☯ Beekeeping Tip #9

Rotate your comb out!

It used to be that fully drawn worker comb was like gold. Black gold, Texas tea...whoops! wrong gold:}.  Straight and black after a few years of use, it was kept in the apiary either in use, traded, sold  or in storage and never thrown away.
Times change and the studies are out there to help us.  Our environment is full of chemicals that are inadvertently brought back to the hive. In some cases, those chemicals are put into the hive. The commercial wax foundation beekeepers use has been found to contain residues from the start.  In a 2010  study by Jeff Pettis and colleagues, all 21 samples of commercial foundation tested were contaminated with fluvalinates. (Think Apistan) 
Even if you don't use miticides there are residues that are getting into the hive.


Change or rotate comb out every 2 to 3 years. If you have established hives, make it 30 % of frames each year get rotated out. The black comb is mostly cocooning and propolis by this time, and a solar melter may retrieve some wax but not much. 


While mites may be a scourge right now, the applications  of treatments may be furthering the hardship of the honeybee.
Rinderer et al. [1] showed that drones exposed to fluvalinate during immature development have increased mortality and reduced body weight and tend toward lower sperm counts, and Burley et al. [2] showed that drones similarly exposed to coumaphos have lower sperm viability.

Drones need vitality to find and mate a queen. Diversity of genetics can be lowered when drone populations are weak, not due to genetics but poisoning.

Worker bees were reared in brood comb containing high levels of known pesticide residues (treatment) or in relatively uncontaminated brood comb (control). Delayed development was observed in bees reared in treatment combs containing high levels of pesticides particularly in the early stages (day 4 and 8) of worker bee development. Adult longevity was reduced by 4 days in bees exposed to pesticide residues in contaminated brood comb during development.
Four days in a life that is only six weeks!
The super organism of the hive depends on the longevity of these worker bees.
Apistan … tau-fluvalinate

Haarmann et al. [3] showed that queens have reduced body weight if reared in the presence of elevated levels of fluvalinate. At beeswax coumaphos levels equal to the legal tolerance of 100 ppm >50% of queen cells were rejected by nurse bees in a rearing colony, and those queens that survived to adulthood weighed less than control queens [4] and at 6 months expressed only 31% survival compared to control group survival of 48% [5]
Queens losing body weight or worse queen cells being rejected. We are expecting the bees to live in a toxic environment of our making. We want them to perform and gather as if they are well.
Rotating out those old comb can give the bees some clean space and reduce the infiltration of toxic residues. If you have established hives the rotating out of old comb may give the hive new vitality. If you are still in the beginner stages it will be a habit well worth establishing. For the good of the hive!

Honey bee on sunflower