Beekeepers who do not use fume boards or bee escapes often brush the bees from each frame before extracting. This works if the brush has long, soft bristles and the beekeeper has a delicate touch.
Brushing bees can look easy, but developing the right technique requires some knowledge of wax combs.
If you look at a honeycomb from the end, you will see that the cells on both sides of the comb angle upward. The angle varies among colonies, but it ranges from about 9 to 14 degrees from the horizontal. This shallow V is deep enough to keep liquid nectar from running out of the cells before the bees have time to cure it.
Brushing bees against angled comb can injure them
As long as you work completely capped combs, the brush is safe in any direction. But if some of the cells are not capped, the bees’ legs and wings can become jammed against the angled-up comb when you brush down.
Not only can legs and wings tear off, but delicate bee bodies can be damaged as they scrape against the irregular surfaces of the combs. It’s like sanding a piece of wood against the grain or stroking a cat in the wrong direction. Instead of smooth and silky, it is rough and ragged.
An easy fix for brushing bees
To avoid damaging bees, 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. If you don’t want to invert your frames, just brush up instead of down.
Some beekeepers brush at an angle, a technique that works well for many, given a little practice.
Always flick, never scrub
Regardless of where you are using a bee brush, always flick the bees off the surface. You should never use a bee brush like a floor mop to scrub the bees away. Nothing could be more treacherous.
if you gently flick the bees off the frames instead of scrubbing them, the bees will leave and they will be healthy enough to return. It’s all in the wrist—several quick flicks will do the job.
Using a specially made bee brush is also a good idea. Although paint brushes are popular, the bristles are generally too short and stiff to be safe for bees. Do your bees a favor and buy the real thing.
Honey Bee Suite
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