Removing Burr Comb

Beekeeping is learning to understand the language and culture of a different species

polaroid bee Advice from other Beekeepers Thanks to feedback that we received on our last post, we learned that our hive needed a little maintenance. It was clear that the bees were busy building comb and filling it with honey and larvae, however, due to our lack of experience, we didn’t realize that the bees were being overly productive! As you can see in the photo below, all of the circled portions are abnormal comb production.

Great feedback I received in the beekeeping subreddit from Ciene. All the circled portions are burr comb and should be gently removed to promote more even comb production

Burr Comb The ideal hive is where all of the honey comb is neatly built on the interior of each frame. In our case, the bees were building comb on top of a few frames, on the inner cover, and also as a double layer on one of the frames. This abnormal comb structure is commonly referred to as burr comb. Bees are very industrious, and particular about their space. They prefer just enough room between frames for them to move and not any more. So when they find extra space in their hive they will work overtime to fill it up. Apparently, this is not an unusual phenomenon in a new hive, and it can be the result of too much space between the frames.In fact, the frame in our hive that had the burr comb was the exact frame where the queen box was stored. So when we removed the queen box, we obviously didn’t make sure the frames were as close together as they could have been. Burr comb doesn’t necessarily hurt the bees in the hive, it is more of a nuisance for beekeepers because it makes the frames stick together and can make comb development form abnormally.

scrapping off brood 4
Scraping burr comb off of the tops of the frames.

To correct the problem, we suited up, lit the smoker, and dove back into the hive. We gently scraped the burr comb off of the top of the frames. Upon closer inspection, we were pleased to find that only one frame was really affected by the abnormal comb production. So we lifted that frame out and scraped off the burr comb. Scrapping off Brood 1 Ditching the funky comb As gently as possible, we used the hive tool to pry this burr comb from the frame. It lifted off surprisingly easy. I did feel bad that we were disposing of some of the brood with larvae and bees still in there. However, heeding the advice we received from beekeepers more knowledgeable than ourselves, forced us to do what had to be done.

Scrapping off brood 2
Removing the burr comb. Underneath the burr comb the comb production looked normal.

On the Up & Up We were pleasantly surprised to see that the comb underneath the burr was fully developed and looked healthy. We were also happy to find that since our last inspection, the bees had filled out a good portion of the rest of the box and were already moving upstairs to fill out the second hive box. When the top box is about 50% full, we will add another medium hive body, and the three boxes will serve as the brood boxes where the bees can focus on raising their young and storing honey for themselves. Then we will add a “super,” which is a fourth box that is used for the beekeeper to extract honey from, without running the risk of harming the bees.

Burr comb that was removed from the hive. You can see the larvae in some of the combs.


Sources: “1st Time in the Hive since We Removed the Queen Box…Whoa! That’s a Brood! 🙂 • /r/Beekeeping.” Reddit. Web. 14 May 2015. Burlew, Rusty. “Burr Comb.” Honey Bee Suite. Web. 14 May 2015.

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