honey bee management

Strange comb in strange places

Burr comb, bridge comb, and brace comb are all terms used to describe comb that is built in places that are reasonable to the bees but annoying to the beekeeper. Wherever honey bees find excess space in the hive—a space greater than about 3/8” (1 cm) wide—they will attempt to build comb.

It is a problem for the beekeeper because it glues things together and makes removing the frames very difficult. Many beekeepers make a habit of scraping away any burr comb when they see it and, if possible, correct the situation that gave the bees the extra space.

How to reduce burr comb

One way to reduce burr comb in the hive is to space the frames as evenly as possible across the width of the hive boxes. If you are using 10-frame equipment, for example, just equalize all the slots between the frames. This prevents having an over-sized space somewhere in the box that the bees will see as an opportunity. Another common place to see burr comb is below the inner cover, especially when it is installed incorrectly—with the rim facing down instead of up. And if you install a slatted rack upside down, the bees will fill in the area below the lowest set of frames.

If you find burr comb, just scrape it away with your hive tool after assuring that the queen is not on it. If you find a new piece of burr comb down in the brood area, hold it up to the light: you may be able to see eggs or larvae inside. Don’t leave the scrapings lying around the apiary, especially if they contain honey, because they may attract animal or insect pests that can become a nuisance. If you are thinking of making candles or some other beeswax product, just collect the burr comb for later use.

Honey Bee Suite

burr comb on a frame

Burr comb attached to a frame. Flickr photo by Joe Deluca

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  • Hi, Rusty, Great burr comb image!
    Just now, making a split from a hive with a deep & two mediums; we found honey on top, queen, eggs & brood in middle, and lots of sealed brood but no eggs, in the deep (the bottom). Unfortunately, the hive box I had set up was a deep, with leftover frames of honey & pollen.
    (Long story why I didn’t have a medium ready to use…)
    I decided to use one of the medium frames of eggs, and put it in the center of the deep, with some deep frames of brood including drone brood around it, and then the stores frames.
    Am I right in figuring that the worst that could happen (next to not raising a queen, of course) is that they would hang a bunch of weird burr comb off the bottom? and I would deal with that when the time came? Since they won’t have a queen for a while, she won’t lay any eggs in it. And maybe I can swap it out for a deep frame when (IF!!) she and then the rest of the brood emerge.
    Didn’t want to wait because first colony are very populous and there’s a lot of forage now. Thanks!
    I re-read all your posts on splits and swarming, and now see them as two sides of the same coin: managing the reproductive impulse.

    • Nan,

      It’s really not a big deal to use a shallow or medium frame in a deep. The bees just lengthen the comb to fit in the box. It is almost always nice and parallel. I used to scrape them off, but I don’t any more. I just use them like any other deep frame. Okay, there’s a bar running through it. It doesn’t bother the bees so it shouldn’t bother me.

      • Hello! So I’m having an issue that I could have easily avoided looking back, but I installed my first bee package, and left one of the frames out, I unfortunately needed to leave for a week so didn’t have a chance to remove the queen cage and add the missing missing frame, I came back to a makeshift frame they built in the missing spot, it’s attached to the queen cage and it seems to be mostly full of sugar water, but I didn’t want to just rip it all out and risk disturbing the new colony too much, any suggestions?

        • Noah,

          Just go into the hive, cut out the burr comb (after making sure the queen isn’t on it) then install the empty frame. If you don’t fix the situation, it will just get worse.

  • Rusty,
    As my new encyclopedia of all things bees I have to ask, how often can I expect to get stung? So far I have either been lucky or my bees have accepted me as their leader (I always wanted minions). I have rummaged around in their house twice now with no stings. Are there ways to reduce aggravating them? I wear light colors around them and try to work from the back of the hives.
    Of course this leads me to my next question. When I am in the hives, what am I looking for? Uncapped honey is pretty obvious, brood, drones and apparently eggs and the queen, not so much. Do you know of any good pictures of the different types of comb?


  • Rusty,

    My bees keep bridging the space between the upper and lower frames. Does this mean I need to make my box shallower? I have noticed that the bees get really upset when I break this honey filled comb. And wow, scraping it off gets them even more upset. It did, however, give me a chance to taste my honey for the first time.

    Thanks for making this site; it has been very helpful.

    • Robert,

      The space between the upper and lower frames should be no wider than “bee space,” which is about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch at most. If it is larger or smaller than bee space, the bees will fill it with something. They will use propolis if it is too small or comb if it is too large.

  • I’ve got 3 medium frames “stuck” together. There was festooning and it appears I’m not an expert in attaching foundation to frames and several of the sheets have shifted and I think that’s what they’ve started with and are now continuing laterally across those frames. When in doubt, close it up and come back later – better than making a dumb mistake. But I’m really wondering what, if anything, I need to do about that. It’s a medium brood box on top of a deep. Any thoughts?

    • Jennifer,

      It’s only going to get worse and your hive will become impossible to inspect. If you have an extra box, put those frames in the extra box above an inner cover. Put new frames down below. After a few days, if no brood is in those frames, the bees should abandon them in favor of the new frames.

