How To Get Bees To Make More Honeycomb

Honeybees carry out all sorts of tasks that are essential for the survival of the colony. One of these critical tasks is the building of honeycombs. Honeybees make honeycomb on their own naturally, to store the honey and pollen they’ve gathered. 

Usually, this occurs with little input from you, but there are a few situations that arise where bees struggle to build comb. For example, you have a weak, aging colony with no young workers to build honeycomb. No worries! There are several things beekeepers can do to encourage bees to build honeycomb at a quicker rate.

Conditions Needed to Build Honeycomb

Certain conditions are necessary for honeybees to build comb: 

  • Plentiful nectar
  • Warm hive temperature
  • No shelf space
  • Young workers
  • Don’t disturb them

Plentiful Nectar

Nectar or a light sugar syrup is necessary for stimulating wax production. A 1:1 syrup solution is a good option — one part sugar and one part water.

If honey bees don’t have enough resources to make comb, they’ll stop the entire process. Investing in a feeder and pumping out that sweet nectar might be a good idea.

Take advantage of the spring season and plant flowers that are rich in nectar near the hive. During spring and late summer, heavy nectar flows take place. This can provide the energy necessary to build honeycomb.

Warm Hive Temperature

The temperature in the hive must be warm enough for the bees to be able to work and shape the wax. In cold temperatures, beeswax can become very brittle. Even if the bees can secrete wax scales, they can’t properly work it into comb.

Beehives should remain at a constant temperature between 93 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This warm temperature is necessary for the honeybees to be able to activate their wax production glands.

This also is the reason why most comb-making naturally happens during the spring and summer seasons. Keep in mind that if the internal temperature of the hive gets too hot, the wax can begin to melt.

This heat is critical for the honey bees to be able to activate their wax glands, secrete wax and finally mold it into the iconic hexagonal shape.

No Shelf Space

If honeybees accumulate a lot of nectar but have no shelf space, they’re forced to build new honeycomb. Remember, the main reason for building honeycomb is for food and brood storage. So, they will only begin making new wax if they don’t have space for what they harvested.

To encourage them to produce new comb, first check to see if they have empty cells or not. You can do this by making sure they gather a surplus of nectar, forcing them to build a new comb.

If you’re not able to do this and are left with empty frames, try checkerboarding them. You simply inter splice new frames into pre-existing frames in the hive. This galvanizes the honeybees to pull wax from the new frames to make a hive.

It might also be that your honeybees are already producing honeycomb but you’d like them to make more. A new frame without a wax foundation can help encourage building. This will force them to build because a new, empty space is introduced. 

Just keep an eye out for the queen when moving frames. You don’t want to accidentally remove or disturb the capped brood. This could set off chaos in the hive.

Young Workers

Although this isn’t a necessary condition, it’s important to note the role young workers play. Your most productive bees are the younger ones.

To be at their peak efficiency, the worker bees need to be fed pollen during the first week of their lives. This helps wax production because the protein in pollen assists in fat cell development of the wax gland. 

Keep in mind that foragers can also revert to secreting wax, if the need arises. The older workers can get the job done, regardless of their role. They aren’t as fast or efficient as the younger bees, but their efficiency is enough.

The foragers stop when they’ve built the minimal amount of comb necessary. You need to have a heavily populated hive to ensure the presence of young workers. At the same time, a good size colony means sufficient food supplies to fuel the honeycomb-building process. A healthy productive colony is at least 10,000 bees.

Don’t Disturb Them

The honeycomb-making process requires minimal disturbance. Bees gather or link together by the thousands to collect wax from each other to build a honeycomb. As a result, the process requires a lot of extra hive space.

It’s also a highly delicate process, and any external disturbance can cause chaos and panic. This might cause them to inadvertently start the process all over again. Disturbing your honey bees will only cause them to waste their energy and resources.

If you’re anticipating a new honeycomb, you can get anxious and want to check on the honey bees progress constantly. Just be mindful that there are bees measuring out the size of the new comb and other bees drawing out wax from their neighbor. It’s best to let them be until they finish building a new honeycomb.

Summary

Honeycomb making is one of the hardest tasks bees have to do. It requires a ton of energy and resources. The process of secreting wax alone is very energy-consuming for honey bees. Make sure you provide them with sufficient nectar and a warm space.

Along with doing this, you can also play around and move the frames to motivate your honey bees to create a new honeycomb. As long as your bees are healthy and have a consistent energy source, they’ll always produce wax and create a new comb. And if you end up having too much honeycomb – you can always just eat the excess!

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