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Home > Tip of the Month – Frame Manipulation – ‘Chimneying’ and Top/Bottom ‘Supering’.


We will all have noticed how, when the bees are drawing comb they will often ignore the frames in the two or three spaces near the hive wall. This can undoubtedly lead to the inefficient use of space within the colony and the potential unwelcome outcomes that can bring.

To aid in getting them drawn you can move a frame that is on the outside of the brood area into the brood area. Because the bees want all the brood in a compact area, they will start drawing the frame of foundation out into comb. It is best to make this move once the weather warms, and when the adult population is large enough they can cover and warm the moved frame. After the bees start drawing the comb, and the cells are about 5mm deep, you can move the comb to the next outside position that doesn’t have brood in the comb. The bees will continue to draw the comb and the queen will lay in the newly drawn cells. Note – do not put a frame of stores between brood containing (or potential brood containing) frames because the bees will want to keep the brood together in one place and the queen will not cross a barrier of honey to lay eggs in a new location.

If you decide to implement a ‘brood and a half or ‘double brood’ configuration on your hive, you may find that the bees will do what is called “chimneying,” meaning the queen lays in only a few frames and then moves into the box above and lays in the frames directly above the brood below. If she does this move frames of brood from the upper boxes to the lower ones. This will encourage a denser laying pattern in the lower box as well as the placement of stores above, thereby making overwintering easier. In a 10 frame box usually there are 6 frames of brood as a core, a frame of brood and pollen either side and a frame of stores on the extremities.                                              

You can organize the frames in the brood nest with no problem during warm weather, but in late summer / early autumn (August and September), allow the bees to do the organizing. They will arrange things the way they want for winter.

The bees can also tend to ‘chimney’ in the super(s). This can more easily be sorted (and is beneficial as a more balanced frame fill will make extraction easier) by simply moving capped frames towards the outsides of the super leaving partially filled / capped frames in the centre.

Top or Bottom ‘Supering’?

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 seem to remain indifferent to the entire subject, beekeepers get angst over the mere thought of doing it wrong. In truth, there is no wrong way – do whichever makes you happy.

Arguments for top supering are:

  • 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.

whilst 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 staining of the wax 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 / those processing wax for candles etc.)
  • Bees expend less energy because they don’t have to walk so far.

However, it must be noted that research has found no statistically significant differences in honey yield between the two methods of supering, so once again it’s down to individual beekeepers preferences.

Bet he didn’t lift off every one to put the next one on!