and started with 3 nucs this May 18th. One of my hives didn’t finish capping two frames in the 1st super during honey extraction so I left them in the super. Now these frames are full of capped honey. I’m also in the process of winterizing. I’ve taken off the supers of the other two hives. I would prefer to to have just two deep boxes to winterize. What can I do with these two frames of honey? BTW, this was a great article with comments.

    • Dave,

      I would wrap them in plastic, freeze overnight to kill any eggs of parasites, and then store the still-wrapped frames in a mouse-proof place in case you need them in the early spring.

    • The feeding of honey bees: The worst possible feed for honey bees is honey, especially from other bee colonies. This is the best way in which to spread disease especially the two foul broods.

      Winter feed two pounds white granulated sugar NOT BROWN to one pint of water for a standard National hive. I try to give approximately two to three gallons. This will take the colony through until the spring = 45 lbs of stores. In the spring give approximately one gallon of a weaker syrup, one pound sugar to one pint water. This will get the queen laying well.

      You can add a good pinch of thymol to the syrup, this helps to stop any fungus growing. I always used to give Fumidil-b in the syrup to help prevent the ravages of Nosema, unfortunately the sale of which in the UK has been terminated by some idiot in the EU. Up and until that time I never lost a colony due to the infection of Nosema in over thirty years of keeping bees.

      W.H.N.Fleming A qualified Beekeepers BBKA>

  • Hi Rusty, I am a brand new beekeeper. I have two hives doing great, I think. I don’t plan on taking any honey this year, but I’m wondering do you leave the honey supers on the hive over the winter or take them off? Is it too much room during the winter to leave them on? I live in bountiful, Utah, so I think long cold winters. The book I bought didn’t mention anything about winterizing your hive. Any suggestions for great beekeeping books? I’ve loved reading through some of the questions and comments, thanks,

    • Maizie,

      I think The Beekeeper’s Handbook is a good beginner guide.

      Whether you leave the honey supers in place depends on whether they need the food for winter or not. You probably need around 80-90 pounds of honey for the winter, just guessing.

  • These questions and comments have been most helpful to me as a first year beekeeper. I started my hive with a nuc in late April here in west Georgia. It was going gangbusters until it swarmed; it had not yet gotten to 80% full. I kept waiting for the hive to raise up a new queen but instead I ended up with a laying worker situation. I then proceeded to order a new queen and brush all my bees off of each frame hoping to dislodge the laying workers. Now it is July and my new queen has been accepted and is laying brood. I am concerned, however, because I do not have nearly enough honey stored for them to make it through the winter. What would be your suggestion for the future of my hive? We have had a VERY rainy summer here this year and many beekeepers have had to feed through much of the summer. Many hives have been lost this year locally.

    • What Rusty said is about all you can do at this point.

      However looking to the future, consider running more than 1 hive so if you do get into a situation where a colony loses its queen (for whatever reason), you have another hive, presumably with a viable queen, making brood that you can transplant over to the queenless colony so they can keep retrying to make a viable queen. Absence of brood for extended periods is what causes laying workers. So even if they are having a hard time getting a mated queen that they will accept, having uncapped brood being transplanted into the colony every week or so will prevent the laying worker situation as well as give them the option to supersede inferior queens.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks so much for these articles, they have been incredibly helpful. I have a few questions that I hope you can answer.


    I am in Hardiness Zone 6a. Started two hives from nucs first week of June. Season here seems to have been 2-3 weeks behind, blooms have been pretty strange.

    I fed both continuously from June/July. Hive 1 has a bad case of chalkbrood and was queenless when I got it. I requeened second week of June.

    Since then they have been very reluctant to build comb. I am using Pierco frames with some base frames that are traditional wax/wood. Those frames are all drawn out. Hive two is going gangbusters on brood production, but I have only been seeing it in the last 3 weeks. I moved the end-frames over to encourage comb building with limited results. The hives are both 2 deeps currently. Hive 1 has about 8 frames undrawn, hive 2 has about 6 frames undrawn.

    So on to my question:

    It seems the last 2 weeks there has been a nectar dearth, I am not sure. Both hives had only small amounts of honey/nectar, but quite a bit of brood. For kicks I fed each hive one pail of syrup and they both took it in less than 12 hours. It hasn’t encouraged comb building, but hive 1 has slowed down brood production.

    How can I tell when there is a flow? What can I do to get them to store more honey and draw out the frames? It’s not looking like I will get to add any honey supers this year.

    I think lack of knowledge on nectar flow has been my greatest weakness so far as a new beek.

    • Vincent,

      Based on your description of the bees’ behavior, added to the fact it’s August, I think it is safe to say you are in a dearth. This post, “How to recognize a nectar dearth” may help.

      In North America, colonies expand January through June, contract July through December. Basically, your colonies are not interested in drawing out more comb, they are interested in preparing for the winter. They won’t build comb if there is nothing to put in it. See, “Why won’t my bees store honey?” It’s not an exact answer, but it has some relevant information.

      The above post also addresses the question of honey supers. Where I live, I put them on in April and take them off in June. If the bees manage to store anything else, they get to keep it. Getting surplus honey the first year is a plus, but it doesn’t always happen.

      Feeding syrup will help your bees make it through the winter, but be very careful. A few drops of syrup in the wrong place can get the robbers going, and one colony may rob out the other, or a neighbor’s colony may take out both. I recommend you stop down the entrance before feeding so the colonies can defend themselves against robbers and other predators such as wasps.

  • Hi there,

    We currently don’t harvest any honey from our hives, we just want to support the bees. But we have had them now for a couple years, added some additional boxes but I am wondering if the bees need us to harvest honey? Do they just eat it or do they need us to make room for them to make more. Just curious and thanks!!

