Comb building below a frame

New to this site so hoping for some advice.

I got my first colony about 3 weeks ago as I was given an old brood box taken from a lady about 3 miles away who had left her disused hive empty and mostly sealed up but a swarm found and occupied it. Her box has very old dirty frames and the queen somewhere in some comb that hung down 4 - 5" below a frame into a partly empty box sitting below. The comb is several layers thick.

So, I’ve had to place one of my empty brood boxes below to carry it home and now even though I’ve placed another brood box with fresh frames of wax foundation above the old box, after several weeks they don’t seem interested in moving up and drawing out any of these new frames. I’m also feeding syrup from the top of a crown board above my new frames box as it is a very small colony without much stores. (My profile picture shows the old broodbox as the darker wood.)

How can I get the queen to move up into my frames? Drastically, if I cut the comb and placed it on the crown board above the new frames box and removed the old frames box with the empty box below that would she start laying on new frames foundation or would that cause swarming or something ? Could it be the foundation is the problem ?


Take some of the already drawn out frames and move them into your new box. Put 2 of them up there in the middle with an empty frame in between. That’ll cause them to go up and start building.

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Thanks but there are no drawn out frames containing brood in the old box. The bees have instead built comb below one of the old frames and I’ve got an empty box below for the hanging comb until I can get rid of that comb. I have got an loaned used frame from a friend with use foundation in with my new frames but they are still not interested in moving up after a couple of weeks. I guess I could take some pics next time I open it up.


Where do you live appro !! Best to know so others can advise you based on your season, weather n location.

Card is correct … I’d get as much of the comb added to frames as possible … I’m
not Dawn but she is finding best results letting here bees build downward n since you have extended comb that way already I’d go with cutting excess comb from ends of frame n rubber banding into new frame. If possible I’d try to keep those extension wax comb in order where they are but in new frames below. Dawn is getting quicker comb build adding below the existing box.

Just my 2 cents worth if you haven’t done anything yet. If you have stay with n don’t change … Give them time to do what they need to do for few weeks after you carry out a plan.

Good luck n enjoy…,

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OK. I’m based around the border of Surrey & Hampshire, England. Interesting idea you mention. I could try cutting off the hanging comb and banding to a new frame until they finally understand the cunning plan I have for them!

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I think you will be able to persuade her move down, much more easily than moving up.

I think that if you cut the comb away, the best thing would be rubber-banding it into frames. If you don’t do that, they may build more comb on top of it, even if it was above the crown board. Sounds like a recipe for a mess.

I don’t think the foundation is the problem. The problem is that they have already built their hive they way they want it, and if you leave it that way, they will continue to use the comb until they run out of space. Just because you provide a nice tidy box of frames and foundation, it doesn’t mean that the bees prefer that to what they have already made. :wink:

Absolutely right, Jerry. :blush: Just to clarify for Mark, here in California, the recommendation is to run hives on 2 brood boxes. When my first brood box was full, I added the new box underneath the first one. Previously I have only added boxes to the top. I found that putting the new box underneath resulted in better comb, less bridging comb, and more rapid use of the frames. The hive was also less disrupted, as the bees didn’t have to move food and change the brood pattern as much as they do when you add a brood box on top. Warre hives actually add honey “supers” below the brood box, presumably for the same reason. That is the way bees prefer to build in nature too.

I wish you luck in rehousing your bees, this is a tricky time of year to do it. :wink:


Wow thank you !
Excellent advice, so quickly after I joined this site/forum. I’ll try as you all suggest by cutting the comb off and banding it to an upper box frame. I can provide a full set of frames in box below (no gaps) and I’ll need to keep top box space as tight as possible using as many frames as I can fit around to prevent her continuing to build out on the comb. I guess that I should continue to feed them as I can’t see how they’ll get through the UK winter from where they are otherwise. All I need now is a source of very large rubber bands…

This post on another thread has a photo of how to do it:

If you put the cut comb into empty frames nice and straight, they will fill any gaps around the edge and continue using the comb. Eventually it will look like they had foundation in that frame. :wink: If you have enough comb for several frames, put it into several. I wouldn’t try to block the space in the upper box, just put the bees’ own rubber banded comb in the middle of the box, then put frames of foundation on either side. When they need the space, they will expand out sideways.

I wouldn’t do that until the first box is completely full of pulled comb and bees. If you give them too much space too quickly, they won’t be able to defend it against robbers, wax moths and other pests.


They don’t have to be very large. You don’t want to put multiple adjacent wafers of comb into just one frame. You will be cutting them so that one comb wafer fits in one frame. In the US, people use number 33 (3.5" x 1/8") or 117 (7" x 1/8"). Make sure that you use the natural rubber ones, not sure if bees will chew through the non-latex type!

Thank you for this advice. I’ll post back the results.


There is a lot about your original post that made me nervous. It’s excellent you now have bees, but acquiring bees in a used box like this can be very risky with regard to diseases as you don’t know why the original colony absconded. Another concern is that the colony that has taken up residence is small, which may not be an issue (ie. secondary swarm), but you should keep an extremely close eye on the brood that this colony produces for things like chalk/afb/nosema as it may be staying small because of a disease latent in the wood ware.

