Best configuration of boxes

I am new to the whole world of beekeeping… I have been building my own hive that will take 7 flow frames. I ordered a nuc which I expect to get mid spring. I will start with just the brood box until the bees are ready for me to put on the flow super. Because winter where I am is relatively cold I will take the flow super off over winter, then I’m thinking of adding a medium box to have on over winter.

So my question is; when would I put that box on, and where would I put it? I’m guessing if it is mainly for the purpose of extra space for the bees I should put it under the queen excluder? I know my first winter with bees is a while away, but I do like to research everything a lot when I am planning something. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Hi @Wrenhill,
Welcome to the forum. I did read your previous post regarding getting in touch with local bee keepers. I think geographically @Semaphore is the closest to you that I know of but would have quite a different climate to you. I’m also in SA but possibly 400km away in the SE also with a very different climate.
I’m in total agreeance with you to remove the super for winter for quite a few reasons. If you would like an extra honey super for winter stores I would be filling it first before adding the flow super on top. Leave the QX between the brood box and 1st super. When you do the winter pack down to remove the flow super then also remove the QX.
I would also consider running another full depth super rather than a medium just for the sake of keeping your equipment “standardized”.

The bees population will decline considerably as it gets cooler so it’s not about space just about food stores.

Great that you are asking questions! Best to be prepared well in advance. :+1:

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I ended up putting an ideal super over each brood box over winter.
With spring just around the corner, it seems to have been a good fit for the bees and the climate here.
With the first spring inspection not too far away, I’d like to take the ideal off and swap out a couple of old frames from the brood box when appropriate (then add the flow super on later).
What is the likelihood I’ll find brood in the ideal?
What are my options for dealing with this?
I thought about maybe reversing the boxes or putting a QX between the two until the brood emerges, then removing the ideal. Do either of these options (or both) sound like a plan?
If so, can I just then freeze then store the ideal frames until autumn?
I’m not sure I’m going to find too many cool places to store them over summer.

Depends on how mild your winter/early spring has been :wink:

You can certainly do that, but if there is drone brood in the ideal, make sure that you leave an upper entrance. Drones won’t be able to get through the queen excluder, and will die trying to get out. :astonished:

Yes, or late summer. Or just leave them on the hive for the season, either above the Flow super or on top of the brood box if you don’t mind having a very strong hive.


Thanks as always Dawn!
The winter avg max temp has been around 10C or 50F and is now heading slowly towards 15.
I’ll definitely keep an eye out for the drone brood - good tip!
I didn’t think about leaving the ideal super on as an option :+1:

I put one on top of my Flow super this year to encourage the bees to cap the honey in our humid summer weather. It worked:

Because of long nectar dearths, most people in my region run double deep brood boxes, which is why the hive is so tall. :blush:

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Is there any effective way of working out how much stored honey the bees will need over winter? Or is just a bit of an educated guess?

I like the sound of this, as I won’t have a tonne of extra equipment when I first start out.

Unfortunately there is no rule. It will come down to experience and local knowledge. If you could find a local bee keeper to share with you their winter strategy that would be best case scenario. As you gain experience you will find out that there is no definite year on year answer either.
There is a lifetime of learning to happen so keep asking questions and you’ll be a great Beek.
Sorry I have been little help to your question but I feel for me to tell you what I do would just be confusing considering our different climates

Not at all mate. I’m already discovering how different micro climates can be… even in the same state. I’m looking forward to actually putting some of my research and learning into real life.

I did the same thing with my ideal super in summer last year and it worked well. It just didn’t occur to me as a year-round option (of course, moving it down for the brood in winter).
It generally seems to be a single brood box area here, so I’m happy to keep it at that. Leaving the ideal on should help with any dearths too.
Thanks again

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So, last weekend was the first warmer day to have a look inside the hives. There was a howling gale so decided just to quickly check for activity and food stores. I found in all three hives, loads of honey stores. Can you have a honey flow in winter :thinking:? The blue gums have been in flower for 6 weeks and there is plenty of bee activity even though it’s cold. Since then we’ve plunged back into winter. If the forecast is accurate, we’ll have two proper spring days next week.
The issue with all three hives was comb between the bottom of the ideal frames and the brood box below. There was no cross comb or comb above the frames (phew), but the whole box wasn’t budging from the box below. I’ve read some threads on the subject and, at the time pulled, out a couple of frames to see the extent of it. Honey spewed out everywhere and some angry bees followed.

