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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
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    Hermitage, PA
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    24

    Default Brood comb on top bars

    We have one hive that was started from a nuc, back in early June. The hive swarmed, in July, and has since recovered very nicely. With two deeps in place, they have drawn comb on all frames (10 frame deeps), with lots of brood and stores. During the last couple of inspections, including this past weekend, we noticed that they are drawing comb on the top bars of the bottom deep, and this comb contains what appears to be drone larvae (very large, compared to the normal brood). When removing the frames from the upper deep, these larvae are exposed by having the comb torn away.

    I don't want to harm any bees, if I can help it, but how am I supposed to keep from doing any damage when they're building in places that leave me no choice?

    Does it really harm the hive for me to tear away this burr comb with larvae in it? Should I just scrape it all off, and show'em who's boss? I've seen videos of beekeepers who use their hive tool to scrape away any burr comb, seemingly without regard for what is inside. I lack the intestinal fortitude to do this, but I want to be the best beekeeper I can, and, if that means a little "tough love", I suppose that's what I'll have to do.

    We didn't take pictures, this time, so I can't really show what I'm talking about, but you can probably imagine what I'm describing. We didn't go into the brood chamber, this time, either. I removed the upper deep, and lifted the lower enough so that the wife could replace the screened bottom board with the solid, in preparation for winter, then we added another medium on top of the two deeps, and put the feeder back on with some 1:1, in the hopes that they'll store enough for the cold season to come.

    Any thoughts on how we should proceed in dealing with the burr comb on top of the frames?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Ludington, Michigan
    Posts
    646

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    If you don't take care of it the bee's will completely attach the two boxes together and you will end up doing more damage when the bottom frames want to come out with the top ones. Scrape it off

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
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    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Quote Originally Posted by danno View Post
    If you don't take care of it the bee's will completely attach the two boxes together and you will end up doing more damage when the bottom frames want to come out with the top ones. Scrape it off
    Even if it means killing larvae or spilling stores? Just ruthlessly scrape it away?

    I'm not questioning your expertise, I just want to be sure that such drastic measures are called for, and that I'm not doing something bad. I have to admit: it just feels "mean".

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Lakeland, Florida
    Posts
    541

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    If this comb is between the box and the one above it...leave it. They use that as a ladder to climb up into the box above. By no means feel any regrets about loosing a few brood. She can lay lots of eggs and some bees are generally crushed when doing inspections anyway. While I am concerned about the general health of a HIVE and the one bee that matters ...the Queen....the remainder are replaceable. Does a farmer feel regret that a few ears of corn are plowed under? Does a cattle rancher feel regret when he makes a steer from a bull? (heck no! Mountain Oysters! yummm!!) Just the way it is.
    3 hives/2 nucs

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    El Cerrito, CA, USA
    Posts
    50

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    This happens all the time -- seems like they love making drone comb between levels of frames. I just scrape it off.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Ludington, Michigan
    Posts
    646

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    99% of this comb will be drones that have little value to your yard. Virgins don't mate in their bee yard. Sure they will ladder up to the above box but if bee space has been followed they will not need ladders. Also if you leave it you will smash many more workers during inspections. Although the chances of your queen shooting over the top of one of these burr covered top bars at the wrong time is slim to none, I have seen them do stranger things. My advice is still keep you hive as burr free as possible

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    New London, Ohio
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    As others have said, it is not a big problem, but it is annoying. I usually don't see much of this unless there is a little excess space between the frames above and the frames below. Maybe the notch for the frame rest is a little shallow on the top deep or the notch is a little deep on the bottom one. (just a guess...)

    Others with more experience than me can give you better advice, but that is just my experience. I've seen what you're talking about, but not on a large scale unless there was a space issue. If you scrape the comb off they will just rebuild it unless you change what they perceive to be too much "open" space. You can live with it, or maybe put a couple popcicle sticks on the bottom deeps notch just to see if that's the issue.

    my 2 cents,
    --- marty ---

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    6,016

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    As it's drone comb I'm assuming your frames have been built using worker foundation.