Are you able to take photos of the frames that the bees aren’t building in? it would be interesting to see why they prefer to build off the bottom of the frames. Are there any signs of old wax/moth/beetle on on the frames? Make sure when you cut/rubber band the comb that you place it in new frames with known provenance, and rotate the old frames out as soon as practical (ie. let the brood hatch from them, then swap in new frames).

Some photos of the rubber banding process here (sorry to post again for those who have seen them!):

-edit- Just saw Dawn’s thread… looks like rubber bands are the same the world over :smiley:

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Thanks for the tips and great pictures, RBK. I’ve now got a load of large rubber bands so I’ll try the banding technique later this week if the weather is good enough. As regards to pictures, well I’ll try to take some but being new its going to take me and a helper enough effort to cut and move the comb to banded frame. I wouldn’t know about diseases yet as I’m new to all this and the local course doesn’t begin until the start of 2017. I do have a local experienced bee mentor coming over to help this week. So, obviously, this isn’t the ideal way to start keeping bees but this is where I am and just have to learn quickly and do what I can for the colony to build before the UK winter.

There’s lots of info on here & online, to make start on getting familiar with what to look for re evidence in your hive of disease &/or pests

Today my bee mentor and I took a look in the hive and in the last 5 days and it turns out that they built several combs. I could see that they had been bringing back loads of pollen so queen was doing her thing but these combs were really very large. I had prepared a couple of empty frames with rubber bands but when we opened the hive I had to rapidly make up another couple of empty frames so we could hold all the combs. We used the hive tool to cut and take the combs and place into the ‘banded frames’: a two-person job IMHO. This meant that I’ve been able to remove the bottom brood box which was used for hanging space, the above mouldy broad box from which the comb was hanging as well as its old frames. So now have consolidated all into my new broad box as well as placing a super box above (I believe that this configuration is called a ‘one and a half’) with a queen excluder above followed by another super on-top of that. We did find wax moth. We did find the queen and mark her. In a couple of days I’ll replace an empty brood frame with a feeder frame that I bought recently. With bees all around us and really not at all happy having their home rearranged, this is as deep as I’ve ever gone with the whole Bee thing but I’m getting better at keeping calm. Mind you when we originally collected them from the lady a few miles away, I hadn’t zipped up my veil completely and ended up with several on this inside which didn’t do a lot for my mental state. Anyway, I’m lucky as I’ve been told that these are very ‘gentle’ bees.

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Sounds like a great outcome! Completely agree that cutting and rubber banding comb is much easier with a second set of hands!

Next time you need to take your camera along for a progress shot! :smile:

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Image taken just after cutting and banding the combs and we found the queen and marked her (several times, duh:worried: !). Since then, after 2 weeks, they have cut and dragged 3 bands out of their entrance.

Those 3 old frames will be replaced as soon as possible now. I need to carefully lift those banded frames to see whether they have stuck the combs in to the edges by now.

Here is a re-occuring question about evolution : Why is it that Bees sting and loose a chunk of flesh and die whereas Wasps do not die. Seems a bit crazy. What is the genetic advantage of the worker dying ?

I would say that the survival advantage (to the colony) is that the predator gets a bigger dose of venom if the stinger and sac stay in place - more of a deterrent to revisit the hive. There are some other points to consider:

  1. When bees sting other insects, they usually do not lose their stinger. They live to sting another day. It is only thick-skinned attackers who get the barbs caught and pull the stinger out of the bee.
  2. Most bee hives have a much bigger population than most wasp nests. They have bodies to spare in defense of the colony, while wasps don’t have as many.

Good question though! :blush:


Dawn, great answers. Thank you very much.

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Hello, I I’m new to this wonderful world of bees and note that a number of people add the second brood box below the first box, not above. Is this only done early in the season or can it be done any time a brood box needs to be addd? Also what are the signs that an additional box is required?
My bees are quite active now as in in southern Aus.
Many thanks.

For brood boxes, adding below is my preference, but not everybody agrees. I think it causes less disturbance to the hive interior, and the queen seems to use the new space faster. For harvesting, I always add boxes on top. In Australia, I think most people just use one brood box, but I think 2 gives you a margin of safety - the bees have more storage space, and more space for brood before they want to swarm. You still have to inspect them, and 2 boxes makes more work, but for me it is worth it.

You can add a second box any time the bees are expanding (Spring or early Summer in most parts of the world). The signals to add a box are that your existing box is 80% full of completely drawn comb, and all of that comb is filled with food or brood. Also every frame should be mostly completely covered with bees. That rule applies for adding a second brood box, or for adding a harvest super. Same rule.

Please ask more if it will help you. :blush:

Hello Dawn_SD
Thank you very much for your generous and prompt response.
Most people I chat to in my bee club have two brood boxes, but with a swarm I was given about six weeks ago, two would currently offer too much room.
I’m most interested in your rationale for placing the additional brood box below the existing one. I look forward to trying it when the amount of bees is as you describe.
Best of luck for you and your bees over winter Dawn and my thanks again for your advice.
:honeybee: :honeybee: :honeybee: