The Burrs and the Bees

Honeycomb is a marvel of engineering. Darwin once wrote that it “is absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax”. It is the foundation on which everything else in the hive is possible. Honeycomb is a home, storage facility, a womb for baby bees, food processing center and a hub for all the other activities of a honey bee.

~Usher Gay, Savannah Bee Company

Bees are meticulous hivekeepers. If they find cracks (even less than 1/4 inch!) they will fill them with propolis, or bee glue, a thick, sticky, resinous substance made from saliva and beeswax used as a sealant to reduce vibration, stabilize the hive parts, and “prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive, and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth.”

In the 1800s, the Rev. L.L. Langstroth, the father of American beekeeping, discovered that the bess allowed for 3/8 of an inch of space to move around the hive. This is called bee space. A space less than that is filled with propolis, a space larger than that is filled with comb.

Burr comb. Messy, inconvenient, beautiful burr comb containing honey, pollen, nectar, or brood.

When we added the second hive to the large one, we only had a few deep frames. Which meant we had to fill it in with medium frames, introducing the perfect environment for burr comb.

This is not fun to manage in a hive. It makes inspection difficult since it sticks the hive bodies together making them hard to get apart. And it sucks to have to pull apart something so lovely.

I’ll let you know when we get around to removing the comb. Should be worth documenting.


Tammy Perlmutter
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