      If you have no extra equipment, I think you should cut off the combs and start again. Make sure the queen isn’t around when you cut.

  • My newly installed bees are building comb underneath inner screened cover where their feed is. I’ve tried scraping it off but they still return to that space.

    • Claire,

      That is not unusual. In the early spring especially, the bees like to build comb above the top bars, on them, between them. Wherever. Once you take out the feeder and replace it with a honey super, it will be less of a problem. In the meantime, just scrape it off and keep it for candles.

  • Hi, Rusty–

    If I’m working with two rather newly installed colonies and there’s a fair bit of excess comb (what’s the difference between brace and burr comb?), and I notice larvae and eggs in the cells, is it better to prioritize the management of space (removing excess comb) or the growth of the population (leaving the comb b/c of the larvae and eggs)?

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!

    • Michele,

      Having done it both ways, I say you should prioritize management and get that comb out of the way. It will just get worse and you will end up doing even more damage later. Just cut it out and get them back on track.

      The difference is where it is. Brace comb usually connects two things together, like two frames. Burr comb is usually excess comb attached to something but not necessarily bridged to anything else.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I installed 2 nucs 3 weeks ago today. Did an inspection 2 days ago and noticed that the bees in one hive were building comb on the bottom of the frames down to but not connected to the screened bottom. As mentioned they hadn’t connected it to the screened bottom but they had built on the full length of 4 or 5 of the frames. This nuc had a larger population than the other but they weren’t building out as much on the other frame foundations. I went ahead and put my 2nd Deep on as I thought they may be building on the bottom due to overcrowding.

    Is it typical or have you ever noticed bees building comb in this location? Do you think putting the 2nd deep on was the right thing to do? I moved a frame of nectar and brood into the new deep too.

    Jon (East TN)

    • Jon,

      Bees will build comb wherever there is enough space. It sounds like you may have a little too much space between the bottom of the frames and the screened bottom board. It wouldn’t take much extra to encourage this behavior; perhaps even a sagging screen might be enough.

      If they were building under the frames but not in the frames, it wouldn’t be overcrowding. I would wait on the second deep until most frames (8 in a ten-frame or 6 in an eight-frame) were drawn out. It’s not a critical error or anything, but sometimes you will get a narrow column going up through two deeps instead of a fully-filled single deep.

  • Hey Rusty,

    I’m a very new beekeeper and the bees seem to be building comb perpendicular to the frames almost exclusively in their upper brood box. My frames use plasticell as a foundation.

    When you say “cut the comb out” do you mean scrape all the way down to the plastic foundation? Also what is the best method for removing bees from a frame I need to alter? During my inspection last week I tried brushing bees off just the section of comb I was going to be scraping… Naturally they were not so fond of me taking some comb, so I want to make sure I am doing this the “right” way.

    Thanks for having a great site, don’t let the internet miscreants get you down.

    • Neil,

      Yes, scrape it down to the foundation. (I don’t use plastic foundation, so my wording wasn’t the best. Sorry.) To remove bees, whack the frame hard on the edge of the brood box and the bees will fall into the hive. Sometimes you have to do it a couple times, but it is not as hard on the bees as brushing.

      • Thanks Rusty,
        You have no idea how nervous I was about just banging a frame full of bees, I try and be slow and careful when poking around in the hive, but it worked like a charm and I was able to clean up some of that comb that I have had to break each time I got in there.

  • AND, how aggressive do I need to be on cutting away these combs? I would hate to take too much, but I also don’t want to have to worry about damaging comb each time I do an inspection.

    Thank you

    • Neil,

      Just scrape off the parts that are going the wrong way and leave the rest. But make sure you get all of it that’s going the wrong way or else they will use it as a template and build it again.

  • Hi, Rusty —

    Thanks for all your insights on so many bee-related topics!

    I scraped out the excess comb– some of it was empty, some had nectar, some had brood. i gave the nectar-filled and empty chunks of comb to my host and her son (he wanted to take the fresh, white, empty comb to school to show people), but what should i do with the comb that has now-unviable larvae in it? just toss it? the wax can’t be used for anything else, right?

    thank you!

    • Michele,

      You can put it out for the wild birds to eat; they love larvae. If they clean it out, you can save the wax for candles.

  • Rusty,

    As weird as this sounds, I seem to have burr comb being drawn out inside the plastic lid of my top feeder just above where the bees drink. It seems impossible to get at it without removing the feeder and disturbing the syrup feeding. Is this unusual? Can I leave things alone until the feeding period is over? I’m a little worried that the queen might be in the middle of this as well.

    What do you think I should do?


  • Re: excess comb scrapings. I’m storing them in a zip-loc bag. Can I just keep it refrigerated or is it better to freeze it? I plan to give it to a friend this fall for candle-making.

    Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your site!


    • Barbara,

      Once you freeze it to kill the wax moth eggs, you don’t have to keep it in the freezer. You can keep it in a place away from moths at room temperature. Of course if it contains honey, that could ferment. If it’s clean and dry you can seal it in a ziplock at room temperature, but if it’s damp it may mold in a ziplock. It all depends on what exactly is mixed in.

