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Spring inspection, Oh my!

I just did my first Spring inspection. The bees made it through a rough Midwest winter. However, the frames are totally cross combed and extensively stuck together. I was able to wedge out a middle frame, destroying some comb in the process, and I did see uncapped and capped brood. The queen is laying. However, I also saw many hive beetles. I saw a couple white skinny grubs about a quarter inch long. I only looked at the top brood box. I have no idea what the bottom box looks like.

How do I deal with the extensive cross combing? The frames are truly fused together. I can only imagine that if I start ripping apart the frames during the Spring buildup that I will have an absolute mess, destroy brood, and may lose the hive. A true conundrum!

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You need to get it all in good order. Eliminate any cross combs. Remove any bur comb from frames before replacing them without leaving any squashed bees between the combs. It’s something that has to be done.
The start of spring is the ideal time to do it. The bees have plenty of time to do repairs & get things back in order.
Failing to do so could result in a slime-out. Seeing as you are already seeing little white grubs & beetles.

PS. you really need to remove bur comb from the top & bottom of frames as well. Basically when you return frames, you don’t want any part of one frame to be touching any part of another frame. or the side of the hive, for that matter. You want bee space all around each frame. Also, when you look down on a frame, you only want to see the top bar with very little comb protruding out & parallel with the bar.


I totally agree with @JeffH. Deal with this NOW! It really isn’t a conundrum at all if you are going to have “managed” bees (= bees whose health and productivity you can monitor).

If you don’t do it right now (this week), anything you do in future will be much more destructive. Right now, your bees have a season to recover, and they will probably only need a week or two if the nectar is flowing. You might lose some brood, but your queen may be laying anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 eggs per day. That is almost a full deep Langstroth frame side every day. You can’t possibly kill more than a day or two’s worth of brood. They will get over it, and you need to too. :blush:

I hope you listen and tidy up. After all, bees are not pets. Really they are livestock, and they need to be managed properly in order not to spread disease and lose colonies. Don’t want to sound harsh, just a little realism is all. :wink:


I just asked my husband’s opinion. He has kept bees for over 35 years now. He suggests going to the hive with a big thermos flask of hot water and a sharp kitchen knife. Heat the knife in the water for a couple of minutes, then slice through the bridge comb. Yes, you will kill some brood, but most of the bridge comb will be drones or honey, and you won’t lose many workers.

Take the comb away and eat or strain it if it is just honey, or render it if it is brood. Do not throw it onto the ground, as the SHB will have a fiesta at your expense! Just a few more thoughts for you. :slight_smile:


…unless you throw it on the ground in your chicken yard :chicken::chicken::chicken::chicken::chicken:

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Thank you John and Dawn. I will heed your advice and get to work. I’ll use the hot water and knife as suggested.

My frames are foundationless, but are wired with 3 wires spanning each frame. On those frames where the comb is straying significantly outside the frame do I just try to push the comb onto/into the wire and align it as best as I can with the frame? Do I remove comb?

Thanks again.

I would, if it looks more tidy and orderly. You want the bee space to be as consistent as possible to encourage them to keep building straight and not get creative again.

If you have bridging comb at the top of of the frames, I would just remove that and don’t try to reposition it.

Well done for making the right decision about tidying up. I know it seems intimidating, but you can do it, and the bees will recover very well at this time of year. :wink:

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Well I did it. I am not sure how well I did I it, but I did it. Here is what I found:

The top brood box was a mess. It was heavy with lots of honey and brood. There was a lot of cross comb that I cut off as best as I could. Comb that had strayed from the frame I either pushed back on the frame or cut off and removed. However, on some frames or some areas of a frame the comb was sticking out on each side of the frame with the thickness of the comb being almost twice the thickness of the frame. What do I do in that situation? There is no way I can push the comb back within the confines of the frame if it is sticking out on both sides. I also did something that I hope was not a mistake. I removed one frame that was particularly messy and full of honey only (no brood) and I replaced it with an empty frame with foundation. I am hoping that the straight foundation will guide the bees Mistake? I currently have the frame I removed (still full of bees and honey) leaning against the front of the hive. I am hoping the bees will make it back to the hive and perhaps take the honey with them.

Very interestingly the bottom brood box was much better. Hardly any cross comb and the frames were easy to remove. However, an interesting observation. The bottom brood box was just empty comb. No honey, no brood; and the comb was very dark. Almost black. Any reason for the stark difference between the top and bottom brood boxes?

Be careful with this because robbers could join in and cause a ruckus - last weekend I took apart my recently dead hive, had some frames that still had some capped honey on them stacked on my porch in the boxes & pretty soon there was a cloud of bees after it. Thought it was fine that my survivors from my one remaining hive were getting a good snack until the brawling ensued :fist_right::fist_left: Apparently someone else’s bees made their way to my porch too!

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Sounds like a very good intervention - not a fun job @Brick, well done :raised_hands:

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I agree with @Eva’s wise comments above. Well done, I am proud of you. :blush:

Excellent idea, and it should work well.

If it is single comb (not two pieces hanging side-by side but welded together), I would trim it back until it fits. A bread knife or an uncapping knife is best for that kind of thing. If it truly is that deep on each side, it won’t have brood in it, just honey. You could save the trimmings and crush and strain them through an old kitchen sieve or colander.

If it turned out to be two combs, I would separate them completely and rubber band them into the frames, or push them onto the wires as you did you before.

You could rest it on top of the inner cover, under the roof, leaving the hole in the inner cover open for now. That is usually perceived as outside the hive by the bees, and they will take it down over a day or two. Keeping it inside the hive prevents the risk of robbing that @Eva mentioned. If it is too thick to fit under the roof, you could put an empty deep box above the inner cover, and put the frame in that. Remove it after a couple of days, or they may start to build under the roof though. I know my bees would! :smile:

Which difference?

  1. The color difference will be because the bottom box was used more heavily for brood last season. When brood develops in comb, it leaves some shellac behind on the wax, which is very dark and quite strong. Comb only used for honey stays much lighter.
  2. The cross-combing difference may be because you managed the bottom box much more actively, then took a more hands-off approach with the top box. You can never trust bees, and if left unsupervised, they almost always get creative in the most unhelpful ways! :wink:

Anyhow, I think you did well, and perhaps learned a lot too. :clap:

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Hi Brick, you’re welcome. I assume you meant to say Jeff, not John.

Well done on what you did. What I do with comb that sticks out way past the confines of the frame is take it inside & scrape the honey back to the frame into a strainer. Then take it back to the hive. If it’s a small amount, I’ll use the flat of my hive tool & bruise the comb back to level, creating a minor honey spill. SHBs play a major part in my strategy of keeping everything straight, so as not to squash any bees between combs.