When it comes to the life of a bee, drawn comb is critical. Without the waxy cells of the drawn comb in a hive, there would be nowhere to store honey for the long months when foraging is not pragmatic. Drawing comb refers to the work that the bees put in to produce this integral product- and valuable commodity.
So, what is drawn comb?
Drawn comb is the produced beeswax that forms the hexagonal cells in the hive. These cells have many purposes, including holding honey made by the bees. The bees go through a production process to ‘draw out comb’ making this beeswax with the digested honey in the hive. The wax is molded by the bees to create the familiar honeycomb texture and shape.
Keep reading to learn more about draw comb in your apiary!
Bees and Drawn Comb
Honeycomb is also called drawn comb, as it is ‘drawn’ by the bees to suit their needs in the hive. The bees process beeswax until it is soft and malleable, and they form it in hexagonal cells, comprising the comb.
Bees work together to fill sheets of individual beeswax cells in the frames inside their hive.
These may be filled with honey, but responsible beekeepers know not to harvest all the honey at one time– particularly during Fall or Winter- but more on that later! Drawing comb is essential to survival for bees.
Drawn comb is essential in the life of a bee. It is used for so many important milestones in a bee’s life.
From raising their young to storing food for winter, the waxy cells of the honeycomb are integral to bees, but also a valuable resource for a beekeeper, too.
So, why do bees draw honeycomb anyway? Some reasons include these:
- Worker bees draw comb for their brood. This is where bees will raise the bee larvae, also called brood.
- Along this line, the bees draw special wax cells for the larvae that will hatch to be the queen of the colony, too.
- Drawn comb often serves as a method of communication among the bees in the hive.
- The comb can help insulate the hive for cooler weather.
- As mentioned, the comb stores the excess honey made and placed there by the bees.
Storing honey in the comb should not be underestimated in terms of importance in an apiary. Without a place to store honey, there would not be ample room in the hive itself for the bees to work and raise larvae.
Harvesting Drawn Comb
There are so many purposes for the drawn comb and as such, it requires a lot of work and effort on behalf of the bee to create.
Bees spend their life drawing comb– many lose their lives in the process. It takes a lot of sweat equity, which is why beekeepers leave some comb for bees to work from when harvesting the honeycomb and beeswax.
While it is important to remove honey and cells to keep your bees producing honey, it is equally as important not to strip the hive of natural resources that the bees also need to survive.
There is a balance between leaving bees enough room to make more honey and raise larvae and providing your bees with enough food and comb.
Best beekeeping practices suggest that you always maintain extra honey supers with drawn comb in them already- this is a quick way to give bees what they need to keep producing honey while ensuring they also have ample storage.
Help Bees Draw Comb
Sounds great, right? There are some things that you can do to help If is definitely in your best interest to help new colonies to draw comb, and there are some things that you- as the beekeeper- can do to encourage this:
Provide bees with plenty of carbs
It takes a lot of energy to produce beeswax and draw comb- some bees give their life to the job. It is estimated that for every pound of beeswax that bees produce, the bees will need about six pounds of honey.
While nothing beats a heavy flow of nectar, it can help to supplement with heavy syrup. Attract bees to the syrup with lemongrass essential oil- make sure it is nontoxic and pure.
Always keep your bee feeders level full to encourage the bees to visit.
Keep your bees warm to encourage the production of drawn comb
The cold makes wax brittle and difficult to work with- warm conditions can help the bees mold it faster and more effectively. Help the bees stay warm in the hive by making sure there is some foundation near the brood nest, as well as moving frames to be nearest the center and warmer parts of the hive.
Remember that bees will only draw comb when they are still growing and developing.
In most regions, this means that warm weather will be when bees most actively draw comb.
Maintain a clean and healthy apiary for the bees.
Keep the area cleaned up of debris that may attract predatory wildlife or insects, which could compromise comb production and jeopardize the wellbeing of your bees.
It always merits a reminder to avoid any potentially toxic pesticides and herbicides on your property or near your apiary.
These can not only impact your honey harvest or the life of a bee, but they can also kill off an entire colony quick. Try to engage neighbors to let them know that you are raising bees on your property- most will be happy to oblige and curb chemical usage for the sake of the bees.
As you can see, drawn comb is as essential to the bee as the flowers that it forages for nectar to make honey.
Without adequate drawn comb, there is nowhere for the bees to store their precious honey- as well as nowhere to raise their brood. If you tend an apiary, use these tips to help bees and encourage them to draw comb- while also keeping them as safe and healthy as possible. Bees are mighty important creatures- be kind to them!