Reusing Brood Frames

I’m really starting to learn this wonderful bee gig. Love those little creatures. I’m starting my second flow season here in Sydney and have just started my second and third hives.

I have read that conventional hives may rotate there brood frames into their super so that the brood will hatch and then be used for honey. They are then stripped, given new foundation and placed back in the brood box. I understand that this is to ensure the brood cells don’t get too small.
Is this something I should be concerned about?
If so, how do we do this with Flow Supers?

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Hi Ric, I will switch frames of brood sometimes into the supers to introduce new foundation or empty comb into the brood so that the queen can lay eggs for a bigger number of bees in the hive. The brood that is moved up and hatches and those frames become honey storage frames. So that is done to increase the colony.
When your brood frames in a Flow hive after a year of service they become a very dark brown and at that time you should begin to cycle those frames out of the hive one or two at a time. When the new frames are being used for egg laying you then remove the next one or two to the outside of the brood box and move each frame closer to the centre. A queen doesn’t lay in the outside frame against the box but as it is moved in towards the centre it comes into use. The really dirty old frames can be rendered down for the wax.
Some folks prefer to add bare frames, some use starter strips of wax with a wired frame while others wire frames and add a sheet of foundation and there are those that use plastic frames and plastic foundation. There is fore and against in all of those options.
I hope that explains the process to you.


OK…that makes sense.
Just to be clear… The 2 outside frames (Left & Right) are removed, the 2 middle frames, with mainly brood are moved to the outside, other frames are shuffled to the middle, and new frames with foundation are placed in the 2nd to outside spaces…

Guessing you have an 8 frame brood box under a Flow Hive Super. If you have grotty frames that you want to take out of the hive that should have come from the nuc they should be now in the centre area of the hive and over In Summer I would move frame 1 to position 4 (1 being left most frame and counting across to 8), move frame 2 to 1, frame 3 to position 2 and frame 4 to position 3. The frames should never be reversed in the hive. Once any brood has emerged in the outer frame(newly positioned) it can be removed if it is grotty and melt down the wax. Frames 5 to 8 is a mirror reverse. If that sounds confusing draw it out on a sheet of paper.
The reasoning is not to disturb the brood area unduly so it is done in stages. You can do that about 2 weeks apart and it will make more cells available for the queen to lay eggs in. She will never lay eggs in the outside of frames 1 and 8 but as the frames move inwards those outside frames will be used by the queen.
Hope that explanation is ok with you.
Cheers Ric

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That sounds great.
Question… Would the girls then fill the old cells with honey? or do we inspect and remove and replace as soon as brood has hatched?

I’ll give it ago this weekend.

@Peter48 has given you a good rotation method above. If you put the old frames back in the hive (say, in a super), the bees certainly would use them for honey. However, there are several good reasons for not reusing frames for more than about 3-5 years (opinions about timing vary!)

  1. Old wax accumulates pesticides and chemicals brought into the hive by foragers
  2. Old wax accumulates chemicals used inside the hive by beekeepers (especially in the US), including Varroa mite treatment and antibiotics
  3. Old wax can accumulate diseases
  4. If the wax has been extensively “remodeled” over time by bees and wax moths, it reduces the number of cells and can give the queen far more hiding places when you need to find her :blush:

For those reasons, I replace old frames every 3-5 years, or if they are damaged with a lot of holes.


If you want to take the outside frames out of the hive then remove them after the brood has emerged. Only remove frames when they are really daggy, full of drone sized cells or more than a few years old(as Dawn explains about pesticides). If the frame is good then they will fill the outside of the frame and likely the queen will lay on the inside of the frame(frame 1 and of course 8).
As this is your second season it is very likely only the original nuc frames would need to be cycled out and rendered.

Good info for me too as a third year student :nerd_face:, and it tells me that what I was tempted to do but had trepidation about is probably NOT right to do - reuse old/unknown-aged brood frames from a deadout of undetermined causes.