    • Believe me, Michelle, the bees don’t need us to take their honey. They were around millions of years before humans, and somehow they muddled through without us. That said, sometimes they are more apt to swarm if the colony doesn’t have room to expand. Swarming is a good thing for bees, but sometimes not so good for humans. So there is that to consider as well.

  • Hello
    I started two 8 frame medium hives this year on pre drawn comb. One hive has 8 frames of honey and also 8 frames of surplus honey above the queen excluder. The other hive has almost no honey whatsoever. Is it ok for me to take honey from one hive and put it on the other? I’d rather the bees have it than for me to harvest it and have them starve. Thanks

  • I live in Kansas and I started my first hive this June and will be preparing my 2nd for this spring. I have two deep boxes to winter the bees in. Two weeks ago I inspected the top box and it was so packed full of honey that I could not get any frames out at all. Panicking, I put on a queen excluder and a medium super to give the bees more room. What should I do with that medium super now? And are the two deep frames good enough for the winter? The bees are still flying in with loads of pollen and are bearding in the front of the hive so I was afraid to take it away but I also don’t want to take it away too late.

    • Hi Jess,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “I don’t want to take it away too late.” Too late for what?

      You ask if the two deep frames are enough for winter, and I assume you mean the two deep boxes. If your second deep is completely full of honey, that should be plenty for the winter. A deep can hold about 90 pounds, which ought to do it, as long as it is honey in there and not brood or pollen. Adding the medium super is fine, although they probably won’t use it. As the brood nest contracts for winter, they will have more room to store honey nearer to the nest.

      You can look in the honey super after a couple of weeks and see if they are using it or not. You can take if off any time you feel they are done with it. I don’t really see any time constraints.

  • I wonder if there’s any harm in leaving a full honey super on top of two deeps. I’m near the Canadian border, so we have cold winters, so I like to leave more rather than less. However, does the extra super require the bees to heat more of the hive in winter, or could it help to create more insulation and ventilation? (I use the Mann Lake upper foam insulation board.) I assume that an extra honey super helps them to survive as they move up into the extra stores and in spring when they start up again. I have frequently used three supers this way but have wondered if it could be harmful.

    • Laurie,

      I have just the post for you: “Physics for beekeepers: temperature in the hive.” I believe it answers every part of your question. Good for you, by the way, for using common sense to raise your bees instead of hearsay.

      • Perfect. This explanation makes so much sense and helps to confirm what I’ve been doing. I never use hearsay (or crystal balls), have lots of books and contacts, and choose among the best answers–this is one of them. Thank you for this site.

  • I live in Orange County NY and have my first colony started late April. I noticed my second deep was filling up with brood and honey so I added a honey super in July. A couple of weeks ago in mid-august the honey super frames(10) all had drawn comb and middle 4 uncapped honey. I plan on taking the honey super away and leaving the two deeps, with the 2nd deep being full of at least 6 full frames of honey. Population seems to be doing great, throwing out the drones now, a few hive beetles in the top cover though. Am I doing this right?


    • TK,

      It sounds right. If you are worried about the amount of winter stores you can replace the four empty frames in the second deep box with the four uncapped frames from the super. That will give them almost a full deep for the winter, and since it’s uncapped, they can handle it better than you.

  • I have two hives that I inspected today both hives had second brood boxes full and half of third brood box filled with honey. I have 3 deeps on each hive. Winter is some what cold in Mass, I’m hoping they will winter well. Both hives felt pretty heavy, well over 100 lbs, when lifted.

  • Forgot to mention I made two hives out of three as one hive lost queen and got robbed in July and had no stores at all and became very aggressive, so I merged that hive 50/50 in between two other hives, first year of bee keeping. Nucs were installed mid-May.

  • Just started my first hive in March from a package. I’m in Salt Lake City, UT. Just did an inspection.

    The hive is 10 frame, two deep and a shallow super. I have no queen excluder and just the inner cover on top of the shallow. I don’t want her to get left behind if they decide to move up.

    During the inspection I could see the queen, eggs, larva, and capped. The upper deep brood has a few frames of capped honey, nectar, and pollen. The bottom mostly eggs, brood, and the queen. The top “shallow” super is almost 90-95% capped.

    My question:

    Can the ladies have too much honey for the winter?

    Will it spoil or add too much humidity over the winter?

    I was told “just toss a pollen patty on and call it good for the winter. Don’t think it too much.”

    • Aaron,

      1. No
      2. No
      3. That works.

      A super of honey provides food, insulation, temperature stability, and reduced air speed through the hive. A super of honey above the brood nest in a place like Utah is a very good thing.

  • I have three hives, two 2-year-old hives and one one-year-old hive. Both older hives have 2 deep boxes and had supers this summer and they both failed to draw comb and fill the supers with honey. It would be nice to get honey at some point. I am guessing that this is due to the California drought (I live in Napa). The deeps are pretty full with honey and brood so it all looks good but try as I might they just won’t fill the supers. Any suggestions for next year?

    Thank you.

    • Nicolas,

      No doubt this lack of honey is due to the drought. Even if flowers bloom, if there is not enough water, they will not be able to produce much nectar. It is more-or-less cheating, but you could feed them syrup early in the year before your honey supers go on. This they will store in the brood boxes. Then, before you add the honey supers, stop feeding. With luck, the bees will then begin filling the supers in the spring.

      I say this is cheating because your bees are then dependent on the sugar syrup they stored for their winter stores the following year. All in all, honey bees will be healthier if they overwinter on actual honey.

      I don’t know what else to tell you, though. It sounds like it might be a long drought ahead.

