The process of drawing out comb for bees is one of the most important things that the worker bees do regularly because this is something that allows them to thermoregulate their hive and to make sure that the temperatures are at the optimal levels, especially whenever it’s winter. It is needless to say that the comb is important to the life of an entire bee colony, but it is also equally important to you because you need your bees to survive through the colder seasons. So, how do bees draw out comb?
Bees draw out comb by producing beeswax, which bees naturally make by eating honey as they digest it. After a bee produces wax, another worker bee will chew the wax to soften it up until it becomes soft enough to get molded like clay. From there, the bees will mold the wax into the hexagonal comb we are familiar with.
Honey bees are amazing creatures that are capable of doing amazing things instinctively without even getting taught how to do them. In that sense, the process of drawing out comb is also quite astonishing in itself because of how precise bees are at doing it. Now, let’s get to know more about how bees draw out comb so that you will understand its overall basics and become more in awe of what bees can do.
What does drawing comb mean?
In the lifetime of a bee colony, there are plenty of different things that worker bees do that are so important to the survival of the entire hive. You talk about how important it is for them to forage nectar and pollen for their food source and to produce honey. Of course, we all know how important honey is not only for the bees but also to you because that is what will keep your beekeeping hobby or side job afloat as honey is the most popular product that bees tend to produce.
But one of the more important things that the worker bees also do on a regular basis is drawing out comb. The terms “drawing out comb”, “comb drawing”, or “drawn-out comb” may sound confusing and foreign to those who are still beginners in the field of beekeeping or apiary but these are terms that veteran beekeepers tend to throw out a lot.
What comb drawing or drawing out comb basically means is the process of how bees make a honeycomb. They call it “drawing out” because bees seemingly draw the comb whenever they are making it. And when bees say that comb has been drawn out, they are basically referring to how bees have filled an entire sheet of beeswax full of thousands of individual wax cells.
So, whenever you hear the terms “comb drawing” or “drawing out comb”, don’t get confused because this is just a simple way of calling what bees are doing whenever they are making their honeycomb. And bees draw out this comb as a part of what they do on a regular basis because the comb has an important function in the life and survival of an entire honey bee colony.
Why do bees build comb?
If you are wondering why bees even draw or make honeycomb, you have to understand that drawing comb is part of what allows them to survive because a comb has a lot of different purposes when it comes to helping an entire colony. In fact, the comb has a lot of key functions in the colony’s daily happenings.
Worker bees draw comb cells because this is where they will raise their worker bee larvae. They even create special comb cells reserved for worker bee larvae that were selected to be the next queen bees. On top of that, they also use the comb for communication purposes. And one of the most important functions of honeycomb is that it keeps the beehive insulated throughout the colder seasons because it basically adds another layer to the hive.
Of course, you might have also noticed how worker bees use the comb for processing and storing honey, which is important when it comes to the colder seasons because they need to have enough space in the hive to not only store honey as food but to also have enough space for raising larvae.
As you can see, there are plenty of different reasons why bees draw comb as it is essential to the life of an entire colony. If bees did not draw comb, it would be completely impossible for the entire colony to function normally because of how the comb forms part of the bees’ important daily activities and roles. There is a reason why bees are naturally capable of drawing comb, and the reasons relate to how they need comb to survive and perform the important functions that a hive is supposed to be able to do.
What makes drawn comb important?
Now that you know why bees draw comb, you might be wondering why drawn comb is important on your part. This is a legitimate question to ask because bees are supposed to be self-sufficient enough that they don’t need your help to survive. However, on your part, your bees are not only there to live and survive but to also provide you with what you need to make sure that your beekeeping endeavor survives.
So, one of the reasons why a drawn comb is important for a beekeeper is that you need to make sure that you have enough drawn comb prepared so that you will be able to maximize a good flow of nectar. As mentioned, bees use drawn combs for honey storage. And whenever they have maximized their comb storage in the hive, they will most likely no longer have a reason to produce more honey.
