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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
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    1,693

    Default Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Hello all,
    I have heard some but not much about rotating old comb out of the hives on, say, a 5-year cycle. I've heard of folks who say they've got a comb from great-granddad's hive. Is rotation neccessary? Do you do it, and if so why, or why not? Your input is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    If you treat, especially with anything that is oil based or lipophillic (essential oils including thymol, cumophos aka CheckMite, Fluvalinate aka Apistan) then it builds up to high levels in the wax rather quickly and you should rotate very frequently. I don't treat. I've never rotated combs out.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
    Posts
    1,693

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    When you say "oil-based", would FGMO fogging fall into that category?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    In addition to chemical contamination, brood comb collects much of the toxic wastes produced by developing brood. In my opinion, it is a good idea to rotate brood comb. A five year rotation is pretty safe.
    I rotate my brood comb.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
    2,531

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quite often we hear that AFB spores build-up over time. This would be one very good reason to rotate comb, treatment free or not.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    >When you say "oil-based", would FGMO fogging fall into that category?

    FGMO is not poisonous to bees, but yes, it would get in the wax to some degree, and I would suppose it would weaken the wax. But it is inert as far as biological organisms are concerned.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
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    1,858

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    is oil based or lipophillic (essential oils including thymol, cumophos aka CheckMite, Fluvalinate aka Apistan) then it builds up to high levels in the wax rather quickly and you should rotate very frequently. .
    I just read in the last month or so an article that said the synthetic's checkmite, fluvalinate, apivar, etc build up in the wax, the soft chemicals thymol, oxcylic, and formic build up in the honey, I thought that was interesting, I will see if I can find it again and post it. I only get rid of comb that I can't see through or is damaged or to many drone cells.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    The organic acids will be absorbed by the honey, but since most of those organic acids already exist in honey you can't really tell and they aren't building up over time.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Posts
    45

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    I run all 3/4 sizes boxes for brood and honey supers and this makes it very easy to rotate frames with combs every three or four years. Old brood frames are cleaned up and new foundation installed for new season honey frames and two year old drawn out honey frames are introduced as new season brood frames. This makes sure that old chemical impregnated wax and diseases are rotated out. Works well.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Hudson, WI USA
    Posts
    2,176

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    The tricky thing is keeping track of how old the comb is. I assume that wooden frames take a regular sharpie marker fairly well, I use Mann Lake PF's and a silver color works OK, but not perfect. Sometimes I have trouble getting the marker to mark. Does anyone have any other easy ways to mark black plastic frames?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Belews Creek, NC, USA
    Posts
    328

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Soldering iron.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Walker, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    883

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by westernbeekeeper View Post
    Hello all,
    I have heard some but not much about rotating old comb out of the hives on, say, a 5-year cycle. I've heard of folks who say they've got a comb from great-granddad's hive. Is rotation neccessary? Do you do it, and if so why, or why not? Your input is appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    The recent BeeInformed survey asked about this, and their results have had an impact on how I view rotation:
    Beekeepers who replaced 50% or more of the comb in their colonies lose more
    colonies than those who did not replace any, or 10% of the combs in their
    brood chambers.
    and the other quote that I made note of:
    Beekeepers who kept bees in colonies where the average age of the brood
    comb in their operation was less than 1 year old, lost on average 7.5 more
    colonies per hundred when compared to beekeepers who managed bees in
    colonies where the average age of the brood comb in their operation was
    between 1 and 2 years old.
    So my take from this is to replace 1-2 frames per year after the first year. This is one of the few helpful results I gleaned from this survey.

    JMO

    Rusty
    Rusty Hills Farm -- home of AQHA A Rusty Zipper & Rusty's Bees ( LC and T)

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Bunker Hill, IL
    Posts
    495

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    i have my frames maked with a date via sharpie. stands out well (top of the top bar)

    when i re-wax them ill cross it out and write the new date (year only) im shooting for about a 5 year cycle with a few every year. I have a market for the wax so id take more but its just so costly in terms of the bees replaceing it. (honey used to make wax)

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
    Posts
    1,858

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    The organic acids will be absorbed by the honey, but since most of those organic acids already exist in honey you can't really tell and they aren't building up over time.
    right that's why I have gone back to the old method of only eliminating really old, bad comb.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
    Posts
    1,858

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rusty Hills Farm View Post
    The recent BeeInformed survey asked about this, and their results have had an impact on how I view rotation:

    Beekeepers who kept bees in colonies where the average age of the brood
    comb in their operation was less than 1 year old, lost on average 7.5 more
    colonies per hundred when compared to beekeepers who managed bees in
    colonies where the average age of the brood comb in their operation was
    between 1 and 2 years old.

    Rusty
    I read this and another retired commercial beek on another forum posted that he found higher loses with new comb was very common.
    one of the things that I think could influence the study above, is that I would think a lot of new beeks would be replying to the survey and they would have new comb and less experience, so I take this information and went back and looked at my records over the last couple of years. normally when I get a new yard, I move in all nucs, and fill the rest of the hives with foundation as needed. only once have I lost a bunch of new hives and that was because of a wind problem not due to any other problem I could see. so at this pointI'm not worried about adding alot of new comb If I have to.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Citrus County, Florida, United States
    Posts
    258

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Too much comb retired at one time seems to be the thing to avoid. According to the BeeInformed info. it look like no more than 1/3 at a time looks to be the sweet spot.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    >Beekeepers who kept bees in colonies where the average age of the brood
    comb in their operation was less than 1 year old, lost on average 7.5 more
    colonies per hundred when compared to beekeepers who managed bees in
    colonies where the average age of the brood comb in their operation was
    between 1 and 2 years old.

    Then it's better to have old comb...

    > I would think a lot of new beeks would be replying to the survey and they would have new comb and less experience

    I kind of doubt that new beeks were included. Most of them wouldn't be answering such surveys, I would think, but I don't know what their sample population was.

    My guess is that the old comb is better insulation...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    portland, dorset, UK
    Posts
    128

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Then it's better to have old comb...

    ...My guess is that the old comb is better insulation...
    This kind of echo's R.O.B. Manley in 'Honey Farming' 1946.

    "There is just one other point I would like to make. Bees always winter better on old combs than new, and I think it matters not at all how old the combs are so long as they are in good condition otherwise. Really good old combs are one of the greatest assets a bee farmer can have. Some people have been foolish enough to advise the regular and systematic scrapping of brood-combs to the extent of 20 per cent per annum, and in so far as good worker combs are concerned, this is just silly advice. My counsel is, get rid of combs that have too many drone cells or are otherwise imperfect, but hang on tight to all others.The older they are the better bees will do on them. This is not theory, or some cracked idea of my own, but a fact which any intelligent beekeeper can prove for himself in a very short time."

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,749

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    Old comb probably has a better microbial balance as well, 'seasoned' i guess you could say.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Chippew County, WI, USA
    Posts
    650

    Default Re: Comb rotation - what do you do?

    This is exactly the type of thing I wish I could devote my life to, testing theory as such as this. I have never given this much thought to old comb in reguards to wintering ability but there could realy be something too it. It would be nice to test this theory by wintering 100 old and 100 new comb colonies started in spring from healthy packages and see what wintering results are after several trials done over a 5 year period by a few beeks in a few different norther states. I'm guessing the theory about insulation value could be tested quite easily without the use of bees.

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