Should I add Flow super if brood frames are cross-combed mess?

I collected a small wild colony with their 8 little frames of comb in August. (I cut the comb and inserted it into frames, held in place with rubber bands.) The colony has been thriving and conditions are weird enough here in California that I may be able to add another box in the next few weeks, and I would like the new box to be my modified box with 4 Flow frames. The only problem is that they cross-combed their original brood frames, so I can’t remove them and examine them, without doing serious damage. Someone has recommended I add a regular super, and once the queen is up in it laying brood, I put in a queen excluder, and once all the old brood has been raised, I remove the box with the old cross comb. Obviously, if I go that route, I can’t use the flow frames for awhile.
What do folks think? Is it important enough to be able to remove brood frames for inspection that I should try to correct their mess? Or should I let the bees do what they want in this first box, and then do what I want in the second? If the former, other suggestions for a stress-free correction?

Not only important, but required by our state of California. :wink:

I would rather correct the mess before I add another box. The suggestion of adding a super, then hatching the brood, is elegant, but would take quite a time. You may not have them sorted until next spring. Meanwhile I would be worrying about what diseases and pests (I recently found SHB in my SoCal hives) might be hiding out of sight and doing unknown damage.

I think the only way to correct it with minimal stress is by doing regular inspections (every one or two weeks at most), and correcting it as soon as you see it. However, unfortunately you are way past that point. Hopefully somebody else has a clever idea for you. :blush:


Because this started out as such a small colony, who already went through the stress of a cut-out, bee vac, and move, plus had to raise a new queen, I opted to not try to correct the brood comb when I discovered it was crossed, because any damage could have killed the colony. On the plus side, I am able to at least look inside and remove the outer frames, and the bees look and act healthy. It’s still a fairly small colony and (and my only one right now), so I don’t want to do any undue damage.

I totally understand. However, if it is small enough for you to worry about damaging them, then it is probably too small to put a super on. After all, they are going to need to have enough bees to heat and defend all of that extra space. :blush:


Get in there and fix the mess. If the colony is really small they would not handle a super anyway. If it is really small put it in a nuc and get them going.


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So it sounds like the suggestions are that if it’s getting to the point where it needs a super, I should first try to correct the cross comb and let them recover from that before adding it.
Any links or concrete suggestions for correcting the existing cross comb while they’re still laying in it? It’s basically the four middle frames, the bottoms are all merged together and I can’t pull them out.

If it is the bottoms, I would get a helper and a fairly long (at least 8") sharp knife. Get your helper to tilt the box (if it will separate from the bottom board) and carve through the cross comb from the bottom, in line with the center between the frames. Then put the box back down level and take out the edge frames which you say that you can remove easily, and lever the frames apart into the empty space. That should minimize the shear and scrape damage to the frame faces.

You can then tidy up with a knife and re-rubber band as needed.

Sorry you have to deal with this, but bees are making us all learn something every day. :wink:


You need to take a deep breath and get in there. Put on another brood box with foundation on top. Put a thin shim between the two with a separate entrance, closed for now. Find the frame the queen is on and put it in the middle. Put an excluder under the shim and feed 1:1. Wait a week then close the bottom entrance and open the top. Three weeks after you started take the bottom box away. It’s a good idea to occasionally open the bottom entrance for an hour or so to let drones out. Don’t be impatient for honey just yet. The bees need sorting first.


How can she do that if the frames are welded together? Am I missing something in my dotage? :blush:

I don’t know where exactly @lizgarf is in California, but even in mild coastal San Diego, I don’t have any drones yet. Give it a week or two, and my hives will be making them again.

I good thing would be to find an experienced beekeeper to help you sort it out & give you some lessons in the process. That will be really worth the fee he/she is likely to charge.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. Dawn is right, I can’t remove any of the center brood frames in their current state. I should add that my one attempt at separating them on a too-hot day led to a very angry hive and my first-ever bad reaction to a bee sting. (I’ve been stung numerous times in the past with no reactions, so this was an unwanted bonus.) I have a very kind mentor who is an officer of our Alameda County Beekeeper Association, who helped me collect the colony in the first place and had the suggestion of putting a new box on top and trapping the queen up there eventually. I can see if anyone is interested in helping me cut the comb apart, but at this point, I’m liking his suggestion as a middle ground between doing nothing and taking a knife to them.

