The question of the day seems to be “How can I fit deep frames into medium boxes?” This problem occurs most frequently when a beekeeper with all medium equipment buys a nuc containing deep frames. Often the quick and dirty solution is to stack two medium boxes together so the frames hang down into the second box. But this only makes the problem worse because the bees can now add even more depth to those frames by adding more comb.
So what to do? Usually I cut the comb out of the deep frame by running a knife along all the attached edges. Then I shorten the comb by trimming the bottom until it will fit into a medium frame. Working carefully, I wind a piece of cotton string around and around the frame and comb to make a sort of sling that holds the comb in the frame. Once you put the frame in your box, the bees will get right to work attaching the comb to the top of the frame.
String, rubber bands, or cotton strips
You can do the same thing with rubber bands or, if the comb is fresh and bendy, you can use strips of cotton fabric cut about an inch wide. This will give a little more support and is easier to work with. Fabric strips also work well if you are tying the comb onto a top bar without side bars and a bottom bar. The fabric strips are less likely to cut through the delicate comb than are strings or rubber bands.
Once the bees have attached the combs and everything is back to normal, they will chew through the supports and carry them outside the hive. You can remove them if you want, but it is not necessary.
What? Kill the brood?
Now, what if you don’t want to sacrifice the brood from the bottom of the deep frame? Instead of cutting away the bottom of the comb, just cut the entire comb in half lengthwise and tie each half into a separate frame. To do this, you need to start at the top of both frames, and your string or other support will be wound around just the top bar and the comb.
Do not attempt to put the bottom piece in the bottom of a frame. You are much more likely to get a straight comb if the pieces hang from the top. Also remember that cells tilt upward, so don’t turn any pieces upside down. ↑The top must be at the top.↑
Cutting the frame
Another alternative, and one I have used, is to just shorten the frame so that it fits in a medium box. Take the deep frame, measure it against a medium frame and, using a hand saw or other cutting tool, cut the side bars and the bottom of the comb. You are left with a three-sided frame, but at least it fits.
These methods may seem like a lot of work, but it is much easier to fix the problem than to constantly mess with frames that don’t fit. Yes, you lose a little brood but it will quickly be replaced. The main thing is to know where your queen is before you cut. For my own peace of mind, I find it helpful to put her in a queen cage if I’m going to do a lot of cutting and tying.
There may be other ways of fitting big frames into small boxes, but these are the ones that have worked for me. If any of you have a better way, please let us know.
Honey Bee Suite