After listening to Lance Wilson, Master Beekeeper, at the Texas Summer Clinic, we’ll be using this practice in our bee yard. Removing old comb forces the bees to create new wax comb and although this may slow honey production by diverting bees to a new job – it also allows fresh, sterile comb to be built.
Signs it may be time to rotate your wax include –
Darker or black wax – wax acts like a sponge and absorbs what the bees can’t. This includes unwanted materials including pesticides according to the Penn State study done in 2010 on pesticide’s effect on bee colonies.
Shotgun pattern in the brood cells – although this can be a symptom of other hive diseases, it warrants a good look at the comb as well. The queen may decide not to lay in the cells for reasons we’re not able to detect. Perhaps she senses the pesticides? Or maybe she’s just sick of laying in that cell and it’s time to replace it. Either way, mother knows best.
Annual maintenance – good hygienic practices may include getting the comb out every 5 years or so (preferably a little at a time each year so the hive isn’t stressed) So, if it’s been awhile it can’t hurt. We plan to watch the comb and brood cycles and change out comb every 5-10 years as needed.
With a goal of causing as little stress to the hive as possible, it’s a good idea to slowly rotate out the old frames slowly and to stay on the edges of the hive for minimal negative impact. Doing this switcharoo during winter may be the best option – wait until the food stores have been eaten and the resources are empty.