Building comb... naturally!

Honey bees building comb

New lesson learnt this week... don't leave any empty spaces in the super when the girls are out on a honey flow (or most probably any other time) as this photo shows just what happens when you take the cover board off and turn it upside down. Yes, the girls start making their own comb naturally and this was only after two days!

Bees have been building their own wax comb for millions of years then beekeepers come along and build frames in which we place foundation wax to give them a good start towards drawing out comb. I look at this as a helping hand for the girls but can also see the beauty in the natural comb building and letting the bees do what they are most likely to prefer - and in the shape they also prefer.

Take a look closer at the honey comb. It's a mass of hexagonal wax cells that honey bees build in their colony to store honey and pollen as well as eggs that emerge into adult bees. The angle of the wax cells also matters which is slightly tilted at around 13o. Being a six-sided shape, the cells all fit extremely well together meaning there are no gaps which maximises the amount of stores (honey) that can be stored.

The intricate design and delicacy of this naturally drawn comb is a beautiful thing to see. It was almost a shame to remove it from the cover board but remove I must to add two new foundation frames. If left for the bees to carry on building their natural comb the gap I had created either side would have filled with this comb in no time at all making it difficult to manage the colony. I did apologise to the girls for my own mistake - they were doing what comes to them naturally!

This has made me think about beekeeping naturally. There are many beekeepers who practice this - pros and cons? I'm sure there are arguments for both sides. For the time being, I'm enjoying the journey of learning and discovering the wonderful world of keeping honey bees.