  • I checked bees today, 53 degress here on the MA/VT border. Looking good but starting to run low on food. I had a couple of full medium supers and put one each on two hives along with a pollen patty. Was this an ok idea?

  • HI there,

    I am very new and my main goal this season is to help my bees to survive the winter. I started my new hive from a swarm of my mother in laws hive, 2.5 weeks ago. I have been giving my bees sugar syrup and they have drawn out 4 full frames and partials of 3 others. The bees are storing and capping the sugar syrup but I have seen no signs of brood at all. At what point should I consider re-queening to make sure my population is high enough to survive winter? I am worried that my group wont be able to get enough stores for the cold winters we have here in Utah.

    • Denton,

      When you hived the swarm, did you check for a queen? If the swarm left with a virgin queen, it could take 2-3 weeks to get her mated and laying. If it was the old queen from the original hive, she should be laying by now.

  • I’m from western Nebraska. I started two hives in early May and have noticed that the bees have combined into one hive. The queen from the lesser hive is no longer present. There are still a few bees in that lesser hive making drone cells but not storing any honey. The second deep on the strong hive is full of capped honey, so I placed a super on top. That was a while ago and the bees have done nothing up there. Can I remove a couple frames of honey from the deep and replace it with already drawn frames from the bad hive?

    • Lisa,

      Yes, you can do that. Remember that we are past the summer solstice, so your colony is unlikely to expand at this point but will contract as we go into fall.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have 3 new colonies. 2 are okay—the 2 deeps are not as full of honey as I’d like to see (I’m in Colorado, and our first average frost date is mid-September). The 3rd is going totally gangbusters. I have put 2 supers on the strong hive and 1 on one of the others. I’ve since put that super above the inner cover, hoping they’ll pack it below. I’m planning to take one of the superstars from the strong hive to place on the second average hive. But…here’s my question: a friend who is a long-time beekeeper suggested I do something else. I have 3 supers of capped honey (now totally granulated) from a colony that didn’t make it through the winter last year. My friend suggested I harvest this year’s capped honey, and put the granulated honey on for the bees to eat over the winter. Will they eat it? Even if they do, I’m not 100% sure why my bees didn’t make it through the winter, and don’t want to spread disease. On the other hand, what the heck else do I do with 3 supers of granulated honey?

    Second question: if they haven’t got the deeps packed by the time I do my final fall inspection, can I put some frames from the full supers in the deep hive bodies? Does it matter that they’re not the right size? In my mind, it’s better that they have the food where they need it than worrying about the feng shui of their living room!

    • Sarah,

      I like your questions. I see rational thinking here!

      1. I agree with your friend. Unless your bees died of some obviously infectious disease like American foulbrood, there is no reason to fear the honey. As for it being granulated, think about this: we feed our bees candy boards, candy cakes, and granulated sugar poured on a piece of paper, all of which are hard as rocks. What is the difference, other than a wax capping? I figure that bees ate granulated honey for 100 million years or more before we came along and decided it was a bad thing. Personally, I always give the granulated stuff to the bees and never had a problem with it.

      2. Regarding feng shui: I agree. Put the honey where it’s needed. If you forget to take those frames out in the spring, worse case is the bees continue building their comb below the frame until it’s the same length as the others. I have deep “frames” that were once shallows, and I can hardly tell them apart at first glance. Like many aspects of beekeeping, worry over frame size is a human thing, not a bee thing. They will take what you give them and make it suit.

  • I checked my bees yesterday because had a 65 degree day in November and looks like one of the hives (2 deep brood boxes) is honey bound. There was brood a month ago. The top box full of honey and the bottom was somewhat light so started feeding. Now looks like bottom box is full of honey also. I did not see any brood. The second hive has full box of honey on top and brood and honey in bottom. Lots of bees in both. What would you suggest.

    • Lynn,

      My answer assumes you are in the northern hemisphere. A colony that is “honey bound” is one where the colony needs to expand the brood nest, but there is no room to expand because all the cells are taken up with honey. That condition does not exist this time of year because your brood nest is not expanding or trying to expand, but it is shrinking for the winter. What you describe sounds like a colony in excellent condition for wintering. By spring, much of the honey will be consumed and there will be plenty of room in the brood nest for egg laying. Please read, “My hives have no brood!

  • Rusty, I saw a blog that showed a beekeeper who took a gallon chocolate milk plastic bottle, cut a 4-inch hole in the bottom, screwed the top to the side of a barn close to the hives, purchased pure pollen for human consumption, grind a couple of TB of pollen in a coffee grinder until it is a fine power. Place the power in the container and stand back, as the bee will play inside by rolling around while filling their sacks. I’ve seen as many as two dozen at one time inside. They are waiting for me every morning. It is 11/7/16 in middle TN and the days are still in the high 70s, with 40 at night. Much fun to watch.

  • New beekeeper this year 2017. Started with two nucs April 28. They are going gangbusters. Have two deeps on each and two honey supers (mediums) on each. One super on each is packed with capped honey and they are drawing comb on both of the upper supers. I have not looked in my deeps for weeks, because they are so heavy and I can’t get into them. I will as soon as hay season is over here in Missouri and my husband can help me. My question is, if I look in my brood boxes and they have lots of honey stored, do I still leave one super full of capped honey for them? I would of course love to get some honey, but the bees well being comes first. They are working on the upper supers and will have honey in those soon also. If I harvest honey from the one super, will they fill the other super for winter? Also, since the frames are different sizes in the deep and the super, I can’t move them around, so do I just leave the super on the two brood boxes or will I possibly take one brood box away. So many questions. Thanks for any info you can give me.

