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Is it possible for comb to become too old or too used for the queen to want to lay in it? I have a number of frames that originally came with nucs. It is apparent that they have been in use for some time as the cells appear almost round and smaller than new comb. With each cycle of brood, the queen seems to lay in progressively smaller random patches while she heavily lays in newer comb. This seems not to matter if I put the old frames in the center of the brood box or to the outer sides. The underlying foundation is black plastic.
 

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I would replace those old combs. Pesticides build up in the wax over time and old comb should be replaced on a certain frequency.
 

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Yep. I've had the same problem. Comb so black and nasty that came in nucs the queen won't lay in it. Some cells are capped over pollen, some misshapen. I mean, there must have been SOMETHING in it to be included in the nuc, but once it emerged if it was brood, or was consumed, if it held stores, the bees stopped using it. I saved mine for swarm traps.
 

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mjfranks - If it is the black plastic with raised cell like the Rite Cell from MannLake, just scrape off the old wax with your hive tool, give it a quick wash with some tap water, shake it out, and put in the center of the hive. let them rebuild the wax on it and freshen it up. RiteCell is awesome for that reason alone. If it is the old style plastic core/wax embossing over it, pull it out, and toss as the bees usually won't bother to rebuild on it once the wax is gone.

Under normal conditions they say to cycle out old comb over i think 5 years. So basically when they put NUC's together in the larger operations they tend to get some older comb in them.

Hope that helps a little..
 

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Same thing here. These were old foundationless and foundation frames that came with the nuc. Get rid of that old crap!
 

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Another beekeeper in my area has 70 year old comb his father used in honey supers and is still in use. I have cut out black comb that was hard as a coffin nail during removals that I put into a frame and its been used as brood comb for the past 3 years with no problems. The only comb I have ever culled was a few foundationless frames that I just couldn't straighten, and even then I just cut out the wavy part and the bees rebuilt it straight.
 

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I would get ride of the old comb that came from nucs because they use chemicals in the hive. Your own old comb may not be a problem.
 

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Piggybacking on his very good question: IF there is some capped brood within these old frames do you just sacrifice them?

My old comb is in the bottom box, I'd love to replace with nice new foundation. Should I just do a few frames at a time or do the whole thing assuming I'm not culling frames that have substantial capped brood.

Tx!
 

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I may be a newbee, but it seems like your queen is giving you your answer. If you want the bees to lay in comb and they aren't laying in it, but are laying in fresh comb, then replace it....if it's not completely empty you could probably wait. If the comb is 100 years old and she's still laying in it, then leave it unless you see some problem emerging (poor bee health, etc.)

As for chemicals, I understand the issues around frames from hives that have made the pollination circuit and been around orchards, fields, etc. that have had mass amounts of chemical treatment, but I also know that as a backyard beek, not all of my neighbors are as organic and environmentally conscious as I am when they maintain their yards, not to mention the dept. of transportation's annual spraying they do on the highway. That means that I have chemicals coming into my hives too (probably trace amounts of roundup, weed n' feed, DEET, Miracle Gro, car exhaust, cigarette components, industrial pollutants, coal dust, whatever else people put on their lawns and gardens, etc.). Given what transits the planet in dust, etc (we get pollution from Asia here on the US West Coast), unless you're beekeeping on the moon, you're not going to have a "pure" hive.
 
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