The secret to brushing bees
Beekeepers who do not use fume boards or bee escapes to remove bees from their honey supers often brush the bees from each frame before extracting. This works if the brush has long, soft bristles and if the bees are flicked off the frames rather than scrubbed. It’s all in the wrist—several quick flicks and you’re done. But here is the secret:
Recall that honeycomb is built so both sides angle up. If you look at a cross-section of honeycomb, you will see that the cells angle upward from the center of the comb by about 9 to 14 degrees on each side of the frame. This shallow V is deep enough to keep the nectar from running out of the cells before the bees cure it.
If you brush bees downward when the frame is upright, you are brushing the bees against the angled up comb. This is fine if the cells are 100% capped. But if some of the cells are uncapped, the bees’ legs get jammed against the angled up comb when you brush down. Their legs and wings can be torn off and their bodies rolled and damaged as they are scraped against the irregular surface. Think of it as sanding a piece of wood against the grain: instead of smooth and silky, it is rough and ragged.
To avoid the problem, simply turn your frames upside down before you brush. The bees will drop off all of a piece and the job is quick and easy with few losses. Alternatively, you can brush up instead of down and get similar results.