    • Lynn,

      As I pointed out in the post, your bees will need about 80 or 90 pounds to overwinter. Let’s be extra careful and say 100 pounds. As a guideline, a deep frame full of honey will weigh about 10 pounds and a medium about 6 pounds. So just count. If in your deep boxes you have ten full frames of honey, you’re good for the winter. If not, leave some in a box above the brood nest. It doesn’t have to be a full box, as long as the total in the hive reaches 100 pounds.

      Whether or not the bees can refill a super depends on whether or not there is any nectar to be collected. Sometimes there is a fall flow, but that will vary with your location. In any case, they will clean up the “wet” frames, and that is a good thing.

      • Thanks so much, that makes perfect sense. What do you mean by clean up the wet frames? Want some of the frames in the deeps always have brood in them? As long as the bees are continuing to work in the supers capping honey, do I really need to get into the deeps right now. Seems like to me that if the bees are continuing to work away, the queen must be doing okay and the hive is satisfied. I am always worried since I haven’t been able to find my queens since my first inspection that I will kill her or lose her when I pull out the frames in the deeps. Thanks again.

        • Lynn,

          1. If you extract your honey, what remains after extraction are “wet frames,” messy and sticky. If you put the frames back in the box and put the box on the hive, the bees will clean up the mess for you.

          2. Yes, frames in the brood box will usually have brood in them.

          3. No, you do not usually need to go into the deeps while the bees are storing honey in the supers.

          • Thanks again. I have been looking everywhere to find a question and answer site and you have really made my day. Our organization is good, but getting answers is sometimes difficult, but I realize that everyone is so busy, but our website does not have a Q&A and it would be so helpful. I know my questions are probably silly, but I can read and read and never really find the answer. You have the answer and I appreciate you sharing it. One more if you don’t mind. When should I harvest the honey, if I get into my brood boxes and find lots of capped honey, should I wait until later in the fall to harvest the supers or go ahead and harvest and then replace them for the bees to clean and possibly refill? I know that the plants are drying up somewhat with the heat here in Missouri, but things are still blooming. I don’t see the pollen baskets filled up so much on the bees legs. So maybe this is a dearth period. My supers are mediums, so the frames will not fit in the deeps, but I suppose everything can be sized down to one deep with the super of honey on top if there is not enough capped honey in the deeps for winter, which is a while off. I am just not sure what I should be doing at this point. Maybe nothing. Thanks again. You are the best.

            • Lynn,

              1. Let me clarify: this is not a question-and-answer site. It is not a forum. It is not for beginners. It is only my personal website.

              2. Like most issues in beekeeping, when you harvest depends on your local nectar flow. I harvest on June 30, just before the summer dearth. Some folks harvest in autumn. Nectar flow depends on your local climate, weather conditions, and plant profile. If you don’t know local bloom times and the strength of the associated nectar flows, you should ask a local beekeeper.

  • Hi Rusty, My question is. How much honey can I take from a 2 brood hive with 2 fully capped supers? I live in the Bahamas and we never have any amount of winter here. It may get in the 60s but we always have something in bloom all year long. This is my first year harvest and I don’t want to take everything if I’m not supposed to. Any info you can offer would be great ?? Thanks

    • Kevin,

      In the southern US, beekeepers often overwinter with as little as 40 pounds. You can probably go with less, but to be on the safe side, I think 40 pounds is a good number. That would be about 5 full deep frames. (A deep frame can hold about 8-10 pounds of honey). If you have that much in your brood boxes, you can harvest the supers.

      • Thanks Rusty for the fast response to my question. Appreciate it. Today is harvest day for me and I’ll leave them with their 40lbs.

  • Hi Rusty

    First, a big thank you and congratulations for your very informative/helpful site!

    I live in Walla Walla WA, 1st year beek, and one of my two hives has about 5 frames of honey so far (started from a nuc in late April). The other hive has probably 10 frames or so, not all capped, but considerably more than the weaker one.

    Part of the reason the weaker hive is slow, I think, is that I didn’t have drawn comb except for the frames the nucs came with.

    Would moving a frame or two of honey from the stronger hive to the weaker one be a good idea in fall, if the weaker one’s stores are still inadequate? Or should I start feeding it syrup now, to stimulate it?

    Appreciate your time and wisdom!

    • Gily,

      Equalizing stores can be done at any time. However, a couple things should be considered. If you equalize, you may end up needed to feed two colonies instead of just one. Also consider the size of the colonies: a bigger colony will store more but it will also require more food in the winter. It’s easy to forget that just because the hives are the same size doesn’t mean the colonies are the same size.

      Lastly, feeding during a dearth can be tricky. Make sure you prepare for robbers and yellowjackets before you start.

  • I’m really enjoying your posts and blogs. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights, they are helping this novice beekeeper greatly.


    PS: Where are you situated? We are in southern Alberta.

  • I am often asked this question as well. The answer can be difficult because of the variations in regional foraging and length of winter. I find that asking local beekeepers is the best way to get an idea of what works in any specific location.

