Putting a new super on top of existing supers is called “top supering.” Adding it above the brood box but below the other honey supers is called “bottom supering.” Which is best?
While honey bees remain indifferent to the entire subject, beekeepers get atwist over the mere thought of doing it wrong. In truth, there is no wrong. Do what makes you happy.
Arguments for top supering go like this:
- It’s faster. You just drop the new one on top.
- It’s less work. You don’t have to lift the other supers off and put them back on.
- It’s easier to see when you need to add yet another super. You just take off the lid and look.
- A filled super left just above the brood nest acts like a queen excluder. Because the queen wants to keep the brood nest together in one place, she will not cross a barrier of honey to lay eggs in a new location.
And arguments for bottom supering go like this:
- Bees begin working in the new super sooner if it is close to the brood nest.
- It reduces travel stain because the bees don’t have to walk over capped honey to get to the new storage area. (Clean cappings are important for comb honey producers.)
- Bees expend less energy because they don’t have to walk so far.
A paper published in the American Bee Journal by Jennifer Berry and Keith Delaplane (2000) found no statistically significant differences in honey yield between the two methods of supering. But still, the battle rages on.
My own preference is for top supering–and weight is the reason. I don’t move honey-filled supers anymore than I have to. I usually put section honey supers directly above the brood nest. These act like queen excluders because queens don’t seem to like those little boxes. Once that super starts to fill I add either another section super or a shallow super, but I never need a queen excluder.
I’ve reduced travel stain over my section honey by giving the bees an upper entrance–one that opens directly above the highest super. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s pretty good.
For those of you who still can’t decide whether to super above or below, I strongly recommend doing both. Just trade some of the frames in the old super for frames in the new one. If you put capped honey in the middle of the bottom box you will still get the “queen excluder effect” most of the time and the presence of honey in the upper box will attract workers to it. The bees can fill the remaining frames in any order they like.