Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?
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  1. #1
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    Jan 2018
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    My question is how does one accumulate more drawn comb as a new beekeeper?

    A little background. I am in north eastern PA and I am a new beekeeper this year. On April 22nd, I installed my package (Italians) into a Lang. 10 frame deep using wood frames with double wax coated plastic foundation. Everything looks great so far, the queen is laying very well! About a week ago I added a second deep on top, moving three frames of brood to the top deep. I have been feeding 1:1 syrup from a top feeder on the inner cover, which is covered by an empty deep and the outer cover. I have been feeding since day one to help build up the colony. The colony appears very healthy and is multiplying, it seems more and more bees are coming and going every day. Looking back I wish I started with 3 packages!!!!

    So back to my question, how do you build up drawn comb? Is there any way to do this and not be detrimental to the bees? Once the first and second deeps are full, I have thought about putting a third deep on and use a queen excluder between the second and third box and keep feeding 1:1. I know this would not be real honey, but I could extract it and dump it (I guess?) then I would have 10 deep drawn out frames for next year to start more packages, which I will be getting at least two more next spring. Any and all help/comments are appreciated!!

    Thanks, Paul

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    I encourage my first-year students who plan (eventually) to use mediums as supers to buy a third deep box in their first year and keep the bees drawing deep combs as long as possible. Sometimes that means feeding and sometimes if they are strong enough - and your flow obliges -you can discontinue feeding and perhaps collect a modest honey harvest your first year, while returning the extracted brood-frame sized combs to the stack to be refilled with late season nectar or renewed feeding. Or you can freeze the additional frame(s) and see if you get enough other comb drawn and filled later in the season. If not, you can add the frozen (and thawed!) frames back in to make up a full complement before winter. Bees winter OK on both honey and sugar syrup.

    Bees are much more reluctant to draw comb late in the season than they are now, which can be a problem if you haven't already got enough comb to store enough syrup or honey for good wintering in your area.

    You are correct that drawn comb is extremely valuable in your second year, but so much not for starting more packages. Its biggest value lies in helping you manage the swarming impulse and keeping enough room in the hive for both lots of brood (your second year honey-makers) and room to store the early nectar flows that might otherwise crowd the brood nest area and chances of swarming. That early flow often precedes the time of year when bees will eagerly draw new wax, except during the emergency state of being a new package in an otherwise undrawn hive and getting fed.

    This spring, for example, even though I have tons of drawn comb, most of it is quarantine due an outbreak of EFB last season so I have been skating by on only the kind of de minimus surplus that's typical for a new beekeeper and it has caused me a lot of extra worry and effort. If I had had access to my back-stock, I'd have had a much easier time.

    Although you may choose to use mediums as honey supers once you get into the honey business, because of both weight issues and ease of getting the smaller-sized combs drawn and ready for harvest, in your first year extra brood nest sized combs will be a better choice, IMO. The extra deep body needed this summer will come in handy, even if you never get another colony - there are always times when you need one for temporarily supporting frames and bees while doing some hive chore on one of the other two boxes.

    If you wind up with, say 21-27 deep frames of brood and honey and pollen by winter, you can always winter in triple deep stacks, too. Bees do quite well in narrower columns created by inserting follower boards and insulation panels to custom-tailor the cavity size to the number of frames available to the bees. This also means you avoid the inconvenience of having brood in medium frames at the end of winter. Which will happen if you wintered on two deeps and medium, which is a common configuration. Bees will almost always be in the uppermost box by the end of winter, which is where they will start their first rounds of brood. That's awkward when your principal year-round brood nest frames are deeps - it limits your options for brood nest frame management in the early spring.

    Extra (surplus to what's needed in the boxes) drawn combs also make it easy to cull any less-than-ideal ones that develop, either for melting down or for keeping as emergency standbys in case of needing something to trap or house a swarm.

    That's my take on it, anyway. You probably know by now that given 10 beekeepers there at least 11 opinions about the right way to do things. Welcome to beekeeping!

    Nancy

  4. #3
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    Jan 2018
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Nancy,
    Thank you very much for all that information, for a new beekeeper its a lot to take in. I do plan on only using mediums for honey production in the future, if and when that happens. I might just need to go visit the Menenite farmer next week and get a few more deeps and frames from him to use the rest of the year.