  • Thank you for all of your answers to so many of my questions. I am a new beekeeper and have two hives, one started from a nuc, that was very small, and the other that started from a package that seems to be doing better. I live in NH, cold winters. I went in my hives a few days ago, and have very little honey. the hive started from the nuc only has one deep and one medium. Both of those boxes have tons of capped brood, some pollen around the brood and very little honey. The other, started from a package, has two deeps and a medium. Both of the deeps have tons of capped brood, some pollen and very little honey and the super only has about 2-3 frames of honey. I did not feed either hive over the summer because all of the boxes had drawn out comb already from a hive that I had last year. I think I need to feed them so that they can build up food stores. But will that work for the smaller hive? The reason I put a medium on was because I didn’t have a deep that had drawn comb, so I thought the bees would do better with the drawn comb. But now I don’t know if they can possibly make it through the winter. What can I do with the smaller hive? Should I combine it with the larger hive? On the bigger hive, now that it’s the end of August, should I take off the super, put the three frames of honey in the 2nd deep? What else can I do to help get them through the winter beside feed them? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Lee,

      You’re going to have to feed syrup like crazy, and I suspect you will have to feed candy after the weather turns. On the larger hive I agree you should put the honey down into the brood box. On the smaller one, just keep feeding. You may have to combine later, but for now let them try to build up. You can always re-evaluate in a month or so.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thank you for such an informative site! We are second year beekeepers and started with a new package the beginning of May because our colony didn’t make it through the winter. We just inspected the hive and both the top and bottom deep have a fair amount of capped brood, but not much honey. The queen was in the bottom deep laying eggs. All the honey is in the one super that is left on the hive. It is full, 10 frames of 100% capped honey. Will they start moving that honey down soon? We are in Massachusetts. At the end of the inspection we put the inner cover on top of the deeps but below the honey super to see if that would help encourage them to move it down. Was that necessary? It’s our only inner cover though so now just the outer cover is on top and it occurred to me that may not be good. Thank you!

    • Brittany,

      I’m not sure I understand your concern about the honey being moved. In winter, the colony usually moves upward as their honey stores get used. So they start low in the hive and by spring, they’ve moved up to where the honey is. I would just let them do that. There is no point in forcing them to move capped honey to another location. That’s just busy work.

      I would remove the inner cover and put it where it belongs.

  • Hi Rusty’

    I enjoy your columns and find them very informative. I am in Massachusetts. While I understand the need for 12 deep frames of honey by the end of October/early November here is Mass we still have goldenrod flow on and pollen coming in. September will be warm. I have 6 hives.

    My queens are still laying full 8 frames of brood in a 2 deep with honey and pollen crowning the brood. There are 8 frames of pollen and honey in the hive. Usually I finding a frame or 2 that is freshly hatched and ready to lay in each box.

    Question: At what point should the transition to winter consolidation take place and with this type of scenario should I feed? (Most of my hives have shallow supers on still that they are filling and capping).

    Question: I have one hive that the bottom deep has scanty stores and very spotty brood. The top deep has 4 frames of brood and 4 frames of honey stores. I have been feeding them but stopped this past week as they were starting to look nectar bound. My gut tells me that this swarm has been under performing all summer and the queen needs to go.

    I put a pollen patty & sugar on today even though I saw pollen coming give them a boost. (The hive was treated for mites, no SHB or other diseases noted).

    Would you agree at this point its a underperforming queen and would you requeen? (It seems like now or never). And with the requeen move a frame of brood from another hive? I have 2 frames of Honey in my freezer I could give them also (thawed thoroughly first!).

    Thanks for your insights.


    • Paula,

      1. Sugar syrup is for emergency feeding. If the bees are still collecting nectar, I wouldn’t feed them.

      2. If you think the queen is not performing, go ahead and replace her. Or, if the colony is too small to save, combine it with another.

  • Hi Rusty thank you for your sage advice and help. I have looked through you site to try to make sure this question has not been asked yet. For overwintering purposes do we consider uncapped nectar as food stores the same as we would capped honey? Should we replace uncapped nectar frames with capped honey where possible? Feeding bees in the autumn may mean that they do not have the time to convert the nectar into honey. How long does that process usually take from a 2:1 sugar:water ratio? Thanks

    • Frank,

      First, you cannot make honey from 2:1 sugar syrup because honey is made only from the nectar of flowers. The time it takes to dry the syrup down to a level where it can be capped depends on the number of bees, the humidity, the temperature, the amount of air movement through the hive, and the sheer number of uncapped cells.

      When I use uncapped honey for winter stores, I like to put it close to the cluster—on both sides or above—so they use that up first. Since it is more likely to ferment, I prefer they use it up quickly.

      But, that said, leaving uncapped stores in the hive is usually not a problem. In the 100 million years before mankind began messing with bees, they somehow dealt with it.

  • It’s Sept 16th in Michigan. We’ve having a warm Sept with the goldenrod and asters still in full bloom. Just went to pull my honey supers and found most of the frames in both supers were about 2/3 full of honey and 1/3 full of uncapped nectar, with a couple of empty frames in each super. The top brood box was all capped honey. Should I leave the supers on and hope they’ll finish capping the honey? Pull the empty frames? Should I do anything with the frames in the top brood box? Obviously a newbee here. Thanks so much for your advice.

    • Gail,

      Since it’s still warm, you can leave the supers on for a while. You might try putting the uncapped frames in the center of the box where they are more likely to be tended. The empty frames are of no consequence, and the top brood box sounds fine.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Yours is my favorite website so far, mostly because of the informative “comments” aspect.

    I’m in Indiana and have 4 very strong first year colonies. We harvested 9 gallons of great buckwheat honey back in July so were pretty pleased with those results. It’s now Sept 16. We have cut down to two deeps each hive and have fed syrup since the July harvest. The populations are still really big and all of them have completely filled and capped upper supers of “sugar” honey. The lower supers are mostly a smaller brood operation and lots of empty comb. Probably the results of contracting brood).

    Where do you think were at?
    Continue syrup feeding and let the colonies manage their own population reduction by attrition ?
    Will they overly honey bind the queen?
    Do they know when to stop hoarding?
    We’re pretty optimistic with what were experiencing and plan to build equipment over the winter and put on 6 more packages next spring. We’re just nervous that were overlooking something that might blindside us.

