When to Add a Second Honey Super to Your Hive

Life would be so much easier if we could stack all the supers onto the hive at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, bees don’t work that way. Even in a hollow tree, bees will construct comb as their numbers increase to ensure they can patrol the hive effectively and keep pests out. That’s why many new beekeepers ask when to add a second super.

If added too early, it is frustrating to the beekeeper because it seems the bees have refused to move up. If added too late, the bees feel overcrowded, which could trigger swarming. The timing impacts the colony's expansion and honey production.

The ideal time to add a second honey super to a beehive is when the upper box is about 75% full of drawn comb with either brood or food and full of bees. This typically occurs during the spring, when natural population growth is at its peak, and a honey flow is either about to begin or already in progress. 

Assessing Your Hive’s Growth

This assessment comprises several factors, including bee population, regular hive inspection, and nectar flow conditions. All these elements considered together will enable the beekeeper to make an informed decision on when to add the additional honey super.

Strong Bee Population

Before adding a honey super, it’s crucial to ensure that the colony exhibits a strong and healthy bee population. A hive needs enough worker bees to maintain the brood, gather resources, and protect the colony. That’s why, before you add a second super, you will notice that the bees cover at least 8 frames of the current super, clearly in need of more space.

Hive Inspection

At least every two weeks during the honey flow, check the hive’s space with the 7/10 rule. That means it’s time to add a honey super when 7 out of 10 frames exhibit brood or stored resources. Monitoring the hive’s development helps determine its needs and promptly address any issues that may arise.

Nectar Flow

The availability of nectar sources directly impacts the bees’ ability to produce honey, which determines the need for additional storage space. Familiarize yourself with local flowering patterns and the timing of the nectar flow to decide when to add a honey super to your hive. A colony requires extra space during peak nectar flow periods for optimum honey production (Mississippi State University Extension).

Determining the Right Time

There are ways to ‘read a hive’ to inform you of the best time to add that super. They are:

Look Out for That Full Honey Super

One key indicator of when to add a second honey super is when the bees have almost completely drawn out and filled in the frames in the already existing boxes, the 75% mentioned above full. If it’s early in the season, bees can use new space better.

Look Out for Signs of Swarming

Adding a second honey super at the right time can help prevent swarming when a colony outgrows its space. Swarm prevention is crucial, as swarming can significantly reduce your hive’s productivity. During periods of natural population growth, such as spring, monitor the hive and ensure bees have enough space before or during a honey flow.

swarming honeybees

Adding a Second Honey Super

Proper Placement

Placement of the second honey super is crucial to ensure a healthy and productive hive. Add one box at a time and inspect the hive every 10-14 days during the honey season. This allows the beekeeper carefully monitor the hive’s progress and prevents the risk of overburdening the bees.

Monitoring Hive Activity

Maintaining a thriving beehive requires regular inspection and monitoring of its activity. Feel free to add a second brood box before adding honey supers to allow for a stronger beehive and to give the queen more space to lay eggs. Continuously monitor the hive to ensure the bees are building out the comb on the frames in both the first and second honey supers.

Be attentive to the colony’s needs and make any necessary adjustments to get your super addition timing right.

Potential Challenges

Adding a second honey super to a beehive can come with its challenges, mainly pest control, and climate.

Pest Control

One of the potential challenges when adding a second honey super is dealing with pests that may invade the beehive. Some common beehive pests include varroa mites, wax moths, and small hive beetles. Ensuring proper pest control measures are in place can help protect your bees and their honey production. Some methods to control pests include regular hive inspections, using screened bottom boards, and applying organic or chemical treatments when necessary.

Climate Factors

The climate in your area can affect the bees’ productivity and honey production. For example, excessively hot or cold temperatures can cause stress to the bees, potentially affecting their productivity. It’s essential to monitor the weather conditions and plan to add the super accordingly. 


In summary, when considering installing a second honey super to your hive, pay attention to the frames in the top brood box. When about 7 of the 10 frames are full of brood and honey storage, it’s time to add the second super. Additionally, it’s crucial to monitor the availability of nectar and pollen, as their presence signals an increase in honey production.

While monitoring the colony growth, pay attention during the warmer months when flowers bloom and nectar and pollen are abundant. A second honey super will provide much-needed space for the thriving colony.

By keeping these factors in mind, beekeepers can optimize honey production and ensure the health of their bees. Continuously monitoring the hive and making informed decisions will lead to a successful beekeeping experience.

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