THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Here’s a question I’ve heard a few times about the insulated inner covers we use: “Won’t the bees build a lot of burr comb over the top bars?” The answer is: “No, because the bees don’t build much comb in the winter.” But they sure do build comb once spring arrives, and you better get the covers off before the bees start bringing in pollen. You better remove any rims (or ekes) that are placed on the hives for dry sugar feeding too. We were too busy with work to remove them until today, and look what we found under one of the covers (in our one hive that happens to have follower-boards):

That’s about 3 inches of burr comb under the insulated inner cover (flipped upside down) — several large mounds of comb. It wouldn’t have been as bad if we’d removed the deep rim a couple weeks ago, but we didn’t, so it’s bad. Lesson learned.

UPDATE (a couple hours later): The burr comb was full of eggs. Check out these photos:

Can you see the freshly-laid eggs? The queen may have bee on the burr comb when we pulled it off the hive. Here’s a closer look:

Here’s the comb still attached to the inner cover:

Click the above images to view large full screen versions on a separate page.

Every cell has an egg.

The nurse bees did not abandon the comb (i.e., the brood comb) until they had no choice but to go back in the hive because of the cold. The comb looked like this when we first removed it from the hive:

9 Responses to “Big Time Burr Comb”

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  1. Jeff says:

    Save that burr comb for your swarm traps. Take the burr comb and install in between a frame or two using rubber bands to hold it in place. The smell of comb acts a lure for swarms, thereby increasing the chances of catching a swarm.

    By the way I am working on your swarm trap as we speak.

    • Phillip says:

      Thanks, Jeff. And hopefully I can start making my own wooden ware by this weekend. Maybe. If we can rent a truck or a van… we’re picking up our table saw, delivering a bunch of junk to the dump and then picking up some lumber for making stuff. Then I have a slog of work coming up. So maybe it won’t be until May. But I’m getting there.

      Added hive top feeders to two of our hives today. Split syrup inside one hive while pouring it from an unwieldy bucket. But it sure did smell nice with the anise extract. I’m pretty sure the feeders have leaks. I guess we’ll see what happens.

      I’m working on my own design (in my head) for a feeder that can be refilled from the outside, won’t leak, and is easier to handle than hive top feeders.

      I think there’s plenty of room for innovation in beekeeping. Some of the technology is basic and simple and it works, but there’s more than a few things about beekeeping that should make most sensible people think, “There has got to be a better way to do this.”

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m working on the swarm boxes now and have a top hive feeder for you to try.

    Also I have all my nuc boxes built (6 boxes), double nucs and have 4 bottom boards made. Next I have to paint them when I have a chance.

    Did a quick inspection on all the colonies today. There were a few colonies with 3 frames of eggs, brood and capped brood. Not to mention how much pollen has been stored. I was amazed how much pollen had been stored by 13:00 hrs today and they were bringing it in like there is no tomorrrow. At least if we have cool weather they should continue heavy laying for the next few days.

    If I’m seeing this many capped bees already I am a little concerned where I am going to be this time May month. Going to be a crazy season.

    I pulled my candy boards/cakes out today and removed the insluated covers so they start drawing on the stored carbs faster to empty some frames.

    Cheers

    • Phillip says:

      I’m working on the swarm boxes now and have a top hive feeder for you to try.

      Thanks. I look forward to it. The two I have now are sealed but still leak a bit.

      Also I have all my nuc boxes built…

      Cool. I’m looking forward to building one or two of my own this year — as soon as my saw arrives.

      There were a few colonies with 3 frames of eggs, brood and capped brood.

      I suspect mine are in similar shape or getting there. The bees were bringing massive amounts of pollen yesterday and have been for the past week (at least when it’s warm). And judging from the burr comb I had to pull — every cell had a freshly-laid egg in it — the queen, at least in one hive, is off to the races.

      I hope to do a quick inspection this weekend. I may pull a few frames of empty drawn comb and replace them with empty foundationless frames. The bees are definitely in comb-building mode, and I know I’ll be able to use the empty drawn comb later when I make some splits.

      Or I might just leave everything alone for now.

      Are you planning to reverse your brood boxes? I haven’t decided when to do it yet. Our foundationless colony is very likely living only in the top box now, so I think it’s ready to be reversed. I’m not sure about the other colonies, though. Richard Bonney says to wait until the first dandelions, but the first dandelions didn’t appear last year until mid-May in St. John’s. If we have good weather for the next month, my hives will be cooking like crazy by then.

      If I’m seeing this many capped bees already I am a little concerned where I am going to be this time May month.

      My plan is to keep the hives well ventilated with plenty of room to grow.

      I know some people are keen on reducing to one brood box to increase honey production, but I’m not going down that road this year. That’s just pushing my luck towards swarming.

      I pulled my candy boards/cakes out today and removed the insluated covers so they start drawing on the stored carbs faster to empty some frames.

      I can tell my bees stopped eating the sugar probably about a week ago. When I removed the left over sugar on Monday, they weren’t eating it. They were just removing it from the hive. I had some left over pollen patties that I put inside the foundationless hive, but I may be done with feeding altogether this year. We’ll see.

  3. Robert says:

    What should I do with burr comb after its all scraped off?

    • Phillip says:

      I’ve given all my extra bees wax away, including burr comb. You can melt it down for candles, for mixing up various creams. I have no experience with it, though.

  4. Phillip says:

    I got this Gmail reminder today:

    “Remove insulated inner covers and all rims before April so the bees can’t fill up the extra space with burr comb.”

    I’ll probably wait until the end of March. It’s too bloody cold to do much beekeeping these days. It’s been a cold, cold winter.

  5. Salkenn says:

    We just rendered the wax from a lot of burr comb (well, not a lot..it came to about 1 cuo of wax) but the comb had a lot of larvae in it. Some of the comb was from a very late swarm that froze in the trees, and the rest of the burr was from a hive that we,d been feeding so it had a spacer on top. That comb also had a lot of larvae (looked like all drone cells). We froze the comb to kill everything. (Yeah, i feel bad about that.) Made sure the queen was still below etc. anyway…the wax is a gorgeous orange color, but unfortunately smells like cooked bee larvae, along with the beeswax smell. Will the cooked smell eventually go away, or should i save it to make emergency candles?
    Thanks for your help!
    Sarah

    • Phillip says:

      Sarah, I have no experience in melting wax. I give away any extra wax I collect. As for melting wax with larvae, I’d throw it all away. A few bees here and there aren’t a problem, but larvae are gooey like guts (that’s my technical term for it). That’s like boiling up raw meat. I don’t see how it would ever combine well with wax. My guess is that it would rot and stink no matter what you do.

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