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Hive composition


Hi everyone,

Just what I think is a simple question about putting my hive together.

I am about to begin harvesting from my flow super which I am really excited about. This got me thinking about another hive box I have.

I have seen other people’s hives and some have 1 or 2 brood boxes and or supers.
Are there any hard and fast rules about brood to super ratios?
I am guessing 2 brood boxes = more bees = more frequent harvests from my flow super?


Many others will weigh in on this for there are many threads out there about this. It depends on where you are in the world. So people will be asking where you are. Here in the US other than the coastal regions typically 2 boxes of brood are used. Coastal regions more particularly the southern coastal regions of the US it’s warm enough and the pollen and nectar source is plentiful.


The queen can lay only what she can. That and the availability of nectar and particularly pollen are the limiting factors. The queen will reduce laying as winter approaches so your two brood boxes idea is to facilitate enough food storage for winter as well as a bigger brood nest at peak of season. Of course more bees will collect more nectar but whether this goes into your super or into more bees is entirely up to them

Bees will grow their nest to a roughly predetermined size before they make preparations to reproduce and this is largely genetically determined. You can, of course, force them out earlier if you do not give them enough space.


I don’t know your location, but basically in the US it seems to fall out like this:

In the far north they run two ten frame deep boxes for brood and winter. Less is just not enough for a prolific queen and less is difficult to winter them and have them build up well in the spring.

By the time you get to about Tennessee or South Carolina they are down to one ten frame deep and one medium or a shallow.

By the time you get to the deep south they run one deep.

If you give them not enough room (and you are using an excluder) then it limits the size of the hive. If you give them too much room, they never get to your supers…


This is a 3 deep brood chamber hive in southern Alabama. The hive produced 315 lbs of honey last year.


Hi Lucas, I see you are in Gosford NSW, and whilst I would never tell you which way to go. The norm amongst apiarists in this part of the world is single brood, queen excluder and then supers on top. Of the beekeepers I know who are working with two brood boxes, they tend get more honey in their brood boxes than I do. My single brood is wall-to-wall brood, sometimes right to the top of the frame. This method does take a bit of extra management but this will make you a better beekeeper. I have an extra super which goes under the Flow super during spring and then over the super at the start of summer allowing for Flow and traditional honey and as you come into autumn you can decide on whether to leave some of the Flow super as winter stores or some of the traditional frames.


I assume you are using a ladder to inspect those supers? That is awesome though. Are you selling the honey?


As Ed lives quite a way north of there, I guess that is not his hive. :smile:


Correct, an acquaintance in Alabama who also practices 3 deep brood nests. I’ve only ever made it to 3 deeps/5 mediums.


In the right climates, single brood boxes can be productive hives. My mothers hive in Adelaide South Australia has only one 8 frame brood box. It was established early in 2016 and to date has produced about 38 KG’s of honey. The flow super was removed for winter and the bees did very well with just 8 frames. At the end of winter they had several outer frames that were completely capped honey. Seemingly they didn’t lack for winter stores at all. This spring they expanded rapidly.

here is an interesting video about very large hives from Ireland- using the Rose Hive method- apparently the only thing stopping this beekeeper from making his hives even taller is the difficulty of adding more boxes.


I’m up near Byron, running 1 full broodbox in my hives. As @Rodderick mentioned, you only need one, but need to manage. Once in a while I take a brood frame out to strengthen another hive, but you need to observe when your bees need more playground. Emptying the flow frames regularly is a start. My bees pretended the frames were not capped, but the only uncapped cells were a few cells in the extraction window. You need to check.
If I take out a brood frame I replace with foundationless. Doh. Takes them 3’days to fully draw it out. Then I added a foundationless 8 frame ideal above the flow box. Kept them busy and reduced bearding by heaps, and now it’s 3/4 drawn with half already capped honey. If that is all with that buttery toffee honey they are bringing in recently, oh yummm. Not sure yet what to do with all that.
I will sure have to manage come spring. My mentor said keep your hive full and strong always. Best insurance against SHB.
To really manage I think you need at least 2 hives. From there you will be able to supplement them with each other or at some stage give a nuc or 2 to friends who weren’t able to manage quite as well yet.
Yah, one broodbox is enough where you are. You don’t want the bee energy scattered, but focused on your goal.