How To Get Your Bees To Draw Comb
Having only new foundation can really slow the progress when expanding hives. Regardless of your particular focus – there is a solution!
Drawing comb in new colonies
If you’ve just purchased a Nuc, package, new hive of bees, or made a split, chances are several frames in your brood box are new foundation. It will greatly increase the speed at which your new bees can draw out comb if you feed them heavily. Whether it is summer or spring, feeding as much as they will consume until they begin drawing out the two outside frames in the bottom box is ideal. At that point, you can add an additional box. Check out this article on adding a second deep from a past issue.
Drawing comb in your second brood box
Once your bees have begun drawing out about a fist-sized piece of comb on the two outside frames in your bottom box, it’s time to add another box. Assuming your second box is a brood box, and not a super for honey, simply continue feeding your hive as much syrup as they will drink. This will help them draw out the comb in the new second brood box as quickly as possible, so you can move on to adding a super and making a honey crop.
Drawing comb in supers pre- honey flow
Once the top brood box is 80% drawn out, or 80% full of bees, it’s time to add your honey super. Remember, don’t add your queen excluder yet, since bees won’t get started drawing out foundation through a queen excluder. So, with no queen excluder in place, add your super, and continue feeding. Check back every few days, and once your bees have drawn out a fist-sized piece of comb on 3-4 frames in your super, you can stop feeding, add your queen excluder, and allow the bees to finish drawing the comb and filling it with natural nectar. This will ensure you have honey in your super, not sugar water. If the bees stop drawing out comb when you stop feeding them, start feeding back up for a few days, then stop again. Sometimes it takes some starting and stopping to get them going strong on their own, especially if the honey flow hasn’t quite started yet.
Drawing extra comb for next year during early summer months
One fun thing to try is using feeding after harvest to encourage your bees to draw out an extra box or two of comb to jump-start your new hives or splits next year with already drawn comb. After pulling off and harvesting your supers, add a deep box of foundation to your hive, above the brood box(s) and feed a 1:1 syrup at a rate of 1-2 gallons per week until the box is drawn and full of syrup. That additional box can be left on over the winter or removed and stored in wax moth crystals. This works far better in early summer than late summer, as the later in the year you go, the more bees resist drawing out comb.