    • Hi, I caught a swarm mid June and the bees built comb on the bottom bars of the frames in the trap and not inside the frames. I was afraid of absconding so I transferred the frames and bees into two deep boxes. The comb hung down from the top brood box into the bottom brood box. It is now August, should I cut all of it from the bottoms and rubber band the combs into the frames or leave them alone until next year and try to fix it then? I guess timing is part of my question. They are bringing in lots of pollen and seem to be doing good. I just don’t know what the right thing to do is for them. Leave them alone or try to correct.

      Thanks for any advice!

      • This type of problem should always be corrected right away. It doesn’t get any easier over time; it just gets worse.

  • Rusty,
    This is such a great forum!

    Question — I started with a nuc just 1 wk ago. I’ve fed the bees a few times and they are building burr comb beside the feeding dish (because there’s a 1.5″ spacer above the frames). I don’t see them moving beyond the 4 nuc frames to my new empty frames yet. How long does this take for them to move over and start drawing out comb? By having the space and building the burr comb above the frames makes me think they’re wasting time and not building where they should be! Am I just impatient? I don’t care about production of honey, I just want to ensure they are accepting their new home and getting stronger as a colony! They are flying in/out with lots and lots of pollen…..


    • Lea,

      If you remove the feeder, scrape away the burr comb, and take out the spacer, they will start building on the frames.

  • I have bees that have made honeycomb in the roof space of hive. How can I solve the problem?

    • Mervyn,

      Take your hive tool and scrape it off. Add an inner cover to prevent them doing it again.

      • I have a double deep box that a swarm came to, the bottom box is full of frames but the top is empty. They decided to festoon from the top lid and have built quite a bit of new comb hanging from the top lid. Should I just knock them into the bottom box and take away their combs or try to put the existing combs into empty (foundationless) frames and put them between the empty frames (plastic foundation) or is there another recommendation you can make? Thanks in advance…you seem like the guy to ask!

        • Rooster,

          You can knock the bees off into the lower box or you can cut the combs and tie each one onto a top bar. Either will work, but don’t leave the combs on the lid because you won’t be able to manage the hive effectively.

  • I have a hive that I have had for about 3 months, with a 8 frame medium brood box, and another 8 frame medium on top of it, but the bees have not drawn out the top box at all – they are building burr comb between all the frames on the brood box, sticking them all together. So two questions:
    1- What is the best way to clean up the fused frames on the brood box?
    2 – How do I get the bees to start drawing out the upper medium box?
    (FYI – the upper box has wax foundations).

    • Nathan,

      First, I don’t know what season it is where you live, but I’ll assume you’re in temperate North America.

      1. The best way to scrape burr comb is with a hive tool. They are designed with that job in mind, and scraping boxes and frames is something you never stop doing as a beekeeper. If the frames are fused, cut them apart and then scrape the remainder. Just make sure you are not scraping the queen: always look before you scrape.

      2. You can’t force bees to draw out comb if they are not ready. If you are in temperate North American, remember that fall is coming and your colony is shrinking in size. They probably have more than enough room in the one box or else they would be building in the second one. Rule of thumb: colonies expand January thru June and contract July through December. You can’t expect your colony to expand now.

  • Hello Rusty. I’ve just had an experience of extra comb being built in the wrong locations (see, underneath of inner cover). I tightened up the spaces but I was wondering, is there something I can spread in those areas that will dissuade the bees from building there? Maybe something like an oil or grease of some sort? Obviously I wouldn’t want to use harsh chemicals or ingredients. Or maybe adhering a fabric (felt?) to the underneath of the inner cover and other areas??
    Much appreciation.

    • Drew,

      I don’t recommend adding things to a hive (like oil or grease) when we don’t understand all the consequences or what the bees might do with it. I can tell you that they love any type of fabric and would prefer to hang on the that than the wooden frames, which is why fabric or felt is used in a Taranov split.

      We have hive tools for a reason, and it only takes a couple of seconds to scrape the errant comb away.

  • Bees building under their hive — HELP

    I have a hive that I made from a split about a month ago. I took all the frames that had swarm cells on them and moved them into an 8 frame box. Seemed like the right thing to do to prevent a swarm of my hive and get a second hive started.

    I noticed about a week ago that half the foragers returning to the new hive went in the entrance, and the other half went under the screened bottom board. We had a week+ of rain but I finally went in to see what is going on.

    I found first that the main upper hive has lots of nectar and working bees but no eggs, no larvae, and no capped brood. Then I found that the bottom screen has tons of bees under the screen. Not only that but I can see that they have comb built under the hive in the cinder block stand.

    Any suggestions on the best what to fix this?

    I plan on combining them but how can I move the cinder block bees back into the hive? I need their comb as I believe it will have the brood. Since they are somewhat still one hive do I need to use the newspaper to reintroduce them?

    Also how do I attach the natural comb to their frames?

    Aany advice is appreciated

    • Darlene,

      I would just cut the combs off and tie them into frames with string and then reunite the whole colony. You can use newspaper between two boxes if you want, but it is probably not necessary if there is no queen or laying workers in the upper colony. Block off the cinder blocks after you move the bees, at least until they settle in.

