Can I Put Drawn Comb Into New Swarm Box


First off I would like to thank everyone in this community for being so helpful. Ive used this forum for 2 years now and the commenters are so great! This is my first post.

Now my issue :grin:. My hive absconded about a month ago (I put a queen excluder in there and they weren’t about it). I left the hive for about 2 weeks hoping they or someone else would move in. When that didn’t happen I took all but two frames and froze them for 3 days to kill any beetle or moth inhabitants. Today I noticed a swarm may have moved into my empty hive (EXCITING!), but there is nothing in there but two drawn frames.

My question is, can I put my other frames (previously frozen, now completely thawed out) back into the hive? I’ve read you shouldn’t go into a new swarm hive for a week or so or they may leave.

Bit of info that may be helpful:
-These are all drawn come some with honey (the previously frozen ones)
-Foundations frames
-Supers were also frozen and thawed
-I live in California zone 9
-Weather is sunny mid 70s-ish

Any advice would be much appreciated!


Hi Donny, welcome to the forum.
I’m always dubious when a colony absconds from a hive. There must be a reason why the colony absconded. A couple of conclusions I came to after abscondings were foul smelling honey in frames, hive beetle slime, hive too small to accommodate a colony & not enough brood to encourage a colony to stay in the hive provided.

It’s a real plus that a swarm chose to move into your empty hive, because it’s a hive of their own choosing. My theory is that they should stay. I’d be inclined to give them frames with foundation next to the 2 frames you already have in there, so as to avoid them building comb outside the frames.

Of course it all depends on how big the swarm is. A good primary swarm can fill a whole brood box. In that case you’d need the box full of frames. On the other hand, a caste swarm might only cover 2 frames, therefore in that case it wouldn’t be urgent to add extra frames initially.

To answer your question: Yes use the frames out of the freezer provided they don’t contain anything nasty that could drive the bees away.

1 Like

Where is CA are you? Not sure how far north it is an issue but if you’re in socal, you need to consider that your queen could be Africanized, in which case you should take care and plan to requeen asap, definitely before the colony gets big and more defensive.

As far as why they absconded - how did you obtain your bees (package, nuc, split) and what were the circumstances around when the absconded? Had you don’t anything else but add the excluder (and the super, I assume)? Had you applied any medications or treatments? What was the pest burden?

How damaged/infested were the frames that you froze and the ones you left behind?

Hello Jeff & Chau,

Thank you for your response! I’m confident they absconded because of me. We had a really wet and long winter, which is odd for us, and I waited probably too long to put the excluder on. They had gotten really big and I was even thinking they were going to swarm.

Here is where I think I messed up: The plastic excluder had a lot of burr comb blocking pathways from the previous Fall that I didn’t remove. I figured they would just open them up and repurpose the wax as they did the year prior. What I didn’t know until it was too late was that there were a bunch of drones still in the supers (I thought I had smoked them all out). They were stuck in some of the openings, and the workers even piled their bodies into a corner.

I’ve never treated my bees with any chemicals, so the combs are clean. As far as pest control goes, I’ll catch a beetle or two trapped in the super cell and wax moth larva in the bottom catch tray. I usually scrape the trays out once a month. They obviously had mites, but well within an acceptable range.

None of the frames were badly damaged due to pests. Some of the frames I froze had wax moths that clearly moved and chewed their way through a handful of cells. I was freezing them to be more proactive than reactive.

I’m in the Bay Area and we don’t have a lot of problems with Africanized bees. That doesn’t mean we don’t, so I’ll definitely do my research and keep my eyes pealed.

Thanks again,

Hi Donny, thanks for that explanation. I’m just wondering if that damage was from hive beetles, not wax moth. They will lay eggs in dead bees/drones. It could be hive beetle activity that caused the colony to abscond. Therefore I would be cautious about using any of the frames that had been previously used in the hive.

Swarms usually arrive carrying a lot of honey, so they can start building new comb. I’m more in favor of letting them build on fresh foundation, or clean drawn comb.