What Is Burr Comb and Is It a Problem?

Burr comb can be a headache to deal with during hive inspections. It usually occurs when there is a gap larger than 3/8" between hive parts or when the bees build comb on top of the frames or against the hive's wall. Though it is a natural behavior for honey bees, burr comb can be problematic for beekeepers during hive inspections, as it may join together frames that should remain separate and make it challenging to navigate through the hive.

Proper management of the hive, including regular inspections and addressing any excessive burr comb formation, can help ensure that the hive remains organized and easy to manage.

Understanding Burr Comb

Definition and Causes

Burr comb is an excess, ill-placed beeswax comb built by honeybees inside their hive. This unwanted comb is constructed in areas that disrupt the proper functioning of the hive and can make inspections more challenging. The main cause of burr comb is the bee’s instinct to utilize available space and maintain the ideal bee space of about ⅜” (1 cm). Cluttered spaces or improperly spaced frames could prompt bees to build burr comb.

Types of Burr Comb

There are different types of burr comb, depending on where and how it is built within the hive. Some examples include:

  • Comb built on top of frames, impeding the placement of the inner cover or the lid
  • Comb extending between frames or from the frame to the hive wall, making it challenging to remove the frames for inspection
  • Excess comb built within the frames themselves, causing difficulties in pulling out frames during an inspection

While burr comb can be a nuisance during hive management, it is not inherently dangerous. 

Benefits of Burr Comb

Although considered an issue in some instances, burr comb can also be useful for the bees. The extra comb offers additional space for honey, pollen, or brood. Additionally, it can serve as insulation, helping the hive maintain a stable temperature by filling gaps in the structure.

Drawbacks of Burr Comb

Burr comb can make hive inspections difficult. When the burr comb connects the frames, it can be challenging to remove and inspect them without damaging the comb, which can, in turn, stress the bees and disrupt the colony.

Identifying and Preventing Burr Comb Issues

Inspection and Detection

Regular hive inspections are essential to deal with burr comb. Beekeepers should carefully examine the beehive to identify any excess or misplaced combs connecting one frame to another. Smoke can be used to calm the bees during these inspections, making it easier to access and examine the hive’s interior without causing unnecessary stress to the inhabitants.

Preventative Measures

There are several ways for beekeepers to minimize the occurrence of burr comb in their hives:

  • Ensure that frames are correctly spaced – maintaining proper spacing between frames helps reduce the likelihood of bees creating burr comb.
  • Remove excess comb during inspections – promptly removing burr comb during inspections will discourage bees from building additional comb in undesired locations.
  • Use foundationless frames – some beekeepers have succeeded in minimizing burr comb using foundationless frames. However, this option may not suit all beekeepers and isn’t guaranteed to eliminate the problem.

By being proactive during hive inspections, beekeepers can significantly reduce the risk of burr comb issues.

Removing and Managing Burr Comb

Safe Removal Techniques

To safely remove burr comb, start by putting on a beekeeping suit and smoking the beehive to calm the bees. Be gentle and cautious when removing frames with burr comb, as forcing them apart can cause damage and harm the bees. Use a hive tool to carefully scrape away the unwanted comb, being mindful of bee space (approximately ⅜ inch or 1 cm) between frames to prevent reconstruction of burr comb.

Utilizing Removed Comb

Once you’ve safely removed the burr comb, it’s essential not to leave it lying around near the hive, as this can attract pests, predators, or other hives’ thieves. Instead, collect and store the removed comb for later use. Some potential uses for removed burr comb include:

  • Using it to render beeswax for use in crafting, cosmetics, or as a foundation for new hives.
  • Re-purposing it as a valuable resource for educational or artistic purposes.


Burr comb, although a natural occurrence in beekeeping, can be problematic for beekeepers. It’s an unsightly cluster of wax created by honeybees to store honey and pollen and is often found in the upper corners of the hive. This unwanted comb formation can cause damage to the comb, brood, and honey during inspections.

Honey bees create burr comb for specific reasons, and it’s essential to understand these reasons to manage and prevent problems. Wasted space and changing environmental conditions can contribute to the formation of burr comb.

To manage and prevent burr comb formation, beekeepers can:

  • Maintain proper spacing between frames
  • Conduct regular hive inspections
  • Remove any detected burr comb promptly

This will aid in preserving the integrity of the hive, ensure healthy colonies, and lead to more efficient honey production. In conclusion, while burr comb can certainly cause some challenges, it’s manageable with diligence and a proper understanding of honeybee behavior.

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