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My Bees Won't Draw Comb

Updated: Apr 30

There are three things required to make fresh wax: young bees, lots of nectar, and heat. If any one of these is missing, your bees won't draw comb. But as long as they are drawing comb, there are some tricks you can use to make them draw the comb where you want it.

Let's talk about that magic recipe first.


Young bees

We usually gauge the number of young bees based on the amount of brood in the hive. Lots of uncapped and capped brood likely means there are lots of young bees around as well. If your hive has been through a broodless period for any reason, you may need to add a frame of capped brood to get some young bees in the hive.



Lots of Nectar

Bees won't build comb during periods of dearth. No flowers? No comb. But this is an easy one to fake - if you want your bees to build comb quickly, just supplement with some 1:1 sugar water.


Heat

This is unfortunately the one element that we don't have much control over. Bees won't build (much) comb if it is under 15ºC/60ºF. Sometimes you just have to wait til it warms up.


Getting bees to draw comb on the outside frames


To be honest, they aren't likely to do it themselves. Instead of waiting for them to move out from the centre and use those outermost frames, we like to move those frames in and help the bees expand the nest. If the bees have built comb on the middle 3-4 frames (in any box), then you can take an edge frame and move it into the centre each time you do an inspection. As long as they have drawn it out by your next inspection, move another one in.

Getting bees to draw comb in a new box


Bees can sometimes seem reluctant to move up into a new box when there is only blank foundation to work with. Again, they will need all three 'ingredients' in order to build comb in an empty box, but sometimes they will continue to ignore plastic frames even when those conditions are met


First, make sure you aren't adding a new box too soon. The previous box should have at least 7 frames fully drawn out AND filled up with food stores or brood.


When adding another BROOD box, pull a frame of brood up from the box below and place it in the middle of the new box. This will draw more bees up into the new box and those young bees will get to work building.


When adding a HONEY box, you can either add it above the previous box and pull up a frame of honey, or you can add it BELOW the previous honey box (this will work even faster to get the bees drawing it out and using the space!).


My new comb looks wonky!


There are a few simple fixes to help your bees build nice flat comb exactly where you want it.


1.Keep frames pressed tightly together in the centre of the box. There should be no space between the little nubs on the top of the frames.


2.Make sure your hive is level (side-to-side especially). Bees use gravity when building comb and build more ugly crosscomb when there is a tilt to the box.


3.Scrape off any comb you don't like. Leaving it will cause frustration on every hive inspection!


Looking for more?


Looking for more beekeeping education? You can find my virtual, on-demand beginner and intermediate courses at https://courses.rushingriverapiaries.com


Or if you'd prefer a more tailored experience, you can join my mentorship group at https://www.patreon.com/thehivementorship



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