Rotating Comb

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 –

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Superorganism

There’s been a lot of valuable research explaining how the honeybee colony functions as a superorganism – the idea is both obvious and mind-blowing! The bees can’t survive without one another and they work towards a common goal, but it’s even more insane than that.

Bees are inspiring creatures. They create their own food through foraging without damaging the plant they feed from. They do not waste anything – putting the wax, propolis, pollen, water, honey to work in an impressively efficient way.

One of the big ideas behind the “superorganism” is that natural selection prefers the formation of larger units of life. By working together with a hive mind mentality, these bees can accomplish more, protect each other, and work towards a common goal in incremental steps that add up to one, super functioning hive.

One lesson you learn quickly in beekeeping is that bees die. These thoughts of the superorganism comfort me; knowing that what really matters is the health of the entire hive rather than each individual bee.

Maybe humanity has a little something to learn from these bees – from making decisions for the “greater good” to working together to accomplish a larger goal, these little creatures seem to be a step ahead of most of the animal kingdom.