  • I have read through these feeds and nothing seems quite like what we have. We had a hive swarm but were lucky and caught it. We put the branch the swarm was on in two empty brood boxes, no frames, and a brood box on the bottom with frames.

    It turns out that after two and half weeks they are just building comb out in the empty brood box on the inner cover and not in the frames. How can I cut off the comb they are building on the inner cover and encourage them to build in the frames? We put a new brood box on top of the inner cover with frames hoping they would move up through the inner cover into the box with frames, but after a week no luck.

    What would you recommend?


    • Jason,

      Never give bees empty space or they will fill it. You can cut off the combs and tie them into frames. Or just knock the bees into the box of frames; they won’t go themselves.

  • I just wanted to let you know that the combine was a success. The most difficult part was that my string was not close enough together and I had to add rubber bands to keep the comb in the frames. I had not thought ahead about how small comb made inside a cinder block would be, some were only one and half inches but maybe five or six inches long.
    The other part that was a challenge was that several combs were attached inside the blocks and didn’t come up with the screen. They took a little work to remove and place in the frames but it was done.
    I never saw the queen. There was lots of larvae and eggs so she had been busy. I will not feel it was a complete success until I get to do an inspection and know she made it okay.
    Today they were flying normally and very active so I hope that is a good sign.
    Thank you for the advice!

  • I have a random question about honey bee behavior and I can’t seem to find an answer. We have a tiny natural pond on our property (spring fed, we assume). Honey bees have always been swarming around the perimeter. At first, they seems to come, drink, and return to a hive that our neighboring farmer had. But three years ago the hive disappeared from view. It could’ve just been moved, but we don’t know.
    At any rate, the honey bees no longer seem to fly in, drink, and leave. They stay and hover around the banks of the pond. There is a dead stump at the edge of the pond, but they don’t seem to enter it.
    Do you have any ideas about whether they have a hive or if they are known at times to live around the banks of a very small pond?
    Thanks for any info you have. We want to be certain to help protect these bees. We garden organically–so we, at least, are doing that right.

    • Patti,

      Honey bees form a colony known as a superorganism, and they have to live together to survive. So if they are honey bees you are seeing, they live with their colony somewhere else. But they are known to love certain watering holes and it would not be surprising to find a number of bees hanging around near it. If it has the right odor, it can be very attractive to them.

  • Forgive me if this is part of the thread above. I am very nervous about something I did and can’t really concentrate. I opened my hive this am, completely newbie, and they had built a burr comb on the underside of the hive cover. It then fell inside of the the hive and I hope it didn’t kill my queen. I think I should remove the rogue comb. What is the best way to do that or should I just leave it at this point.

    • Mindy,

      You probably did not kill the queen, but for your own peace of mind, open the hive and try to find her. And while you are in there, take the burr comb out. The bees will glue it in place, making future inspections difficult. Burr comb between the frames makes it more likely you may injure the queen in the future, so it is better to remove it now.

  • Hi Rusty, I am new to beekeeping. I got a nuc this spring and installed the five frames into a 10 frame deep hive box and added a top feeder. We opened the hive this morning to remove the top feeder. There was quite a bit of burr comb between the top of the frames and the top feeder. We added a queen excluder and a medium super. From what I understand from your blog, I should have scraped the comb from the tops of the frames. I will have to open the hive again and do that. Because I was afraid of injuring the queen, I didn’t pull out any of the original frames. The burr I scraped off the top feeder appear to all be uncapped and contain water only.

    The bees so far have only started building on one of the frames that were not part of the original nuc. Should we remove the super until the colony has built out on more frames.

    Any advice is welcome. Thank you in advance.

    • Betty,

      Burr comb just gets worse and worse and inhibits free inspection of the hive, so just get rid of it. What appears to be water inside the comb is just syrup from your feeder. As a rule of thumb, I usually don’t add a honey super until about 80% of the frames are built out. No harm is done by adding a super earlier, but you want your bees to have enough stores down below to overwinter, so they should be working on that first.

  • Hello,
    A week ago installed a upper deep brood box. My colony is 6 weeks old and had almost filled out all of the bottom 8 frames.
    I inspected it this week and there was no new comb drawn into the frames. But there was a lot of burr comb joining the top and bottom frames and a lot also in the bottom of the frames.
    (I don’t use wax sheets as I like my bees to draw their own comb from scratch, but there is a guide so they know where to start.)
    How can I encourage them to start laying down comb?

    Ps: I removed all the burr comb so they are left with fresh frames again.

    • Debbie,

      Sorry for the inconvenience. I’ve temporarily removed the feed sign-up because I’m getting too many fake sign-ups from spambots. I can add you manually, if that’s what you want. Please confirm.

  • Hi, I’ve read the discussions about removing burr comb above. In two hives, we have a bottom box, then on that, deep supers. In those supers, we have a big mass of burr comb gluing the central frames together into one solid chunk of comb. I now know why (we were told it would be useful to re-space the frames from 10 frames to 9 frames, and that leaves a lot of space between the frames). The question is, today is July 14th, north of Seattle about 20 miles.

