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Bailey Comb Exchange

It has been some time since I last changed my brood comb. In fact I cannot remember how long ago I changed it. My records are not a lot of help. This spring I am going to do it. But why? Well as comb gets older so it gets more laden with diseases and a colony has enough to contend with these days so best to give them a clean environment. The other reason for changing the comb is that as the comb gets older so it gets more dirt in the cells and thus the space inside the cell for raising the workers is restricted. The result is you can end up with smaller workers. Small workers cannot carry as much pollen. Best to change the brood comb - at least every three years.
The aim
The aim is to get rid of all the old frames and replace them with new frames.
How not to do it.
The simplest approach might be to set up a new brood box and then put that in place of the old brood box and shake all the bees into the new box. Sounds easy but involves a lot of disruption to the bees just when you want them to be developing a fully populated hive.
How to do it.
Prepare your new brood box. If it is one that has been used before then make certain it is clean - very clean. Into the clean brood box put the clean new frames minus one in the middle
At the apiary put the new brood box onto a lid or something - to make certain you do not lose the queen. Open up the old brood box and find the frame with the queen.Gently place that frame into the new brood box. At this stage you may wish to cover the new brood box and do a full inspection of the old brood box. Once you have finished looking into the old brood box place a queen excluder on top of it and then put the new brood box on top of that. Add a feeder on top of that using a light spring syrup.Close up and leave for three weeks or so.
An alternative approach is to find the queen and put her into a queen cage whilst you do the inspection. Choose the best frame and put that into the new brood box and only when the new brood box is in place do you introduce the queen. With this method there is less chance of dropping the queen out of the hive but it does mean you have to handle her more.
What happens now?
The old brood box contains brood and nurse bees. They will continue to look after the brood and as the brood emerges from the cells then there will be less work to do and they will move to the upper, new, brood box.In the new brood box the workers will be drawing out comb and the queen laying in the new cells on the new foundation. After about three weeks the lower brood box will be empty of brood and can be removed from the hive. The frames can be removed and disposed of. In the new brood box we have one old frame and on your next few inspections that can be moved away from the centre towards the edge and disposed of later in the season when it has no brood.
Easy - I will let you know how I get on.

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