    • Robert,

      1. I really don’t know how to answer this question. You say your colonies are strong but then you say you’re feeding them. Generally, strong and healthy colonies don’t need to fed. I strongly believe that sugar syrup is for emergency feeding only and it’s not a healthy substitute for honey with all its nutrients.

      2. I would stop feeding and figure out how many pounds of syrup/honey they have for winter.

      3. No. The queen won’t lay much this time of year anyway. You’re thinking of a spring problem.

      4. Bees never stop hoarding. That’s why we can harvest a crop from them.

      5. Have you done your mite counts? That’s the thing most likely to blindside a new beekeeper.

  • Thanks Rusty,

    At the time we harvested our honey supers, the two brood boxes were being used for brood with only a little bit of honey and pollen in storage. I’ve been of the opinion that they’d need to be fed sugar for the duration of the dearth in order to have adequate winter stores. The brood boxes weren’t slammed with stores, they were full of bees and brood. If we left them the honey supers for winter food, we might as not raise bees, nothing in it for us but expense. There is a nice autumn buckwheat bloom on right now. It was my belief that when the buckwheat flow is on they’ll just ignore our sugar syrup, kinda like they do in the spring when there’s a nectar flow.I will do an inspection for mites.

    We raise acres of buckwheat and clover so maybe that’s why both brood supers were being use primarily for a large brood operation – not so much for food stores. Big forage is available out at our place and the queens were intent on raising crazy big populations.

    We’re gonna eat honey this winter and they’re going to eat sugar syrup combined with whatever honey they can make with this fall nectar flow. Lastly I’m still a little confused. Colonies this robust would burn up their stores and starve by November if we weren”t supplementing thru the dearth.

    • Robert,

      “Lastly I’m still a little confused. Colonies this robust would burn up their stores and starve by November if we weren”t supplementing thru the dearth.”

      They would not starve if you didn’t take all their honey. The idea is that you leave enough for them to live on and then harvest the extra for yourself, not the other way around.

  • The populations need to reduce themselves by attrition or no amount of stores would carry them thru winter, and with greatly reduced brood laying right now that’s what I expect to happen.

  • They have full capped upper supers right now (sugar syrup) and they’re “on” the autumn buckwheat bloom . I’ve stopped the syrup feeding and hoping they surround themselves in the lower supers with good buckwheat nectar and of course whatever else they can get from nature this fall.

    I might add that our best lessons so far have been learned from mistakes. The first year we didn’t feed new packages . they did not multiply well and what little stores they took in were eaten up in only a couple weeks of dearth . last spring they all starved to death in late feb , clustered in the bottom super with full supers of honey ( sugar honey ) above them . i believe they got so chilled out in the open field in the wind that they couldnt break cluster to go for stores and slowly starved during the depth of winter . had we moved stores closer to the cluster in mid dec i believe they might have survived .

    gonna be a different story this winter . they are moved to the edge of the forest and a windbreak will be in place . also we built 10 deeps out of 2×12 pine . they will be much better insulated from the cold in the thicker supers .
    ill take a look for mites later this week . i dont expect to find very many because these four hives are 1st year and came certified mite free . so far ive only seen one mite , ever , they arent that hard to spot . they are red / orange and proportionately as big as a squirrel would appear on a dogs back .

    theyll eat the sugar stores this winter and like it . if they dont like it ill take the sugar stores and make booze with it and theyll be eating snowballs for all i give a damn .
    im difficult .. ( and kidding a little )

  • ive learned something else pretty interesting . when it comes time to harvest honey , you can buy little plastic snap in bee escapes now on ebay cheaply . they snap into the center hole of top covers , then you install the top cover between the brood boxes and the supers you intend to harvest .
    BTW , rusty . im not quite as maniacal as i might sound like . when we harvested the honey in july the bees had some stores in their brood supers but i didnt dig thru them very much in order to find out how much . to me it isnt worth the risk of accidently damaging or killing a queen .
    we didnt harvest until mid july . it quickly became apparent that the dearth had begun and the large populations were beginning to burn up the stored honey for sustainance . at least our sugar feeding has caused them to bind the queen and slow her brood production . i think this is a must in order to get these populations down for the purpose of winter survival . the populations are still bursting at the seams . i dont expect them to split or swarm because of the big stores they have collected and capped . i believe they will stay put and defend these stores .
    lastly its been my experience thus far that when nectar is scarce in the fall they will turn their attention to dragging in pollen .

  • I really appreciate all the information I have received from your site. Thank You! I am feeling a bit stuck and haven’t been able to get a more experienced beekeeper out to have a look at my hives. Unfortunately Winter is closing in and I am anxious so I am hoping you can heIp. Basically the question is about the best way to configure my hives to overwinter my bees.

    The first hive is an 8 frame with 3 deeps. Just a few weeks ago, this new queen (the hive re-queened after a swarm in July) had 12 of 16 frames of brood. Many of them have hatched out and they are quite populated. During the heat and humidity last week, they were bearding all night. Last I looked, the bottom box had brood, but a much smaller amount as well as some empty comb. The upper brood box had lots of capped honey at least on the tops, but I couldn’t get a good look at how much because robbing started. The upper super has about 5 full deep capped frames of honey. It’s colder now at night, but warming up during the days still. This weekend feels like my last chance to make changes. My question is…. should I be trying to move frames down and condense to 2 deeps, take some empty comb from the bottom box and move it up to the super for them to fill with sugar syrup or just leave it as it is with 3 deeps and let them decide how they want to work it out or is there something else you would recommend that I am not seeing? I suspect the bottom box will be mostly empty when I look again except for a small amount of brood, but who knows as this queen has been pretty busy!

