I Need My Space, and So Do My Bees.

On Bee Space. I went to visit the bees in the second week of June and had a great deal of difficulty getting the hives open. The bees glued the hive shut with propolis. Bees do this. If frames aren’t aligned perfectly inside of the hive, the bees will fill in the difference with wax to bridge the gap. This wax is called burr comb.

What is Burr Comb?

Burr comb is the comb that the bees build to bridge gaps in areas that the bees think need to be filled. And most of the time, the bees get REALLY creative with the process of filling the nooks and crannies.

burr comb made for bee space that has been backlit
Burr Comb backlit by window light

Why do bees make Burr Comb?

It happens for a number of reasons, for example, could be that spacing between frames is off by a small amount of space. It could also be from over-feeding, Maybe even because the bees don’t have enough room left in the hive to make honey, or even be because a frame is missing, warped or the wrong size by at least 3/8″.

In my case, I acquired a bunch of new equipment this year, and I am mixing it in with equipment that I had. Apparently it’s not a perfect fit and the OCBees wanted to let me know.

Rule of thumb is to get rid of burr comb as soon as you find it and try to fix the spacial gap that is causing the bees to claim their space

Bees function within certain space openings in the hive. It’s called “Bee Space” if ever things get out of balance, even by just by a few millimeters, they bridge the gap with burr comb. I’ll bet you didn’t know that bees are obsessive-compulsive when it comes to their hives.

Kara and the team in the pollinator garden during harvest

Keep peace in the family

As a beekeeper, you have to be able to remove frames from the hive in order to inspect. If the burr comb gets out of hand, you may not be able to do that. The best way of removing Burr comb is to scrape it off with a hive tool. Working efficiently is the main objective in this situation.

Taking too long to remove burr comb could lead to a robbing situation. Robbing happens when a nearby colony decides to help themselves to honey and pollen in a hive that does not belong to them. Robbing happens for a number of reasons, it could be that the invaders don’t have as much honey, it could be that they have a weak queen. Whatever the case, when honey is flowing, you don’t want to leave a hive open longer than absolutely necessary.

Housekeeping without worry

If you made a mess of your frames during clean-up, don’t worry. Since your bees are hard little OCD workers they should have everything back to normal and their liking within a day or two. Leave it to the bees to be overly obsessive about the organization of their home.*

Ways to use Beeswax include candle making, shoe, and furniture polish. crayons, beauty remedies

Bees lapping up honey running out of newly removed burr comb from the hive on Chesterhaven Beach Farm
Bees lapping up honey running out of newly removed burr comb from the hive

*Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees: Honey Production, Pollination, Bee Health By Richard E. Bonney, Malcolm T. Sanford

About the Author

kara

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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