    Right now I am only concerned with learning and building up a strong colony for winter. Being in the honey business may be a choice for retirement in 7 years, but for this year if I do get any honey, that will be shared with family and friends.

    Thanks again, Paul

  5. #4
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    May 2018
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    Poquoson, VA
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    12

    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    I store dawn comb in a big rubbermade tub along with some dicloribenzene (sp) moth flakes. Not Natpthalene as it is an organic that stays in the comb and is harmful to bees. I try to freeze it for a few days prior to putting into the tubs which kills any stray moth or small hive beetle eggs. I seal the lid of the tub with duct tape. You have to pull it out a few weeks in advance of when you need it to let it air out.

    I find that if I freeze it more than a week or two that the wax gets freezer burned and becomes brittle.

    I also recommend feeding new hives as long as they will take it. I am also of the camp that believes that so long as you are not selling honey, that there is nothing wrong with collecting honey that was produced while you were feeding your bees sugar water, especially if your feeding was supplemental, e.g. hit or miss (for me usually more miss than hit) during the flow.

    I use rapid feeders which I put on top of the inner cover with supplemental ventilation holes that are covered with #8 wire. The feeders are inside a medium or shallow super box (no bees there) and it makes it easy to feed them without having to worry about getting the hive excited.

  6. #5
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    Jul 2017
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    Bay, Florida, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Repsag View Post
    get a few more deeps and frames from him to use the rest of the year.
    This is probably obvious (except to the absent minded like me), but be sure you have a good supply of bottom boards and tops too. When I went to do splits I thought I had everything I needed only to find out I had plenty of deeps and mediums on hand but absolutely no bottom boards and tops. Had to call time out and build them.

  7. #6
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    I did as Nancy advised in my second year and went with three deeps. During the flow, I would take out capped honey frames and freeze them and swap in foundation. At a certain point they just wont draw any more so take advantage of it when they are doing it. Pre-winter, I added some of the honey frames to the light hives. Then this spring I removed unused honey frames and extracted them. Now I have extra deep comb.
    In addition to this method, I was lucky enough to hive a swarm. It is not a myth that a swarm makes comb like nobody's business. I kept adding deeps to the swarm while they were in their wax production mode and swapped in foundation along the way. More comb, but you can never have enough. J

  8. #7
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    Jan 2018
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Tom,
    Thanks for the info I appreciate it.

    Iím not sure what the feeder i use is called, basically seen a photo of something that made sense and modified it and made one to work for me, its crude but works, I will make a better one out of 1X8 when i get around to it (real life gets in the way sometimes)

    0FD1F988-8058-46C7-80CA-DAFC60E004C1.jpg

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Grady,
    Thank you, I have them on my list. I am keeping a list on my phone of things I want to try or think I will need.

  10. #9
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Thanks Fivej,

    I did not know about the freezer burn issue, and thanks for the info!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Poquoson, VA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    I use a jar feeder on my 5 frame nucs as the rapid feeders do not fit. The problem that I have with them is that the wastage if they are not feeding strong.

    Here is a link to where I buy my rapid feeders from. The shipping charges are a little high so I generally buy three or four at once or go in with some of my beekeep buddies to place an order.

    https://www.beeworks.com/catalog/ind...products_id=14

    I do not know if it is good or bad but they can suck a lot of sugar water out of one of these. Way faster than a quart jar. In the dearth a strong hive can go through 1/2 a gallon in two days. Anyway it is what works for me as I am not in it for the money or selling honey.

  12. #11
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    make lots of bees, they will make the comb when they need it.

    Crazy Roland

  13. #12
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    Jan 2018
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Thanks Tom!

  14. #13
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    Jun 2008
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    Yuba County, California, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    You wish you'd gotten 3 packages.
    You want more drawn comb.
    Swarms draw comb.

    Do a fly-back split to create a swarm with the old queen, and split the two boxes as you move them away with equal combs each of brood, stores, and eggs. The old queen swarm will draw comb, the two moved away will make queens and become two more hives for you, giving you 3 hives total. It is still early enough in the year to do it, it may take feeding.

  15. #14
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    Apr 2018
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    Northern Colorado, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Another way that you may be able to get more drawn frames is to add more wax to the foundation. If there is extra wax the bees only have to move it instead of having to generate it and may draw it out quicker. One of the local supplier sells foundation with extra wax added for this purpose.