    The second hive a 10 frame double deep with 1.5 medium supers has pretty much left the lower box empty most of the summer. It was prepped for brood last I looked, but only spotty pollen and nectar. Everyone kept saying she’ll move down, but as of last inspection, she hadn’t. That may have changed, but I need to be prepared when I get in their as I suspect robbing will be an issue again. What would you recommend doing for this one? Should I leave the half super? Pull it and save it in case they need it? Should the lower box stay on at this point? Is there any harm in leaving it as a buffer against the cold? We are in New Hampshire. We do plan to add a quilt box and some sort of wrap and are debating on adding the mite board for the winter.

    Thanks so much for any guidance you can offer. I have been losing sleep over this.

    • Susan,

      Here are some guidelines:

      1. The size of the hive should be commensurate with the size of the colony. In other words, consolidate the hive if you can. Extra space gives predators a place to live.
      2. The colony goes in the middle. The honey goes on either side and above.
      3. That said, disturb the colony as little as you can. The rule: Do as much as necessary, but as little as possible.
      4. “This weekend feels like my last chance to make changes.” Why? You can always make changes. “When is it too cold to open the hive?” Part of your job is to monitor the hive throughout the winter. If change becomes necessary, it is better to sacrifice some bees than the whole colony.

  • Rusty,

    I am new to beekeeping (first year). I have 2 deeps and one medium super. The bottom deep has brood and honey in the middle frames and as I move closer to the outside it is just honey.

    Second deep has no brood and 7 frames of honey (these are 10 frame boxes),

    The top medium all frames have just started being drawn. It is the middle of October in South Carolina. My question is should I remove the medium and just use the two deeps to overwinter. Thanks for your time and this very helpful forum to help new bee keepers like me.

    • Kenny,

      You should really ask a local beekeeper about winter stores, but I imagine that in SC you can get by with 50 pounds. A full deep frame of honey weighs about 9 lbs. So that means your deep with 7 frames of honey should be plenty.

      Plus, extra space in that medium box can make the hive drafty and can provide a place for wax moths, small hive beetles, and mice to live. So yes, I would remove the medium and let them overwinter in the two deeps.

  • I’ve got something cool going on. I hollowed out about a 30 inch ash log, about 30 inches tall and made a frameless bee hive out of it. At the top it has a metal roof that closes down to perfectly accommodate standard 10-frame honey supers. It has a nice porch with a half-gallon syrup feeder near the entry.

    Probably a bad time of the year to move bees but we just had to set a two deep (bustling) hive atop of it. They are currently burning up about a gallon of syrup every 24 hours so they simply have to be building comb in the log since their two deeps were already honey (sugar honey) bound.

    I want to let them build whatever configuration they prefer in this hollow log as opposed to us trying to force them to live and breed in our frames.I wish I could post a pic here, it’s quite attractive.

    I moved the bees with a forklift but didn’t give the bees much time to settle down after the move. About the time I lifted their bottom box off of its bottom board, them shits came at me like something you’d see in the cartoons. lol.

    A black angry crowd. I was wearing the crappier of the two bee suits and about 100 of them got into my veil when I raised my arms. Probably got 20 stings on my head before I could get em off of me. Then while I was trying to figure out how to use the epi pen, that sucker punched me in the thumb.

    Still, totally worth it. The log hive is neat and they’re figuring it out and very defensive of it. I hope they build comb in the log, force the queen down, and start moving their stores down to their new digs.

    • Hey Robert,

      Just remember that the reason log hives (or others with non-movable frames) are illegal in the US is because the beekeepers cannot easily inspect for brood diseases such as American foulbrood. I understand your excitement, but please keep a sharp eye on that colony.

  • One other thing concerning our first year (March starvation) losses.

    I think now that the poor management from the moment we installed the packages prohibited the colonies from building strong enough numbers to survive the winter. I wasn’t in charge then, another guy was. We didn’t syrup feed the packages in the early spring and not only were the populations struggling but by the second week of the dearth they had eaten up what little stores they HAD collected during the summer flow.

    Of course we began syrup feeding then but the populations were just not thriving enough to sustain themselves thru the winter.

    Big , bustling colonies. That’s what we have this fall and I believe they’ll winter just fine this year.

    • Robert,

      Bees can live legally in a hollow log as long as they got there themselves and a beekeeper didn’t put them there. These are old laws, but as far as I know, they are still in effect. They were meant to prevent the spread of brood diseases by making the hives easy to inspect.

  • I’m just kidding with you rusty.

    I know firsthand of a bee farm that is experiencing near 100% losses of their colonies each year. It is statistically impossible for us to do worse than that. Most people online don’t offer their advice as being cast in stone because the bee losses are effecting so many apiaries both small and large. They usually say you just have to keep trying and find what works out for you.

    Our log hive might be a bit out of the ordinary but it is sure a great and endlessly entertaining piece of yard art.

    Info available online is SO all over the place. Some people try to get all scientific about the process, others tell you to shut the lid and leave then bees alone.

    I’m just somewhere in the middle picking stingers out of my scalp . :)>

    • Robert,

      Yes, I know. I’m an experimenter too, but I don’t think it’s right for me to advise something that is technically illegal. So I don’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t like your log hive. It’s so cool I might try it myself. But I can’t advise someone else to do it. Yes? By the way, I intend to put the photo in the “Reader Hives” gallery.

  • I don’t think I’d like the government’s advice much anyway. These are the clowns who have been spraying instead of mowing the highway medians for about 10 years running. Bout the same amount of time that the bees have been in decline.

