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Combs being built out from frames


Sorry if this has been discussed, couldn’t find anything similar. I took apart my top brood box and had a look at the frames. Some of them had comb built out quite a bit, like about 13 mm from the frame. Is this because the frames weren’t tight at the bottom, they were all even and tight at the top? I haven’t ripped apart the drone box prior to this because I felt things were going well and didn’t want to unnecessarily disturb the bees. But on taking out a couple of the frames they ended up leaking honey because the combs were disturbed. Again… Is this to be expected?

I did look down into the lower brood box but did not rip into it. It appeared that there was plenty of activity and combs being filled and capped. It seems there is plenty of honey stores plus whatever is in the super (about 5.5 frames full). I’m just puzzled about how much I need to leave for the girls to overwinter.

Anyway a few pics of what I saw…


no pictures ??
whats a drone box? never heard of one of those before in all my years of beekeeping ?


I’m confused by the term “drone box”.

Your comb (speaking from experience) should be nice & even if you use foundation & space the frames evenly.

You often experience tiny bits of honey leaking, especially if the bees have built the comb right down to the lower frame or QX, whichever is the case. Sometimes the bees will bridge across frames or they’ll bridge comb to the walls of the super. It’s impossible to avoid a little bit of honey leakage in those cases.


Check out some of the you tube videos on taking frames out of the box. You need to remove one frame from the side first. You only have two to choose from so pick the one with the least amount of comb. Yes you might do some damage taking this one out but from then on you have more space to work with. Prise the next one towards the empty space and then lift it clear. Keep doing this until you have removed all the frames you need.


When pulling frames I never start from the edge frame that is against the side of the box as this frame is the most likely to have burr/bridge comb built to the side of the box due to spacing (either because the single hoffman edge on the frame against the side of the box doesn’t space enough, or frames are centered in the box leaving more than bee space) . This burr comb can cause serious damage to bees if it’s dragged up the side of the box vertically.

I think it’s better (safer) to start from one frame in from the edge and pull this frame out vertically first. Next move the frame against the outside/edge of the box horizontally into the created space so any burr/bridge come breaks away cleanly from the side of the box, then pull the frame vertically.

I also never reinsert frames against the outside edge of the box… by basically doing the above in reverse.


how can you work out what you need to do without inspecting properly?


Hi solareagle- looks like your pics didn’t upload. Please give it another try & you will definitely get loads of great advice :blush:

…I think you might mean “brood box” not “drone box” :wink:

Anyway, yes it does sounds like you have bridge & burr comb getting frames all stuck. I’ve had this problem throughout the season (my first!) - my attempts to remove extra comb & unstick frames were frustrating, messy & not fully effective, so as I only have one hive that had to requeen itself in May, my current plan is to see to all other health needs & keep my colony strong for winter, then hopefully split my hive next spring when they have longer to recover from the disruption, using foundation on every other frame to arrive at straighter combs in the brood boxes.


Sorry about the pics. I did upload them and I hit the sack thinking they had completed. Also meant BROOD box not drone box, :wink: I have a drone box but it’s for my flying machine :slight_smile: I was extremely careful removing the frames and putting them back in last time I had some out but they do seem to really bridge them a lot.

The first photo with an unusual appearance where the comb seems almost hollow or separated from the wax base. The others weren’t like that. The last photo is looking down into the lower brood box where you can see comb building. As mentioned I didn’t get into that one because I didn’t want to do any more harm to the combs. I saw plenty of brood up top.


Ah, I know why! PLASTIC!!! :smile: Bees really don’t like virgin plastic foundation or frames. They build little pillars on it, then build their own comb away from the plastic on top of the pillars. It is sad, but the only way to correct this is tear it off - eat the honey, render the wax. My bees do it a lot when I give them new wax coated plastic foundation. They only do it for the first season - once it has been pulled out, they treat it like regular frames. They also tend to do it more on the outer frames than on the middle ones. Funny little things, these bees are! :blush:


Hi Dawn, I got some wax coated plastic frames on a frame exchange basis. I checkerboarded those frames in honey supers. The bees built them out beautifully. I found the same thing with poorly wired wax foundation. They seem to be many times more fussy with new frames in the brood than they are in honey supers.


Ok here’s the kicker. I just realized I only have two plastic frames in that brood box, one on each side. I bought them as brood frames so I could use them to trap mites. Obviously the bees didn’t get the message… The comb in the brood frame is designed so it is unsuitable for honey and I guess the girls innovated.


As Dawn has mentioned, the ‘out and down’ building of comb seems common off new plastic. I have found it is more common when the bees have gone through a period of moving wax and have stripped the wax coating off a section of the plastic, then when they’ve come back to build on it they build out (were these frames wax coated originally?). I have also found it more frequently when you put multiple new plastic frames together as this gives the bees space to build into the cavity of the frame next to it (so checkering if you have drawn frames like Jeffh has mentioned is a great tip).

To continue reiterating what the others have said, my experience once the plastic frames are drawn is that they are treated just like any other frame. My trick for new frames is to put them into boxes with a freshly captured swarm as the swarms are in ‘building mode’ and will draw new comb very quickly, especially when being fed.

It is a downside of plastic foundation and removing the comb can be a bit disheartening, especially if it’s taken time to get to this point. Rest assured that once you’ve established your frames you’ll be fine! (and these don’t look too far off), when you do remove the comb I’d suggest recoating the plastic section of the frame with wax.


I was going to ask if these were drone frames? , as the second last photo bottom left corner looks like it may be drone comb. The cells being drone size won’t stop bees storing honey in them (interested if anyone has a different experience on this) .

On the contrary, I have heard of people using drone frames in honey supers for increased honey to wax ratio and easier extraction (never bothered to investigate this, so take it as hearsay!)


So because it’s late in the season here and I don’t want to rob the bees of any more of their winter storage would it be ok to leave these built out combs for them for the winter or should I just take them out and feed them sugar water when the time comes?


I don’t like to leave a bad situation to get worse, so I would scrape it off and feed later if needed. Tough call though. I am interested in what others think.


Being a first year beekeeper I will say that when you end up with a bunch of comb on the bottom of frames and add a second brood box it ends up making a mess if you let it go. The same holds true for the sides of the frames as well. You will end up dealing with it at some point. Easier to keep up with it a little at a time rather than a big mess at all once.


Well the consensus so far seems to be to take the brood frames out and clean them up. I also noticed what might be supersedure cells in a couple of places, should I cut those off as well? I’ve read mixed comments on whether to be concerned about them. Honey production still seems strong with the flow frames I emptied just ten days ago seem full again and capped, at least from the end that’s visible without pulling them.


I very much like the advice and concepts in this comprehensive article:


@Kirsten_Redlich I think this article completely explains my philosophy, I’m so glad I found it because to me it’s dead on. Developing the intuition and doing lots of external observation is what I’m working towards.


Thanks @Dawn_SD I’ll spend some time looking at that!