    Since nearly all of the comb in the supers, with stored honey, larvae, eggs, whatever, is in that big blob, is it a danger to scrape it out so that we can get the spacing back to where it should be? Is it too late in the season? Or will the bees be able to regroup and recover from losing so much of their resources?


    • Max,

      I would be careful. If it were a normal year (which it is not) we would already be in a nectar dearth. Once it begins, it will be hard for your bees to make up what they lost. Why not wait until all that empties out naturally and then replace it, say first thing in the spring? Or else, cut the combs apart and try to salvage as much as possible?

  • Dear Rusty,
    I have been researching for days on how to remove the burr and comb in my top feeder. They have built all the way up. Am I able to add a medium super underneath the top feeder and then put the top feeder back on with all the comb in it? I am afraid I may have the queen in there. I also forgot to put two new frames in a deep a month ago, and will go to the hive tomorrow expecting two frames worth of burr and comb, what should I do? I have two new frames to put inside but how should I do this? Thank you for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions.
    Thank you!

    • Hannah,

      I don’t have a clear picture. What kind of a feeder is it? Is there brood in it? If it were me, I would make sure the queen isn’t in there, and just cut it away. Alternatively, you can tie the larger pieces into empty frames.

      When you say you want to add a medium super under it, do you mean a medium brood box (and not a honey super)? I want to clarify, because you don’t want to add a honey super (for extracting purposes) if you have a feeder in place.

      As for the other hive, I would cut out the largest chunks and tie them into the two frames. Just use string or rubber bands, and thy bees will soon attach the combs to the frames.

      • Dear Rusty,

        Thank you for your reply to my various questions. I went into the hives and was able to cut out the burr. I smoked the bees out and ended up throwing out the burr after all. The bees had not drawn out the last three or four frames, so they did not need more room. Thank you for your site, It has been so helpful to read what others have to say and your responses!

  • For some reason I was under the impression bees constructed comb from the top down, working across the frame/space. I have one frame of new foundation where they are building the comb in four columns with empty foundation between. They are narrowing the gaps, and being tiny engineers, I presume it will all match up and connect. It looks like nothing I’ve seen. Are they just expressing their artistic differences going up and down?

    • Jill,

      That happens sometimes. Depending on how wide the columns are it can be a real pain, or sometimes it’s not too bad. If the width of their creativity causes problems, you can always cut it away later.

  • Hi Rusty, I love your website.

    I have a new hive I started this spring. The bees are building comb that does not lie flat on the frame. There is a space between the comb and frame that the bees go underneath it. I pulled some of it off, there were no eggs, larvae or honey on them. I pushed some of it between the frames thinking the bees would reuse it. It was almost an entire medium frame of beautiful yellow comb. Do they reuse wax? Should I leave it alone? Thanks

    • Ligia,

      The problem with this type of comb is that it will become harder and harder to inspect your frames. I would either discard it or cut it off and tie it into empty frames using string or rubber bands. The bees will connect the combs to the frames and remove the strings. But if you leave those combs between frames, it will get very messy very quickly.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I just want to say thank you for this awesome website, and especially your care and consistency in answering all the questions in the comments section. I am also a new beekeeper and have perused your blog countless times already this year!

    Thank you, as you might imagine from the location of this post I’m also experiencing burr comb messiness — when we checked on the bees to be sure the queen was laying a couple of weeks ago we must not have pushed the frames close enough together, so there’s burr comb everywhere they’re building. While I’m reticent to scrape off the comb, honey, larvae and everything else they’ve been building, after reading through these comments it seems like the best thing to do.

    Thanks again, you’re a wonderful person and I so appreciate this site!

    Cheers, Karina

    • Karina,

      I know it’s heartbreaking to scrape it away, but in the long run, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Save the honey for tasting, and triple check for the queen before you scrape.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve run into a new thing with burr comb this year, and I’d love your opinion on 1) what is going on, and 2) if I messed up when trying to “fix” the issue.

    Last year I put slatted racks below all my bottom deeps, and have loved them. (Before you ask, yes, I put them shallow side up!) However, this year TWO of my hives (both newly queened this spring) have been busily filling the area between the bottom frames and the slatted rack with burr comb, and the queens are happily laying away there. This would be messy enough to deal with, but in addition, neither of the hives appears to be even thinking about using the upper deep for anything except the occasional promenade. No brood, no pollen, no honey. Nothing. One of the hives was a new colony made of two packages, and since they had such strong numbers so early, I put a whole deep of empty foundation on for their upper deep, thinking they’d fill it out in no time. I’ve been feeding them ever since, and they’re just eating my syrup and completely ignoring my desire for them to draw out the foundation. So on this hive (we’re finally getting to question 2!), I reversed the bottom and upper deep. My thinking is, they obviously love building their comb down, and this way maybe they would be enticed to draw out that foundation, since it’s below their totally-packed-to-the-gills deep. A week later I checked: nope. Nothing. They have become quite crowded and QUITE grumpy in their one deep, and have drawn no new comb on the (now) bottom deep.