    So the bees feel they do not have as much drone comb as they want so build it wherever they can which includes the space between the boxes. If it was a foundationless hive meaning the bees would already have built all the drone comb they want the area between the boxes tends to stay a lot less built on.

    Many beekeepers scrape all this burr comb off every time they open the hive, however the bees just build it back. Me, I tend to let them have it how they want, but once a year in spring I will scrape the bottom bars of the top brood box and top bars of bottom brood box, just as an annual clean up & to stop really strong type structures getting built that make box splitting difficult.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Fayette,TN
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    ''99% of this comb will be drones that have little value to your yard. Virgins don't mate in their bee yard."

    I wonder, though, if I destroy all my drone come, the hobbiest down the way does the same, etc, then where do the drones come from to mate with my future virgins?
    I figure to let them raise the drones they want to. Winter purge will come.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Lumpkin County, GA
    Posts
    169

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    When I scrape away the burr drone comb, I use the opportunity to look at the pupae to see how mite infested they are.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Quote Originally Posted by Santa Caras View Post
    If this comb is between the box and the one above it...leave it. They use that as a ladder to climb up into the box above. By no means feel any regrets about loosing a few brood. She can lay lots of eggs and some bees are generally crushed when doing inspections anyway. While I am concerned about the general health of a HIVE and the one bee that matters ...the Queen....the remainder are replaceable. Does a farmer feel regret that a few ears of corn are plowed under? Does a cattle rancher feel regret when he makes a steer from a bull? (heck no! Mountain Oysters! yummm!!) Just the way it is.
    I get your point, but it still feels mean to just kill bees! Animal husbandry takes some mental adjustment, I suppose, even when it's just a hive full of bugs. It's a little different than house pets, and the approach has to be different, as well.

    Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Quote Originally Posted by danno View Post
    99% of this comb will be drones that have little value to your yard. Virgins don't mate in their bee yard. Sure they will ladder up to the above box but if bee space has been followed they will not need ladders. Also if you leave it you will smash many more workers during inspections. Although the chances of your queen shooting over the top of one of these burr covered top bars at the wrong time is slim to none, I have seen them do stranger things. My advice is still keep you hive as burr free as possible
    Thanks. That's good advice. I agree about smashing more workers, if I leave the burr comb. It's a balance of wanting to keep as many alive, as possible, and having to employ a little "tough love" to make it happen.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
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    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    I see what you're saying, and I think I'll try closing the gap, if that might make them happier. The hive boxes are from Mann Lake, so they should be pretty consistent. I have plenty of Popsicle sticks, so it should be easy enough to raise the frames in the lower deep.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    As it's drone comb I'm assuming your frames have been built using worker foundation.

    So the bees feel they do not have as much drone comb as they want so build it wherever they can which includes the space between the boxes. If it was a foundationless hive meaning the bees would already have built all the drone comb they want the area between the boxes tends to stay a lot less built on.

    Many beekeepers scrape all this burr comb off every time they open the hive, however the bees just build it back. Me, I tend to let them have it how they want, but once a year in spring I will scrape the bottom bars of the top brood box and top bars of bottom brood box, just as an annual clean up & to stop really strong type structures getting built that make box splitting difficult.
    That sounds like a good plan, oldtimer. I'll try reducing the space between boxes with the Popsicle sticks, and, if that doesn't make them happy, I'll just leave them be.

    Thanks.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Hermitage, PA
    Posts
    24

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Quote Originally Posted by ericweller View Post
    When I scrape away the burr drone comb, I use the opportunity to look at the pupae to see how mite infested they are.
    That's good advice, Eric. What do you do with the comb and its contents, once you've scraped it off? I've been leaving it near the hive entrance, so the bees can gather any honey or whatever else remains, then I collect the beeswax, later.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Red Deer, Alberta
    Posts
    121

    Default Re: Brood comb on top bars

    Be very carfull of leaving honey anywhere. It will induce robbing.
    Started with 2nucs then 3 swarms 2 cut outs it's been a busy first year I'm near Red Deer.

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