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4 Ways to Store Frames of Drawn Out Comb Over the Winter

Aug 26, 2020

You extracted some honey and now have a bunch of beautiful, drawn out comb. Ideally, you would store it until next Spring/Summer, but how can you do that without it getting attacked by insects and rodents? 

My #1 way to store drawn out comb in warm is in a chest freezer or refrigerator.

Here's why:

  • The gasket seal on chest freezers and refrigerators will keep out ALL insects. The freezer/refrigerator doesn't have to be on or even work. If you freeze your frames in your home freezer (maybe 2-3 fit at a time), then put them in an old or broken chest freezer or refrigerator. The gasket will keep out all insects and animals.
  • Nothing to build. You can often find broken refrigerators and chest freezers on craigslist.
  • If you have just a few frames to store, the refrigerator is a good option. It won't kill any insects that might be on them, but it will cause them to be dormant. I have found that they fit really well standing up in the short, middle shelf. I can fit 4-5 any still leave half a shelf for food.
  • It has more purpose than just holding frames. Anyone else hate having all this bee equipment that sits around for months? When you don't have to store frames of comb, you can use your chest freezer to store lots of other things, like maybe food. What a concept!

 

Option #2 - Only if you have a cold winter - Hang frames from 2 wire ropes

Here's how you do it:

 

It works well because:

  • Most animals can't reach it. The only ones that can are rodents and they can't climb across wire rope. 
  • Once you freeze the frames once, there won't be any insects on it and it's cold enough to prevent other insects from getting to it. 

 

Option #3 - (cold climates only) - Bags in bins

Here's how it works:

  • Freeze your frames, then let dry in your house - somewhere safe from most insects.
  • Seal in plastic bags. I've found that the vacuum seal bags work well because you can make them nice and long and they're food safe! Trash bags are not food safe and many have a scent added to them.
  • Store bags of frames in large plastic bins that have a fairly tight fit and keep in the basement of your home where it's colder.

This doesn't work in warm climates because cockroaches love beeswax and will easily eat through the bags and get to your wax unless you can find a bin with a gasket seal. I've never found one, but feel free to shop around.

Option #4 - (cold climates only) - Store supers outside with air flow

Here's how it works:

  • Freeze frames for 24-48 hours.
  • Put frames back into supers and leave in a shed, carport, garage or any open air space that has a roof.
  • Rotate every other super 90 degrees so sun and air can get to the frames.
  • Leave out in the open or put in a wire cage if you're concerned about mice or other animals getting to them.

 

There are a few options for you when storing comb. They all first involve freezing your frames. If you don't have a chest freezer, the average freezer on a refrigerator will hold 2-3 frames. This isn't ideal and can take awhile to freeze multiple boxes of frames which is why I recommend a chest freezer. A 3 cubic foot chest freezer can hold at least 28 frames and can still be used even after it breaks. 

You can also use a freezer to store your honey and honeycomb. Freezing honey delays the crystallization process, so if you want liquid honey to sell, freezing is an option to delay it. 

 

 

What to Do with the Old, Dark Comb

If the comb in your frames is getting to be a dark brown, it's best to remove that comb and not put it back in the beehive. There are two reason why I recommend doing this. The main one being that I put treatments into my hives once a year. Beeswax is very porous and the wax absorbs these chemicals. I don't believe the buildup of these chemicals is a good thing and prefer to cycle out this wax.

The other reason only pertains to the comb that is in the brood boxes. The brood cells are lined with propolis and get a lot of traffic from bees walking over them to feed the brood (baby bees) all day. When the comb gets dark, I mean really dark, these cells can get smaller from the buildup of propolis. Although I see some hives use this comb anyway, I also see hives begin to abandon this comb, if they have room to build comb somewhere else. I prefer to take this comb out and give the bees room to build new honeycomb.

Removing old, dark comb is by no means a requirement. It's one of those things I do because I have a hunch it's the right thing to do and so I do it. Some beekeepers never remove the old comb and some beekeepers use this comb as bait in swarm traps because they say it lures bees!

Just to clarify, when I talk about old, dark comb, I'm not referring to comb that's a darker brown. I'm referring to the comb that is almost black. It's covered with so much propolis, if you were to fold it, it would just snap, its so stiff and hard.

If you don't know what to do with this dark comb, I recommend making a solar wax melter. It separates the propolis casings from the wax, leaving you with a nice light, yellow wax and a pile of propolis and dirt you can throw away. If you melt the honeycomb in a big pot, I've found this to be a huge waste of time. I end up with very little wax which is darker form the propolis and a lot of wasted time. Here's how to make a solr wax melter out of a cooler. It's super easy to make and requires no tools.

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