    Any advice? Did I mess up by reversing the hive bodies? I have a feeling they’d fill a super in about 3 days with how many bees there are and the fact that we have a nectar flow on, but I really want them to take care of the deep first! I’m in Colorado, and need to overwinter bees with 2 full deeps and one full super.

    • Sarah,

      I have never seen burr comb between the deep and the slatted rack. Is the entrance totally open? Is the screened bottom open (no varroa drawer)? Other than that, I can’t think why they are building there. Sorry.

      As for the the second question, I’m guessing they are preparing to swarm. They are most likely backfilling the brood nest to reduce queen laying and are not concerned with increasing the brood nest. Rather they are decreasing it. One thing you can do is take some of the brood frames from one deep and put them in the other, placing them directly above or below the nest. This will force some into the second box and perhaps they will take the hint.

  • Dear Rusty,

    I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa and I am a new beekeeper. My hive has one deep box and one shallow box. I am using the shallow box as a brood box. But when I just had the deep box they started building so much burr comb. The bees were crawling under the comb! Every time I opened the hive the comb would fall off. I didn’t open the hive for a while and it got crazy. I decided to put a shallow box on top and they filled it up with comb fast. Every frame was great except for the eighth frame. In the eighth frame, the bees did the same thing that they did in the deep box. Should I add more supers or do anything else to help the hive?

    • Jack,

      Most boxes have room for an extra half frame. So if the frames are not spaced evenly across the width of the box, the last one will have too much space and the bees will build burr comb. Try spacing the frames evenly, at least until the bees get started building their combs.

      You can add another box if you want, but now that we’re past the summer solstice, comb building will slow down.

  • I would be interested in joining your blog. How can I register. I saw another comment similar, if you can manually add me I would appreciate that. Thanks

  • I am in my second year. Last year was super I surprised everyone with the amount of honey I was able to take off my 1st year. From 2 hives almost 200#. This year has been very productive also. But last weekend things went sideways for me. I had added a medium 8 frame super, will I checked it a few of the frames had somehow dropped down into the box. Now I have medium super full of burr comb AND honey, I have no idea how to get the girls to move down out of this box so I can clean this mess out. I have no idea where to even start with this. Please any help will be wonderful.

    • Kathy,

      How did you get the bees out last year? Escape board, porter escape, fume board? Just do the same thing. I would put an escape board between the mess and the brood box, scraping off any that is attached and dropping it all in the super. In a day or two remove the super and clean it up.

  • Hi all,

    Inspected the hive today which is 2 brood boxes big. Upper brood box has several frames which are fused together with comb with lots of honey inside. I am hesitant to pull them apart since all of the honey will run down into the lower brood box. However it seems as though the bees have slowed way down in filling out the remaining upper brood box frames. Thoughts? Thanks in advance,


    • Tyler,

      You can’t properly care for a colony if the frames are fused. Cut the frames apart and scrape the burr comb. The honey will run down where the bees will lap it up again.

  • Rusty,

    Out bees just went all out and started building comb under the plywood that we sit the a 5 gallon bucket feeder on. I just noticed it today when I was about to cut the grass around the hives. They have clearly been hard at work, they have 3 drawn combs about 12 in wide by 5 in long. They had to have done this within the last 3 weeks. I’m not sure which one of my hives decided to go crazy like this but I plan to go cut it all off tomorrow and inspect my 2 hives out there while I am at it… Hopefully I can shake them back in their hive (whichever one it looks like they came from if I can help it)… the combs appear to be drawn out nicely so I may put them in some foundationless frames for later use… Have you ever seen something like this? Why do you think they would go rogue and start building like this?

    • James,

      It sounds like a swarm to me. If they are building comb as you describe, you better inspect it and see if it has brood and a queen before dropping it back in one of your hives.

  • We just opened our box to prepare for the winter and noticed that they have built comb on top of the frames. We have a super with 10 frames and put another super on top but only added 5 frames to make them build on them but instead they built beside it to the lid. Do we cut it and shake the bees back into the frame? We seem to have the building also from the bottom frame upwards to the lid. There are about 3 places they have done this. Should we leave it till spring but it is getting bigger and bigger.


    • Jackie,

      That’s a perfect example of what happens when you violate bee space. Any space bigger than about 3/8-inch will be filled with comb.

      I recommend that you cut it off as soon as you can. It will only get worse until you are unable to open the hive at all without tearing the whole thing apart.

  • When they came up with the 8 frame hive body, seems someone was on drugs. There is way two much room on ether side after the frames are installed. Mine have almost enough room for a ninth frame.

    Though I center my frames and place the frames together like there suppose to be, leaves way to much
    room for filler comb.

    Who ever came up with the 8 frame box did not follow the bee space rule at all. Is there a way to correct this without making a beetle motel?


    • Stan,

      A new ten-frame hive body has almost enough room for an eleventh frame. But after a year or two of use, you can only get nine in there. The box sizes are designed to allow for the widening of frames as bees wax and propolize them.

  • This is my favorite bee website. Thanks for all the great info. I have a question about this: “One way to reduce burr comb in the hive is to space the frames as evenly as possible across the width of the hive boxes”

    I’ve been told you should always have frames with brood pushed against each other. What do you recommend? Don’t gaps between frames invite bridge comb?

