WHY I USE ALL MEDIUM SUPERS IN MY APIARY

Posted June 29, 2024
by Hilary

When I first started beekeeping, hardly anyone was using all medium supers in their apiary, but it seems to have caught on more lately. So, I thought I would share why I like to keep my bees in all medium boxes. It’s not just about ease of lifting, I have discovered several other benefits to this style and I am happy to share them with you below.

Ease of Lifting

The most obvious benefit of using all medium supers is that they are lighter and easier to lift. For exapmple, if you like to have two brood boxes, you’ll need to lift one to get to the one on the bottom. This is much easier to do with two medium boxes. I like to give my colonies two medium boxes for their brood nest, then I add a queen excluder and continue to add supers as needed for honey.

Not only are medium boxes easier to lift because they weigh less, they are also a more managable size. They are less awkward to handle. I can easily take them off and put them back on which helps me crush fewer bees and makes me feel more confident in my movements. Even lifting frames out is easier. When I pull up a deep frame, the heigh of the comb provides many opportunities for hidden bridge comb firther down. It’s not always a problem, but sometimes deep frames are difficult to remove from the box and I can’t see what’s happening.  Medium frames on the other hand, aren’t as tall.  I can see the entire side before I begin lifting and deal with any bridge comb before I start to pull.

Calmer Bees

I find that when working all medium hives the bees are easier to keep calm. I suspect that this is because  there are fewer bees in each box. So, as I work my way through, I am disturbing fewer bees per box. Also, I think that I make less mistakes that may result in crushed bees when I work mediums because both the frames and boxes they are lighter and easier to handle (as mentioned above). When a bee is crushed, she releases and alarm pheromone that may trigger other bees to become defensive.

Helps with Mites

Have you heard of the concept that less brood means less mites? Since varroa mites reproduce in honey bee brood, the more brood you have, the more opportunities the mites have to grow in population. Therfore, it can be beneficial to reduce the size of your brood nest. Instead of two deep brood boxes, try two mediums as I do! Alone, it is probably not enough to manage mite levels in your colonies, but it can used in tandem with other methods. You may wish to learn more about this idea from Dr. Tom Seeley. You can watch him talking about this and some related concepts in this presentation starting around 35:00 minute mark.

Flexibility

Another reason I love using all medium boxes is that it gives me more flexibility for managing my colonies. I like to be able to move frames between all my boxes. I find this especially helpful for cycling out older comb. When I want to get rid of a frame of comb that contains brood, I simply move it up above the queen excluder and wait for the brood to emerge and then I can remove it or wait for it to become honey and harvest it out. I also rearrange combs as a method for swarm control. I will move brood frames up above the queen excluder and replace them with empty frames in the brood nest. This breaks up the space and keep the brood nest from becoming crowded.

So what do you think? Would you give all mediums a try?

 

filed under: Equipment, New Bees
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7 Comments

  1. Veleta

    Very helpful! Thank you for sharing. I have a hive with 3 deeps and I have to say there are a lot of bees and sometimes hard to manage when I make a mistake. Will downsize to all supers before winter.

    Reply
  2. Colleen

    I have used one deep and all mediums above that just because I haven’t been able to find medium nucs locally! I would love to be able to do all mediums because of the more manageable size and the ability to move frames between all the boxes.

    Reply
  3. Shayne Starkey

    I use deeps for brood and ideals for honey. I’m guessing mediums are somewhere in between. It makes a lot of sense to use uniform equipment for ease of manipulation. I would definitely consider changing to medium equipment.

    Reply
  4. Tina Hubbard

    I have read about other beekeepers using only supers, so I decided to try one hive as an experiment to see what would happen. The bees do seem calmer, and it is easier to check frames. Reading the article answered my question if you used a queen excluder, I put one on simply because I didn’t want to risk having brood in a honey frame. I did make the brood area 3 supers instead of 2, I will see how the bees adapt.

    Reply
  5. Ronnie

    In cool climate Tasmania, Australia we use ideal boxes which are very close in size to your medium boxes. All the advantages are very true for us as well and the added bonus of being able to winter our bees in more densely packed boxes helps to provide high wintering success. Oh the flexibility of one box size, and only one type of box, frame and foundation if used is much easier!

    Reply
  6. Fred Beiderbecke

    There was a talk recently at the local bee club about using 8 frame mediums for beekeeping. It was very interesting.

    My main concern is how to go from deeps to the medium? Instead of a 2nd deep on my hives I am going to add a medium and see how it goes.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I was thinking of doing a post on this next 🙂

      Reply

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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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