Some beekeepers say that their greatest beekeeping asset is their frames of drawn comb. It takes considerable time and resources of carbohydrates for the bees to produce honeycomb. The comb is produced by young bees that secrete beeswax from glands on the lower side of their abdomen. To produce beeswax, the bees must consume a large volume of honey. To make an ounce of beeswax, the bees eat about a pound of honey. Teams of worker bees take the flakes of fresh beeswax and build honeycomb while forming bridges with their bodies across open spaces in the hive, an act called festooning. Using their mouthparts, the bees shape the flakes of beeswax into sheets of six-sided, back-to-back cells. Beekeepers typically place foundation, either formed from beeswax or plastic, in frames to serve as the mid-rib for the bees to build their honeycomb. Depending upon the population of bees and the strength of the nectar flow, it may take the bees an entire year to draw out their honeycombs. The beekeeper may aid the bees by feeding syrup as a supplementary carbohydrate. Once the bees have drawn the beeswax into honeycomb, they are ready to fill it with honey.
After the beekeeper harvests the surplus honey, the frames need to be cleaned of any residue of honey and then stored over winter so that the bees can fill the comb with honey the following year. If the supers of “wet” frames are stacked outdoors, honey bees in the area will remove all traces of honey and take it back to their hives. The supers can then be stored over winter. Stacking clean supers so that air flows through them usually prevents wax moth damage if the frames never held brood. If frames that held brood need to be stored, they need to be protected from wax moths by stacking tightly and covering. Use PDB moth crystals to kill wax moths. Today’s photo: supers stored to allow air to flow through the frames.