    • Tommy,

      When I have the maximum number of frames in a box, say 10 frames in a 10-frame box, I space them evenly. When I have less than that, say 9 frames in a 10-frame box, I push them together in the center.

      The best answer is whatever makes sense to you. You, after all, are the one that has to take care of them. Usually, after a season or so, you will put the frames in anyway you can get them to go. Time (plus wax and propolis build-up) make a huge difference in your “plans.”

  • Hi, I’ve just joined and late to this thread, but perhaps you could answer a question for me please?
    I have read that some people using British nationals (which are square unlike rectangular Langstroths) put each box at right angles to the one below to reduce brace comb. I’ve never been taught this on my courses.
    Does this sound sensible or stupid?
    Thank you

    • Chris,

      As far as I know it doesn’t make any difference. I think the bees fill out the frames better when they are right angles, but I don’t have any statistics on it.

  • I have a question, I just installed a hive and placed my queen in between the frames, and she is out today and went to take out the queen box and they had made a burr comb under it, what do I do? Should I pull it out carefully to and make sure the queen is not on it, would she be laying eggs on it? Not sure what to do.

  • I have a question about new comb on the inner cover.

    I am a new beekeeper. My neighbor helped me catch a swarm and I am learning a lot about bees very quickly. I decided to feed my bees sugar water. I placed a baggie of sugar water directly on top of the frames in the deep body, placed a 3″ spacer around it, then placed the inner cover, then the outer cover. I checked the sugar water after two days and they appeared to have consumed about half of it. There were a lot of bees on the underside of the inner cover, but I didn’t see any comb. Today, on day four, I opened the hive to replace the sugar water and there were even more bees on the bottom of the inner cover and they have built a significant amount of comb. Maybe about two fists worth. It doesn’t appear that there is anything in the comb yet (honey, eggs, etc).

    I am considering getting back in there – I would remove the sugar water baggie and 3″ spacer, shake the bees off of the inner lid and into the hive, place a new inner cover and then place the outer cover. I would leave the ‘old’ inner cover leaned against a tree nearby until all of the bees made their way into the hive. Then I would scrape off the comb on the inner lid to be used for a candle or some such thing.

    Is this right? What suggestions do you have for this type of strange comb in a strange place? Thank you!!

    • Molly,

      That’s the right thing to do. You want to take it out of the hive before the bees glue everything together. I just shake off the bees and scrape the wax into a container until I have enough to use for something.

  • Not sure if you are familiar with managing top bar hives, but the solution may be the same. We captured a swarm in late April in an empty, baited TBH. Did a quick inspection today – seems they have multiplied exponentially in the last month. Bees have built out 4-5 bars of comb with honey and brood in addition to filling the 4 empty combs we started with. We also discovered comb building on the floor and going up the sides of the hive under the last bar. We are not using a follower board, though I think that may be part of the problem. Should we scrape that comb off and hope they don’t return to build there?

    • I would scrape it off, but the hoping part won’t do much good. They will probably re-build it, so scraping will be a regular thing. But that’s why we have hive tools.

  • I’m new to the beekeeping world … I’m questioning some of the things I have read about what box to start with when doing inspections … some say the top box and others say go right to the bottom box… what is the correct option?? As well if the burr comb has capped out cells do you still scrap them off with your hive tool?? I just feel bad being as they are close to full term … please any advice that you can give me would be great!! As well most of my top box is full of honey and capped cells … do you think I should be adding a honey super or ??

    • Corry,

      These are just personal preferences. It doesn’t matter which box you start with. Personally, I like to move the top box out of the way, inspect the lower one, then replace the top one and inspect that. But seriously, it doesn’t make any difference. Do what makes sense to you.

      As for burr comb, you can let it hatch if you want, but then you have to re-enter the hive and take it out later. My preferences is to cut it out when I see it. But again, it comes down to what pleases you. Different beekeepers have different styles.

      I don’t know where you live, but in many places you won’t get much honey production in the hot part of the summer. You can add a honey super if you want, but I wouldn’t expect much to happen up there. If you have a fall nectar flow, a super may be helpful or not, depending on how much honey they consume in the dry months.

  • I have a swarm box that the bees built comb to the bottom of the lid to fill the space between frames, what do I do with this. The comb comes out when I remove the lid.

    Thank you

  • I have the same problem that Darlene (May 10, 2016) had. My bees were definitely out of room but we had weeks of rain and cooler temps in February and March (Fort Worth, TX) and didn’t want to open the hive. There were bees on every inch of frames so somewhere in that hive is a wonderful queen. We’re new and couldn’t see her anywhere. There isn’t a lot of room underneath the hive so no room to get under there and cut the comb off. We thought about swapping out that entire part of the hive with the screen bottom board and replacing it with a new one. Is it best to put that comb into our hive or just give them the extra room that they clearly need? I want to do the safest thing just in case the queen is in that comb they built. We don’t have a mentor so have no one to turn to.