Can someone help me with a strategy to deal with this? I really want to go in with a plan. I’m expecting some carnage given the amount of honey and potential to drown bees. Try and twist it sideways? I know it’s going to be difficult given how locked up it is. Also, would I give them time to clean up the honey before trying to remove the comb. I’m not overly confident of scraping comb off the underside with one hand. I could try tipping the box on its side, but there will be a big mess from the honey. One poster mentioned running a thin wire between the boxes to separate too.



It will be some, but there is not that much room between the frames to keep the amount of honey one should be worry about.

No. Let them deal with that after the inspection. It is a matter of hours not minutes.

There is an option. You may ignore it completely, put it back as is and deal with it “one day” :slight_smile:
Do you have a hive tool like this?

If not, buy it. It is perfect for scraping.

After breaking the hive by twisting start pulling frames. Inspect the frame and put it on top of other frames in the box, side up. Hold top lug firmly in one hand. Use the other hand to scrape. Put the short (bent) blade of the tool approximately 45 degrees to the bottom bar (lengthwise) and pull upwards. Some wax will be caught on the tool, some fall down on top of the frames you use as a table. Keep some container handy to put scrapes into it. Ignore small pieces that fell between frames. You will collect them from the bottom board when you reach it, or bees will deal with them. Keep some rag close too. You will need it to wipe the tool and hands. Keep going. There is a reward ahead. When you start to scrape top bars of the frames in the box below, you are going to feel yourself like a pro :grinning:

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Hi @Outbeck , I’m pretty sure that we can get a honey flow during winter in our climate, however constricted on account of shorter days & colder nights, as well as a depleted winter population.

You shouldn’t, in my view, try to break a box full of frames off another box full of frames, especially after a long break between inspections. I would remove one frame at a time, starting with the frame that appears to be the easiest one to lift. Then the adjacent frames are much easier to remove. Try to budge the box after half of the frames have been removed. If it’s still hard, remove more until it’s easy to remove.

Scrape any burr comb off the tops & bottoms of frames before replacing them. The same thing goes for the QX. That will kill less bees while replacing them, while making it easier to remove next time, assuming that next time wont be after a long break.

If hive beetles are in the area, try to minimize honey leaks that would lead to drowned bees, as well as minimize trapping bees between combs etc. Dead & trapped bees are a magnet for hive beetles to lay eggs in.


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Thanks ABB,
I’ve done plenty of scraping and have hive tools (the J hive tool one rather than the American one) which should suffice. It was more the approach and technique I was after - so thanks for that too! If being honest, there’s probably a bit of mindset required too as I was quite surprised by the amount of honey. I’m also hoping not to find brood, the further I get into the centre.

Great advice thanks Jeff!
From a southerner’s point of view (jealousy included), your climate doesn’t even rate as winter, but I see where you’re coming from. I was mainly curious whether the bees could replenished their stores with the unseasonal flowering (Blue Gums normally flower later in spring) which might explain the supers being chock-a-block with honey. I would have about 40 trees in heavy flower within 300m of the hives.
I appreciate your tips for clearing up the comb too. I’m not looking forward to it but fingers crossed. I’ll let you know how it goes. No sign of SHB (in trays or roof space yet) and haven’t had a problem in the past with them. Is it a little cold for them too at this time?
Much appreciated!

Hi & you’re welcome.
I mentioned hive beetles more as general information, in case they were in your area or for other members reading the thread.
It is a bit cold for their activity outside of a hive, however they are still about, at least up here they are. The inside of a bee hive is not too cold for their activity, especially if confronted with lots of dead, trapped & drowned bees. They’ll quickly start mating & laying eggs if there’s not enough workers available to keep them contained.