One of my two spring nuc colonies has died. About ten days ago, I was tucking my four colonies in with a last feeding and saw no activity at the door. Under the lid I found the inner cover crawling with tiny ants, and inside it looked like the whole population died in a mass event, heaped on the bottom & smelling awful. So, I figure they were dead at least a week given that plus how recently I’d seen regular traffic. All looked perfectly well during the vape treatment 3 weeks prior.

Storage was cleaned out, ostensibly from robbing after the colony began to weaken or - died suddenly? Several frames have bees in cells, head first. There were some traces of mite excrement, but not a huge amount. Some frames were moldy & I tossed those along with two plastic ones.

I moved everything across the yard and tidied up as best I could. For now, the two brood boxes and the remaining frames of otherwise nicely built combs are stacked on my side porch, protected from rain/snow and larger pests. All the points about toxic buildup plus the chance of disease weigh against reusing this equipment, except if I render the wax and then give the wooden ware a good cleaning in spring. Thoughts?

PS - I contacted my local ag extension to ask about testing, but have had no reply. Will try again.

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As mentioned before, there are valid reasons to recycle brood comb…I’m an advocate of queens laying in new or recycled dark comb that has been recently rebuilt as white comb.

Over a two or three year period, we have an accumulation of pollen/honey (often granulated) frames originating from providing extra spacing to the active brood chambers or from winter deadouts. This becomes problematic as it ties up equipment unnecessarily so we physically scrape the pollen and honey from the frames thanks to the advent of plastic foundation. The photo below is an example of a frame pulled from a brood chamber…there’s no way the bees will clean that out during summertime and it’s a precursor to a swarming condition…too much pollen to extract…likely to blow up in the extractor.

And this is how it later looks when placed in a traditionally managed hive as part of a honey super…but the bees love those scraped down frames in the brood chambers too. I just left a strip of dark comb for comparison’s sake…so they can be used in the Flowhive brood chamber.

The scrapings are the best part and used for periods of pollen dearth to keep brood rearing going…in our climate to produce the long lived “winter” bees.

The advantages of being a hobbyist…one caveat…you have to know that your equipment is brood disease-free otherwise you could be transmitting spores and thus infecting healthy hives. The upside is a natural product versus commercial pollen patties/sugar syrup…they really like that natural pollen source.


Hiya Eva, sorry to hear about your bees. Varroa is such a problem over there and with so many banging the treatment free drum and if you have treated, I’d hazard a guess that your bees have robbed out a nearby treatment free colony that has just succumbed to the scourge and they picked up hitchhikers on the way back.
It’s about this time of year that the ‘all my bees died’ threads start.


Hey Eva, Really bad luck about loosing the nuc. Just some thoughts, as you don’t know the cause of the dies out and not wanting to do a re-run with a new colony I would render down the wax. Clean up the frames and other woodware and then use a gas blow torch to scorch the frames and other woodware that is unpainted. That will kill any varroa, SHB and wax moth eggs. By blow torch I am meaning a propane flame that has intense heat that is available from a hardware store. My second thought on the die-out is the possibility of insecticide poisoning, but against that thought is that you have a second nuc and hives that are going well.
Varroa is a problem we don’t have here in Australia but maybe a nearby apiarist to you doesn’t treat his hives and there was a mixing of bees reintroducing it back into that nuc. It is incredible that there are bee keepers that simply don’t look after their hives.

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I don’t think re-using frames will increase your Varroa risk, and I believe that you personally have only used Oxalic Acid Vapor (OAV). OAV does not accumulate or cause resistance, so it is not a problem. However, if you bought a nucleus, and some of the frames might be 5 years old, I would render or discard them. You can reuse the wood, it is the wax which holds the chemicals.

