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Removing old wax foundation


How often should someone removed the old wax frames? I have gone one season thus far with them building out foundationalist frames. Wanting to understand how long I should leave that in place then remove it and have them build new comb.

I am talking about in the Brood boxes


I haven’t reached that point yet but I’ve been previously advised that approx every 3years is a rough guide. However this will vary and once the comb starts to go a darker shade of brown is a good time to look at cutting old comb out. If it’s approaching black it should be cut out as soon as practicable.


I agree with @SnowflakeHoney, approximately 3 yearly, assuming no “other reason”… :wink: Reasons for replacing earlier include:

  1. Excessive chalk brood
  2. Excess drone comb
  3. Big holes or deformed comb
  4. Just don’t like the way it looks… I know, not very specific, but sometimes it just feels better to put a fresh frame in because the old one is “unsettling”


Hi Marty, I wouldn’t have a rule of thumb time for replacing the brood comb. Each frame should be judged on it’s merits. If a frame has a high percentage of good worker comb, say greater than 80% for example, I’d leave it there until that situation changes.

Michael Bush posted that he has used the same combs for over 25 years.

The other day I changed the comb of a frame after a couple of months because the bees made an absolute mess of it. By the time they finished with it, the worker comb would have been no more than 30%. That’s a classic example of judging a frame on it’s merits.


I do understand that there should not be absolutes. The only known absolute is were going to die. Having said that, these responses were all I was looking for. Some good guidance. As I understand it for every pound of wax the bees could produce 8 pounds of honey. So having them constantly rebuild the wax is not a good thing. But also keeping a healthy hive is a better thing regardless of how much money you harvest.

I’m not understanding the high percentage of worker comb in these 2 statements below. Can you please explain further


Yes three years but a good rule of thumb is when you can’t see through it


Hi Marty, I want all of the frames in my brood box to consist of mainly worker comb. All greater than 80-90% worker comb. That way I’ll get a good population of worker bees. If the bees got a chance to completely finish the frame they messed up, there would have only been about 30% of that frame available for the queen to lay fertile eggs in. The rest of that frame would have consisted of drone comb & gaps.

If the bees build a beautiful frame of worker comb, as long as that frame remains like that, I see no point in changing it. It’s when the bees start making holes in it & replacing them with drone comb etc., that’s when I’ll replace them.

As @Dee said, when you can no longer see through them is a good rule of thumb. However even if that frame maintained it’s original high percentage of worker comb, it is still a hygienic frame because each cell is cleaned & polished between each hatching.

When we use foundation, it’s usually a larger cell size than what the bees do in the wild, so there is lots of room for a cocoon buildup. Also the bees in the wild don’t have the luxury of having their combs replaced.


I don’t know what is meant but worker comb

my question is vary vary elementrey


While on this subject whats the actual process of removing a comb in the brood box.

Do you just take it out, shake the bees off and destroy the rest?
Or do you shake them off, and leave it outside for them to clean up?
How long do you leave it outside?


Great question!

I like to do it early in the season. There are couple of ways to do it.

  1. If it looks really manky (Brit term for disgusting, grungy (e.g. chalkbrood) etc), just take it out, shake off the bees, render the comb and re-use the frame if it is good enough. Shift the frames left behind so that there is a gap “one frame in” from the hive wall, and put the new frame in that space.
  2. If it looks pretty much OK, and there isn’t capped drone brood comb in it, and it is the same size as your honey supers, move it above the QX into a honey harvest box. Let the brood hatch. Spin to extract any remaining honey (don’t crush and strain) and test the water content if it wasn’t capped, then render etc as above.

I never leave frames outside for “cleaning up”. At best it encourages robbing from other hives, at worst it invites pests and diseases. Just my method, but others may have different thoughts.


Hi Marty, the bees build worker comb to raise worker bees & drone comb to raise drones. The queen can lay drone eggs in worker comb but she can’t, as far as I know lay worker eggs in drone comb.

The wax & plastic foundation is always embossed with a worker bee pattern so that the bees will build predominantly worker comb, allowing the colony to raise a good population of worker bees.

PS Marty, it’s important for every beekeeper to be able to distinguish the difference between worker comb & drone comb as a part of good brood management. I’m surprised at the number of “experienced beekeepers” that come to me to buy a colony of bees, that don’t know the difference.


I don’t treat. I don’t ever cull combs. If you use any of the lipophillic mite treatments you should probably cull them every year…But bees winter better on old brood combs than new ones… but they also do better on clean combs than contaminated ones…

Looking for alternative option to treat varroa and Nosema

Wow, thank you very much Michael. I have a old recipe, using essential oils from a beekeeper in the Carolinas where he worked with the University there on some test. Through the test and the beekeeper in northern Oklahoma where he taught me how to use this and make it, does not see any mite build up. Yes there are a few mites but nothing to use a chemical treatment for. Same for hive beetles.

The recipe is mixed with sugar water. There’s another recipe also that the beast do not consume but are soaked in drink coasters and being a foreign object the bees chew it off and remove it from the hive, the process of which carries that material through the hive and out and that in itself is one of the treatments for hive beetles and mites when there is a honey flow.

Having said that would you think I need to cull as well?


The main thing is that you’re not using a product with Amitraz (Apivar), Fluvalinate (Apistan), or Cumaphos (Check Mite). Those are the current products that I’m aware of that are lipophilic insecticides that have been relabeled as acaracides.