If you don’t use smoke, how do you avoid squishing bees when replacing supers?
I learned this technique from another beekeeper. We worked together teaching beekeeping at a state prison where things like matches and lighters were hard to come by. Rather than going through the hassle of getting permission to light a fire, we used this method. I have used it ever since and it works really well for me. Basically, it has two parts:
- If the super is really heavy, I put the front edge of the super on top of the back edge of the brood box and slowly slide it forward. The bees will scatter—or dip under the super—as you move forward. When you get to the point when the last few bees could be squished between the front edges, just take a quick swipe with a bee brush and then slide the super the rest of the way. (If the hive is really populous, you may have to swipe the back end as well. If so, do the back end first and then the front, because there will always be more bees at the front.)
- If the super is light enough for me to handle easily, I lower the super over the brood box until it is about a half-inch above it. Then I make a circular movement with the super—sort of like scrubbing a spot on the counter—as I lower the super into place. The circular motion seems to push the bees out of the way as the box comes down. This works surprisingly well and I usually don’t kill more than a bee or two, even in a very populous hive.