However, if you do have drawn comb kept and prepared in case there is a good flow of nectar from the nearby flowers, you will be able to make sure that they have somewhere to put all of the nectar they collected as well as all of the honey they have produced. After all, if a worker bee takes nectar from a forager but doesn’t have enough space in the hive, what happens here is that the bee will be forced to digest the nectar or use up the space that should have been saved for raising the larvae. When that happens, you will be wasting what could have been more honey for you to harvest in the future.
That’s why the best beekeepers will always have extra supers that already have drawn comb so that they can easily take these out and put them in the hives during what seems to be a strong season with good nectar flow from nearby flowers. This will allow them to maximize their bees’ honey production as the bees will have more resources and available room to use for nectar and honey storage.
So, as you can see, drawn comb is not only important for the survival and daily activities of an entire colony but it also has a lot of different benefits for you. This makes it important for you to make sure that your bees are drawing comb and that you know how the process of drawing comb works. Once you know how it works, it would be easier for you to encourage your bees to draw comb.
What do bees build combs with?
If you are wondering what bees use to build comb with, then you probably already have an idea in your head as long as you have a bit of knowledge about bees and the different things that they produce. While honey is one of the things you are familiar with when it comes to the things that bees are able to make from raw materials, the other stuff that they can make is beeswax.
You might have heard of beeswax as one of the things that candles, lotions, and even soaps are made of nowadays. But beeswax is not only there for you to make different products with but they are also naturally used by the bees when it comes to building or drawing out comb. So, what happens here is that the bees produce the beeswax on their own and then use it to draw out comb. This is why beeswax is very important not only for the beekeeper but also for the bees as well.
In case you didn’t know what beeswax is, this is a natural and organic substance that bees themselves produce whenever they consume the honey that they make. Beeswax has a liquid and moldable consistency when it is first produced but will eventually harden into a wax-like substance that is quite durable. And the one thing that is great about beeswax is that it will survive indefinitely because it will not naturally rot or spoil as long as it is stored in the proper conditions.
So, the reason why bees use their very own beeswax for drawing out comb is that it is moldable into different shapes and because of how, when hardened, it is very durable and long-lasting enough to survive indefinitely.
But you might be wondering right now why beeswax doesn’t melt when it is exposed to hot temperatures during the summer, especially considering that bees prefer warm temperatures. Well, bees are great at regulating temperatures so that the inside of the hive doesn’t get too warm or too cold. Bees are amazing at using their wings to cool down the interior of a hive so that the rest of the colony and the beeswax stay cool enough. At the same time, bees also use their body temperatures during the colder seasons to make sure that beeswax doesn’t get too brittle.
As you can see, beeswax isn’t just something that is useful for you to create different bee products with but is also quite important for the survival of an entire honey bee colony.
How long does it take bees to draw out the comb?
Whenever they need to draw comb, bees will do so naturally. But the fact is that there are different conditions and factors involved when it comes to how long it will take for them to actually draw out an entire honeycomb. While this isn’t a problem for a colony because they basically do so in response to their needs, it might be a problem for you because you would want them to work more efficiently so that you can improve your honey production in your apiary.
So, on average, most colonies will take about a week to two months to actually draw out honeycomb. The range seems to be rather wide because, again, there are a lot of different factors involved here. And such factors are very important when it comes to how fast a bee colony will be able to draw out their comb.
For one, the bee population plays a very important role in how fast a colony can draw out comb because of the very fact that there will be more bees working on the honeycomb. That’s why you may want to make sure that the bee colony is populated enough if you want them to draw out their own honeycomb fast enough.
Moreover, bees will also depend on the temperature when it comes to how fast they are able to build some comb because bees prefer to work when the day is sunny and warm enough for them. This allows forager bees to bring in more nectar and for the worker bees inside the hive to work under the right conditions.
Of course, a good flow of nectar is essential for bees to be able to draw out honeycomb fast enough because of how they need nectar to produce honey. How does honey production relate to drawing out comb? Again, bees use honey to make beeswax, which is the foundational material they use to create comb. The more nectar there is, the more honey bees will be able to produce.
That said, as long as the conditions are right enough such that you have a colony that is well-populated and that the nectar flow is quite good, you may be able to expect your bees to draw out this comb fast enough to the point that it might only take about a week or so. However, if the conditions are not favorable, it might take a couple of months for them to draw out the same comb.
