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Comb no filling the frame

Fairly new in the bee business and one of the things I seem to be having trouble with is the bees not filling the frames with comb therefor making it messy to uncap. Is ok when the comb protrudes wider than the frame but more often than not I have to use the tip of the knife to uncap the “valleys” any ideas?

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You can buy a comb scratcher just for that purpose. I find that a fork, as in “knife & fork” works well.


Thanks jeff, thats what l currently use to uncp these areas but wondered why they don’t build out to the edge? Thought there may be something l can do.

sometimes if there is a dip- it’s because there is a bulge on the other side. To get your combs straighter and strighter there are several things you can do:

  1. make sure the hive is perfectly level- most importantly on the the left/right axis. The bees use gravity to build the combs and if the hive is off level even by a small amount the combs wont meet with the center of the bottom bar.

  2. make sure the frames are spaced up against each other nice and tight. If the gaps are too big the bees will fill that area with bulge/s- and it could set of a chain reaction where the next comb is also out as the bees work around the bulge on the adjacent one and so on.

  3. if you use foundation-less frames consider ‘checkerboarding’ them with wax foundation or plastic frames- to encourage the bees to build the foundationless ones nice and even.

Hi Andrew, if you are referring to honey frames in the super then there is something you can do. I run all 10 frame boxes including in the Flow hive. For my standard hives I have 10 frames for brood and then 9 frames in the supers all evenly spaced. By spacing the super frames an extra 3-4mm gap, the bees will draw out the comb on both sides further than normal allowing for you cut the capping off with no gaps. Your frames will be very heavy with honey, more than normal. I weighed one of frames last month and it came in at 5kg (including wood & wax). Thats a serious amount of honey from a frame that normally only yields 2.5kg of honey.
See image below. If you are operating an 8 frame hive then try only put 7 frames in the super.


Rodderick, Is this commonly done? Seems like a good idea. Any issues with burr comb and the like? Do you do it by eye or do you have a custom built spacer?

Hi Dan, it is in the beekeeping circles where I am… that is NSW. Its not well known amongst hobbyists and the commercial guys don’t bother as they have specialist equipment to remove the cappings and not a knife like we use.

Not really, the bees will build comb between the top bars but it is not generally filled with honey and breaks away when you lift the frame out (see pic below). But sssh! Keep it to yourself.

Just by eye…


it seems like an 8 frame box is almost a 9 frame one already? With 7 in an 8 box the combs would be even fatter than in your 9 in 10 box supers?

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Rodderick. Fantastic! Wow…can’t wait to try that next spring…very impressive.

Howdy Michelle, there is a limit to the amount of space between the super frames, I am not sure where that is, 4mm is what I aim for and so far it has worked wonders. The only criticism of this method that i have heard is the super frames with the spacing are no longer in line with the brood frames below and may be disruptive to the air flow in the hive. But so far I have not seen any issues.

@Rodderick didn’t spell it out, but you will have less problem with bridge comb if you use normal frame spacing until the comb is fully drawn, then put the frames further apart once it is drawn. We use to do this all the time in the UK in our honey supers, using little plastic spacers on the ends of the frames to keep everything even. It worked very well. We would start with these:
Then once the comb was fully drawn, switch to these:


Whoa! They’re pretty cool

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On topic

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For spacing, 7 in the Flow box is pretty close to the limit Dadant recommended/tested.

Dadant wrote of initially spacing super combs 1 1/2 inches apart (~38.1mm). After first extraction, he noted that bees would strengthen the comb and they could then be spaced to 1 3/4 inches apart (~44.5mm).

The 8 frame Flow hive is 315mm internal width.

7 x 44mm = 308mm, so 7mm to spare which is about right.

A happy coincidence perhaps? :neutral_face:

Note: this is for supers… not brood!


This has been a fantastic response to my original query and appears that some others have benefited for the advice offered. Thanks for your help will be giving the frame spacing a go that’s for sure.