As far as disease goes, I would think that Varroa is still the most likely cause of your hive demise, perhaps combined with robbing. It has happened to me too, even when I treated. I think the main issue is making sure you treat adequately. I treated in March/April, July/August and now it looks like I will have to treat again - I am seeing crawlers, which is always a bad sign.

I really like the accelerated mite drop method that @Dee shared when she was active here. I do the OAV treatment, replace a clean corflute slider under the hive, then count mites 24 hours later. I then repeat OAV until the count is below 25 mites on the slider. That gives me about 3 months until I need to treat again. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: However, it is the best I have.

I feel your pain, @Eva, and I am thankful that you are here. :heart_eyes:


Eva…that description is not characteristic of a varroa mite infestation…at least not what I have observed unfortunately too many times. Under my conditions, a varroa crash means total abandonment of the hive by the workers…sometimes you will see the queen with a handful of bees so here is a photo I’ve posted on other forums and beekeepers have said “that’s exactly what my hive looked like”. Everything looks normal…lots of food resources…nobody at home…dead or alive.

Until the robbers find it… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

My hive was empty and full of torn wax cappings. My husband still thinks they absconded, but there is no reason for them to do so. It was a well-established hive next to another hive which loves that location. I still think it was Varroa in my hive. :blush:

As far as @Eva’s hive goes, I think she did the right thing to contact the local Ag experts. There may be a City or County bee inspector who could advise too. It would be particularly important to rule out AFB or EFB, as you certainly would not want to reuse those frames. :open_mouth: :thinking:

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You sure could be right Dawn-SD…and the dead bees in EVA’s hive could be the casulaties of the robbing process. In almost every case I’ve seen of varroa infestation and subsequent failure, there has been abandoned capped brood. It’s the varroa’s signature…and I’m lucky when it comes to the robbing issue as very little of it goes on inside those buildings…even when a hive is unoccupied. Here is another brood pattern from another varroa crash…only there isn’t as much food reserves on this frame…looks like an AFB infection only without the scale…and if I look inside the cells, there is always a bit of that mite frass…often resembling small pieces of wax. It’s not uncommon to have several (3 or 4) frames of capped brood…the queen appears to of reved-up on brood production just before the crash…like a lawn mower running out of gas.

These have been my experiences…in my specific circumstances.

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Dawn SD…I’m curious as to how prevalent AFB is in your area. Commercial beekeepers in my area 20 yrs ago prophylactically treated colonies with the antibiotic tetracycline because if they didn’t, 25% of their colonies collpased by the end of the season. It appears to me that doesn’t seem the case anymore perhaps because of the hygenic traits selected for in the last two decades. Any other beekeepers out there have any thoughts/observations regarding this?

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Not very. I have never seen it. However, when it happens, it is disastrous, as most regulations require incinerating the colony and equipment. So it is a big fear, but a small incidence.

For anyone who is interested, here are some good articles:

For comparison, here is a description of PMS (Parasitic Mite Syndrome from Varroa):

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We’ve had it here in Canada for 80 years and you in the States have had it longer so the fear factor has rather been muted over time…at least for me. But it is encouraging to hear “a small incidence”…would be interesting to see the charts from that survey if they compare previous decades of AFB prevalence.

You’re correct :wink: So far, I’ve only ever used OAV, but the deep brood box on the deadout had a mix of frames from the nuc I bought from an established local beek and some given to me by a friend who dabbled in beekeeping for a few years then quit. Given what I know about both these sources, I’d say that the frames are at least three years old and could be far older.

It’s still puzzling to me about how they all died en mass. I’ve had varroa die-outs before (ha - each of my previous colonies so far :skull:) and not seen anywhere near the numbers of dead bees inside the hive. It was creepy. If there was a contagious disease you’d think the robbers would be dead by now too. The colony sitting on the same bench a foot away would seem the likeliest culprits, but they were busy and healthy looking when I discovered the deadies.

Has anyone ever baked frames in a low oven instead of scorching them? Mine is vented so the smoke from residual wax wouldn’t be a problem.