Saturday, December 26, 2009

Storing Brood Comb

The best way to protect honey comb is to keep it in a hive occupied by a large, healthy colony of honey bees. The worker bees will constantly clean the comb and remove the eggs, larvae, and adults of attacking pests. Wax moths lay eggs in the seams between the boxes that make up the bee hive. These are common flying moths that are present anytime except during extremely cold weather. Their larvae crawl through the seams and enter the hive. The bees in a strong colony will catch and eat the larvae. In a weak colony, the wax moth larvae may have the opportunity to find cells filled with protein-rich pollen to eat. Once these bee hive scavengers have a foot-hold, they can destroy the honey combs, leaving a tangle of woven webbing and feces.

At times it is necessary to store the frames of brood comb in a building away from the bee hives. The frames that have been used by bees to raise brood are particularly vulnerable to wax moth damage because they contain considerable food in the form of pollen, honey, bee bread, and silk cocoons spun by the pupae. The developing wax moth larvae need this food; they can’t live on beeswax comb alone. Without bees to protect the comb, it is quite vulnerable to damage from wax moths. Moth crystals made from PDB (paradichlorobenzene) kill larvae and adult wax moths. Never treat bee hive equipment with moth balls; they are another chemical which is not acceptable for bee hive use. The crystals may be placed on strips of newspaper, as in the photo, atop the frames in tightly stacked hive boxes. Place a cover above the boxes. The crystals evaporate, and the heavier than air vapors sink to the floor, killing all stages of wax moth except the eggs. After storage on moth crystals, it is necessary to air out the frames for several days before placing them in use in a bee hive.


  1. Thanks Richard for the very concise but yet very informative and helpful post. Nice.

    Quick question however, After the storage time has passed and one is ready to air dry the frames to remove any trace elements of the paradichlorobenzene, doesn't this time of air drying make the frames susceptible to invasion at this time? Especially being the time of year and such that one would air-out the frames after all?

    Or is several days really not long enough for moths to locate or is it?

    Any advice, tips or techniques would be greatly appreciated.


  2. We generally use PDB moth crystals to kill wax moth larvae and adults when the brood frames will be in storage for a considerable amount of time. Keep in mind that the moth crystals don’t kill moth eggs, but they do kill each other moth stage. The PBD kills the moth larvae after the eggs hatch. Moth eggs can be killed by freezing.

    One of the occasions that give beekeepers reason to remove boxes of brood frames from our bee hives is when we handle colonies that have died. Another occasion is when we find a weak colony in the fall while setting up the hives for winter. In this case, we usually combine weak hives with stronger ones. While combining hives, we may remove excess boxes. Keeping more boxes of frames on the hive than the bees can cover provides a place for small hive beetles to thrive.

    After storage on PDB crystals, we want to remove the chemical through evaporation by exposing the frames to the air. You asked if the frames are vulnerable to attack during this time. Great question! Moths seek dark, enclosed habitats. We can make the frames unattractive to the moths by turning the boxes upright on their ends, exposing the frames. Moths will not attack the frames if they are positioned so that they are exposed to light and air. I usually leave a fan blowing through the frames.

  3. Hi Richard, The last post on your website was in 2010. Are you still up? I have a question for you if you are.
    Chelsea C Cook

  4. Chelsea,
    Posts are still being published at

    If you have a question, please send an email message to