    You can do this yourself by getting a large pot (that you dont care about) and melting the wax on top of the hot water. After the wax melts on the hot (not boiling) water you dip the foundation in and the wax sticks to the frames.

  16. #15
    Join Date
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Thanks Ray,

    At my level of experience a "fly-back split" isnt out of the quesiton, I would just need to learn a whole lot more, but thank you.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Elmer,

    I did not know that, thank you.

  18. #17
    Join Date
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Drawn comb is helpful but it is also something that is perishable. I try to keep drawn comb on the colonies. Trying to hoard it really isn't helpful. Of course you try to keep it and use it, but trying to build up a large stock of it on the side is not very useful. Bees draw comb when they need it. In my climate if you get the drawn comb on the hives before the main flow you usually miss the damage from wax moths, but if you don't, the wax moths may destroy it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Quote Originally Posted by Repsag View Post
    Thanks Ray,

    At my level of experience a "fly-back split" isnt out of the quesiton, I would just need to learn a whole lot more, but thank you.
    OK, here ya go...

    Take with you a box with 10 frames of foundation, 2 top boards and 2 bottom boards. Remove the 4 center frames of foundation, setting them aside for now. Go through the hive, and get a frame that is full of open nectar and put in the edge of the central space you now have in the hew box.

    Next, find a frame of drawn but mostly empty comb to put next to the nectar frame, this is so the queen will have open cells to continue laying. This is important, you don't want her to slow down or suddenly have to stop laying.

    Next to that open cells frame put the frame you find the queen on, with her on it.

    Next to that, put in a frame of sealed/emerging brood. This gives the queen young nurse bees to help with the brood she has and will continue to make.

    Set this box on it's own bottom board with new top board or boards.

    Now, grab the 4 frames of foundation you set aside, and the spare top and bottom boards, and bring them as you move the rest of the two boxes left to new stands. Equalize those to boxes frames with each other so they both have frames of: eggs/youngest larva, older open larva, sealed brood, and stores. Put a frame of foundation on each outside edge of both boxes, that takes care of the four frames of foundation you had extra from making up the queen's artificial swarm box. Set them on their own bottom boards and give them their top boards.

    The queen you left in place will get all the foraging aged bees from the two boxes you moved away. She'll get the most of them the first day or three, but will continue to get some for two weeks since bees go back into the hive for two weeks after their first orientation flights before they become forager aged. The old queens bees will draw comb, they have to in order to keep the queen laying.

    The two boxes you moved to new stands will make their own queens. They will lose their older foraging force to the old queens swarm box you made. This leaves younger bees in them which are the best for making new queens, and for feeding all the open brood they have. These two also got most of the stores frames so they will be fine with stores to keep feeding open larva and making new queens.

    In 12 +/- 1 days new queens will be emerging in the two new hives. Check them on day 10-11 after making them up to be sure they both do have sealed queen cells. The queen will emerge and be laying 2 weeks after emerging, sometimes up to 3 weeks after emerging, but usually after 2 weeks. So, that will mean you should have eggs in them from new laying queens 28 days after setting all of this up.

    You should end up with the original queen hive, and 2 additional hives with 2 new laying queens, all 3 full in single boxes. For this time of year in your area, you may need to start feeding. Check the original queen's box 3 days to a week after setting this all up, if they are not drawing comb yet, then they might need a feeder at this time to draw comb. The other two hives should not really need a feeder until you see eggs laid from the new queen. This way, the danger of robbing is greatly reduced by not having a feeder on a non laying queen hive. Once they are laying, feeders can be given if needed.

    If you can follow all of this, then it may be an option for you to try. If you feel it's a bit much at this time in your experience, then it's something you can think about for next year. Good luck with your adventures in beekeeping!

  20. #19
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Michale,
    Thank you for the info. I wasn’t intending on hoarding, but I understand what you are saying.

  21. #20
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    Monroe County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Drawn Comb- how to get more as a new beekeeper?

    Ray,

    Wow, thank you very much for the explanation. With family and work, and everything in between, it is a bit much for this year. But I will be saving this info for next year and try it then. Is there a better time of year to try this, in my area of PA, maybe earlier in May?

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