[quote=“Dawn_SD, post:7, topic:13605”] lever the frames apart into the empty space.
I’m not sure what that means.

It means you cut through the mess at the bottom when the frames are in the tilted box, with all 10 frames still in the box. Then you take out any movable frames at the outside edges, which probably haven’t been worked very much by the bees. You will now have a gap of 1 to 3 inches either side of the previously “welded” mass of frames inside the middle of the brood box.

You can now take your hive tool and wedge it between 2 top bars of adjacent frames. If you lever it horizontally, you can separate the top bars into the space where the “free-moving” frames were, and pull the wax apart without rolling any bees or scraping up the comb faces, which would happen if you tried to lift straight up without levering into the gap first. The point is, the welded comb will bulge into the frame gaps, and that makes damage very hard to avoid.

I wish I was about 500 miles closer, then I could come and help you. :blush:


Hi @lizgarf our friend Dawn may live in SD but she outs herself as a Brit with this phrase :cricket_bat_and_ball::uk::beer::umbrella:…in case you’re still wondering, levering is what we call jimmying in Merrikan.

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I don’t know, “lever” might be easier for me to identify with than “jimmy.” I guess we’re cosmopolitan! :slight_smile:

I presumed it wasn’t that bad…wrongly I see
Then the answer is to not find the queen and not put an excluder in but wait till the bees have drawn some comb stimulated by the feed and wait for the queen to go up naturally. Then put in the QX and new entrance. Just takes longer

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How did you go? Any photos? That might help others helping you with the cross-comb fix.
Here’s our faq on managing cross comb:

The most important part of foundationless beekeeping is getting the bees to build straight combs. Once you remove the foundations, there’s nothing stopping the bees from building in any direction they please. More often than not, they will build across multiple frames if you give them the chance. The result is that you will have a very hard time pulling up frames without destroying comb and angering your bees. You may be able to avoid this by installing comb guides.

  • It’s advised to complete regular inspections while the frames are being built out. This way you can correct any cross comb before it becomes an issue.

What to do if your bees to build cross comb:

  • The best way to handle cross-combs is to avoid them in the first place with comb guides, and by performing routine inspections as the comb is being built out.

Fixing mild cross-comb:

  • In most cases, the bees will initially build straight and then flare out and connect to the neighboring frame. It is recommended to remove any empty or straight frames from the brood box to give yourself room to work on the crossed-comb. Separate the comb that has started to attach, from the neighboring frame by cutting the comb away from the top, bottom and side of the frame. Pull the next door frame (now no longer attached) out of the way, and gently push the flared piece of comb into it’s correct frame. Use a rubber band to secure it in place.

  • Once you have corrected the combs, you may want to reorder your frames to prevent more cross-combs. For example, you may move a frame where the comb has not been completely drawn out between two straight frames that have already been drawn. This boxes in the partially empty frame and will prevent the bees from building it crooked again.

Fixing advanced cross-comb:

  • In extreme cases, you may find yourself with several frames or even an entire box of comb built perpendicular to the frames. Once again, your first step is to remove any empty or straight combs to give yourself room to work.

  • If this cannot be done, you will need to break comb to pull out the first frame. Select one of the outer frames and smoke the area heavily to drive the bees out of harm’s way. Then pull the frame up the best you can. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid damaging the comb with advanced cross-comb.

  • You may want a container with a lid to place leaky, damaged combs. You will likely not be able to save them and are better off harvesting or discarding them. Now, you perform a bit of surgery. Try to make the least number of cuts to extract whatever straight pieces of comb that you can. Separate them entirely from the frames and then use rubber bands to secure them within the frames again, this time, going the proper direction.

  • Once again, you may want to rearrange your frames to prevent further incidents of crossing. The trick is not to place two frames with gaps in the same place next to each other.

I think that foundationless frames would be better tackled by experienced beekeepers. Frames properly fitted wax foundation would be a much better way to start off for beginners.