    • Charlene,

      You need to know where your queen is. The easiest way to do that is by looking for eggs. You should look in both the brood box and also in the combs beneath the hive. It’s possible, although unlikely, that you have two colonies. If you decide you have just one queen, you can go ahead, cut the extra combs off the bottom and tie them into frames. If you find eggs on the bottom combs, you should capture the queen first before you start cutting the combs. After all the preparations are ready, then you can re-release her. If it takes several hours, you need to reintroduce her in a queen cage because it doesn’t take long for the bees to forget her odor.

  • Rusty,
    Thank you so much for your reply. Whew! I don’t even know how we get to the combs. They are literally underneath the entire hive. Most likely attached to the screened bottom board and just inches from the ground. We were able to see it when we removed the super. My husband built the stand and it has boards on all 4 sides that don’t allow you to see the combs any other way.
    Thank you again for your advice.

    • Charlene,

      Alternatively, you could just leave them there and ignore them. Sometimes the bees will abandon outside combs. On the other hand, the combs may attract robbers and other predators like yellowjackets.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am a new beekeeper. I believe my queen and brood are in between two layers of comb that has been built onto one frame. They have built complete layers of comb all the way down both sides of 1 frame and I can’t find the queen, though I know she’s there because the hive has been increasing in size rapidly and nectar has filled an entire deep box in about 4 weeks. How do you recommend dealing with this?

    Additionally, I’m experiencing a lot of bridges in-between frames, and comb being built up the top edges of the frames. Do you know why my bees are building so many bridges, and how can I discourage this?

    Thanks so much!


    • Christopher,

      Push all your frames together on side of the brood box, and fill the empty space with a follower board. Also, use your hive tool frequently.

  • Great site. 1st year with bees – St. Paul, MN. Two hives. Started on May 2. Already two boxes tall on each hive. Lots of burr comb between the two boxes. Use lots of smoke when removing burr comb, but the bees get really agitated. Looks like I need to do weekly inspections to stay ahead of the burr comb production. Any hints/tricks to make that removal process faster? (Please add me to your list serve.) Thank you.

    • Chris,

      The rate of burr comb accumulation will slow down, usually by the beginning of summer. Burr comb is a fact of beekeeper life, which is why hive tools were invented. You may be able to decrease the amount of bee agitation by reducing the amount of smoke. You want just enough for them to start gorging on honey, but not enough to cause a panic attack.

      At the top of each blog page, you will find a purple box that you can click to subscribe.

  • Hi Rusty, I am having a hard time wording my question well enough for Google to understand so I’m hoping you can help. I am a new beekeeper with 4 hives. One hive is weaker than the rest and on one of their frames (with foundation) they are building comb in three large sections instead of across the frame. It looks like natural comb, the hanging, oblong shape with the rest of the frame untouched.

    Will they eventually fill the frame or should I remove it so they can start over?

    • Ashley,

      If the pieces are all in a line along the length of the frame, they will eventually connect them.

  • Hi,

    I’m in central Wisconsin. I captured a swarm on the 1st of July. I only had access to a top-bar hive so I used that. I leveled the hive and hoped for the best since it was a little late in the season with the honey flow winding down. I checked for brood on the 7th and found lots. Went to check today the 12th to check on progress and the cross comb is horrible. The frames with comb have about 1/3 attached to two top bars the remaining 2/3 is off-center but only attached to one bar. I attempted to separate two bars but lost one comb completely and quit. Any suggestions on correcting the cross comb or write it off as a lost cause?

    I kept a Langstroth hive 25 years ago.

    • Jim,

      You cut all the combs off the bars and tie them in the right place with string, or you can just let it go.

  • Two hives. Both from packages on 4/20. Today inspection 7/19. One hive is loaded with just tons of honey maybe 10 full frames and beautiful smooth honeycomb looks like textbook and lots of larvae, bees, and brood. These bees are pretty aggressive. And there were 3 or 4 queen cups inside. The other hive is far less aggressive but has made maybe 2 frames total honey combined on all the frames. They have bur comb everywhere and I can’t find the queen. I think she may be in an inside under layer of comb. There is quite a bit of capped brood. Which hive is correct? Why are they so different when they are only 10 feet apart?

    • Tam,

      No two children are the same. No two dogs, or horses, or cows are the same, even if they grew up 10 feet apart. They have genetic differences, just like all living creatures.

  • Not sure if you’ll see this, but thought I’d try. I’ve “inherited” (taken over) two hives that were already on our property. Each consists of two medium boxes that fit 10 frames each. Here’s the issue (at least for the new beekeeper). The second (top) box on each of the hives has no frames in it, and when I pried the inner cover off I noticed that there was comb attached to it, and it was already almost filled. Of course, it is curved, much like in nature. I quickly put the cover back down so as not to disturb the comb any more than I already had. I have no idea what the frames in the bottom box look like, but I’m assuming it, too, is a mess. Please help. How can I remedy this?

  • Thanks,
    I have a dodgy back so I built a horizontal hive this winter. I’ll be splitting the top bar this spring (if it makes it). I see a messy spring in my future…

  • Mine are building burr comb on the hive landing board on the outside of the hive. They have plenty of space inside. Have pictures! What are your thoughts?