  • Rusty,

    I am curious as to how i should arrange my hives to get them through winter in TN. I lost 2 hives last winter. I have two hives with 2 deeps and a super. The upper deep is completely full of honey (10 frames). I took 7 frames of honey out of the super and left them 3. Should I put the bottom board in? Do i need to wrap the hives? Put an entrance reducer? Where should the inner cover be located and should i add a moisture board? Any advice will be helpful.

  • Dear Rusty,

    Thanks a lot for a very good article about the experiences for beekeeping. I am wring to you to ask for your permission to translated this into Vietnamese and share to my friends in Facebook. I will publish it here on my personal page

    Would it be acceptable to you?

    I am looking forwards to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,
    Phan Thanh Tung

  • Hi

    I am considering becoming a new beekeeper or bee landlord. We have a very isolated place in the mountains of the southwest that ranges from -5F to 115F over a 5-yr period, but most days are sunny and warm. There are fruit trees and many native bushes and plants that flower starting now, through the summer growing season. I have been noticing lots of bees around and they seem to be looking in nooks and crannies a lot lately. There are micro-climates there that are a little warmer or colder, morning or afternoon shade too.

    I am wondering if I get a new bee box w/o any contamination and put it up there in a good spot, will the native bees just move in? Where is the best micro-climate to put the box? Is an electric fence a good method to keep bear and swine away?

    • Bennie,

      It is highly unlikely that a swarm of honey bees will move into a bee box, especially a new one, unless you provide a chemical scent lure or provide combs from recently occupied hives. If you want to use a lure, my favorite is Swarm Commander, which is available online.

      Ideally, a hive should face south or southeast, and get morning sun and afternoon shade, especially if afternoons are hot. It should sit on flat ground and be accessible on at least three sides. And yes, electric fences are a popular and effective way to control bears and livestock.

  • The hive faces south and is on the porch of a bldg with a roof overhead so it will get morning and afternoon sun in winter, and just morning sun in summer. It is a brand new white painted box. There are lots of bees around. They seem very gentile as I can interact with them around the fruit trees and they never seem to get upset or sting. This is the central highlands of AZ one mile elevation. Its pristine and remote next to a national forest, so I am wondering what these feral bees are? Are they africanized or are they European that have gone wild many generations ago and adapted to the local area? Instead of bringing in a new queen and than new gene pool, wouldn’t it be better to get the local bees already there to move in and thus not introduce anything foreign to this sterile and homogeneous bee population?

    • I can’t tell from your question if you are seeing honey bees or something else. Here in North America, we have 4000 species of bees but only one species of honey bees. Fruit trees are often crowded with bees that are not honey bees. Local bees are the best, of course, but if they are not honey bees they certainly won’t move into your hive. If you have close up photos of the bees, I can tell you.

  • Thanks for all the great articles, including this one! I am new to beekeeping and have found this site one of my favorites.

    I’m not sure it’s really worth the time to write/read this, but I think the math is slightly off in the article, when you mention using a medium super [to replace the otherwise second deep super] to hold the 10 frames of honey (assuming the first super for the colony is still a deep). Rather than 6 x 12 = 72 lbs of honey, it would be (6 X10) + (8 x 2) = 76 lbs…?

    Yes, I’m splitting hairs here but just in case you think it’s worth noting/updating. If I’m misunderstanding, apologies. And in any case, thanks again!

  • Hi Rusty,

    First off, I’d like to thank you for the massive wealth of information you have provided on this site.
    I am building a “bee simulator” and have thus started doing extensive research on “how bees work.”
    I’ve always found them to be extraordinarily creatures, but my research has only made me fall in love with them even more 🙂

    During that research, your site has come up, again and again, as an amazingly valuable resource for useful, practical, and accurate information. It’s amazing how much conflicting and down-right wrong info there is out there.

    My questions (among many) are:

    1) how much nectar does an average bee eat (in mg), while she is harvesting/foraging in a day?

    1a) how about as “premade food” in the hive (mixed with honey and pollen)
    =-basically any answer above that allows me to work out an average of how much each bee needs to live 24h, whether in nectar or honey or brood-jelly form, in mg

    1b) how about drones? My understanding is they can eat almost 3x a worker??

    2) how far down does a colony retract in size for overwintering?

    2a) I’ve seen numbers anywhere from 1/2 to 1/5 in size

    3) does a colony continue producing brood in winter?

    3a) does a queen keep laying eggs

    3b) can/do bees “store” eggs for a time (like winter), or are they always “made fresh” on-demand?

    4) when wax-makers shift to making-wax, I understand they “over-consume pollen for 5-7 days.” How much does that translate to (as compared to the average young bee eating normally)?

    4a) I understand they produce ~8 scales/12h, are wax-makers able to keep-on producing wax 24h/day

    5) How much does a queen eat? (in 24h, or week, or??)

    5a) does she eat royal jelly exclusively or is she “allowed” to eat any regular honey at all?

    6) Any known ratio for the amount of pollen and honey that needs to be consumed/processed by nurses to secrete jelly? (like the 8 to 1 ratio of honey to wax conversion, for example)

    I have many more questions, and the more of these little buggers I read about, the even more questions I have, lol. But thank you in advance for any of the above you are able to answer.


  • Hi,

    Southeast Michigan. Is the first week of August too late to move a frame of brood from a strong hive to a weaker hive?


  • Hi Rusty. I just harvested 7 honey super frames from my hive. There are 2 deep boxes currently left which are loaded with capped honey so I think I’m good for the winter. I have never had this much honey stored going into winter before and the hive is strong. Can One leave too much in the hive?

    Or will they consume to make room for brood in February and clear it out on their own?
    Any advice would be great. I’m in Northern NJ. Thanks, Steve

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