How long does it take bees to draw out a frame?
Now, if you are wondering how long it will take bees to draw out comb on a frame or a super that you prepared, then the answer we can give you is essentially the same as how long they can draw out honeycomb. That’s because the conditions that they need to draw out a frame fast enough are essentially just similar to the conditions they need to draw out comb.
The different conditions include the bee population, which should be composed of bees at their prime so that they can maximize honey and wax production, the temperature at which the bees are working, and the flow of nectar and incoming raw materials needed to produce honey and wax.
So, that said, as long as the conditions are right enough and that there is enough food for a good bee population, you should be able to expect the bees to be able to fill out 10 honey supers or frames in about a few days to two weeks. And when the conditions are perfect, some colonies are actually able to draw out comb on 10 frames in a day. But, again, this all depends on a lot of different factors.
That’s why it is on you to make sure that the bees are able to work well enough under the right factors and that the conditions are simply good enough for them to be able to work quickly when drawing comb.
How do bees draw out the comb?
At this point, we have given you the preliminaries and the things that you need to know about what “drawing out comb” means and how fast bees are able to draw comb. Now, let us go to the meat of things and talk more about how bees actually draw out the comb.
So, as you might have already guessed, everything about drawing out comb starts from the raw materials that bees forage on a daily basis. And we are talking about the raw material called nectar, which are sugary saps that flowers produce.
The reason why nectar is the starting point of the entire comb drawing process is that this is the material that the bees collect, store, and use not only as food but also to make honey with. Nectar is the basic building block of honey as the bees consume nectar and then secrete it out once again in the form of honey. And honey isn’t only important because you need to collect and harvest it but also because bees use honey as a source of food as well.
When bees eat honey, they have a choice to fully digest it or to use the honey they ate to produce beeswax, which is the building block of the honeycomb. On average, bees need to eat or consume about 10 pounds of honey to produce a single pound of beeswax. This is why nectar is so important because a good flow of nectar from the flowers will correlate to good honey production on the part of the bees. And the more honey they produce, the more beeswax they produce as well.
After a bee produces beeswax, another worker bee will be there to chew on the freshly secreted beeswax so that it will be mixed with the bee’s enzymes. This allows the beeswax to soften up until it can be molded and added into the comb. The process will continue until bees shape the combs into hexagons that they use as different cells for storing honey or larvae.
So, why do you think bees produce hexagonal shapes when they are drawing out a comb? Well, it all boils down to the nature of bees as efficient creatures that naturally know the most efficient shape to create when it comes to honey storage.
When you look at the hexagon and how you put different hexagons beside each other, you will notice that there is very little wasted space. While a circle should mathematically contain more honey in comparison to a hexagon, the gap between each circle is larger than the gap between each hexagon. As such, the bees would have to produce more wax to fill in those gaps.
As such, the hexagon is the perfect shape when it comes to balancing out maximizing honey storage and space usage. This is why bees are often considered the most naturally efficient workers in the world, as they instinctively know how what to do to work efficiently in relation to their available space, time, and resources.
Why are my bees not drawing out the comb?
Now that you know how important it is for your bees to draw out comb as they use the comb for insulation, honey storage, and larvae rearing, you should already know that your bees should be drawing out comb as much as they can. But there will be times when you notice that your bees are not drawing out comb. Why is that so?
Well, the reason why your bees are not drawing out any comb is that they have no reason to do so. Again, bees will only do stuff when they have a reason for doing such things. So, if there is no reason for them to draw out comb, they won’t draw out any- simple 🙂
Most of the time, the reason why bees draw out their comb is because they need the extra cells not only for honey storage but also for larvae storage. And when it comes to honey storage, it all boils down to a strong flow of nectar.
As such, if the flow of nectar from the nearby flowers isn’t as strong as you would have wanted it to be, your bees won’t have a reason to draw comb because they have no use for the extra space that the comb affords them. This is where it becomes important for you to encourage your bees to draw out comb regardless of how strong or weak the flow of nectar is.
How to encourage bees to build comb
So, if you want to encourage your bees to build comb, you have to give them a reason to do so. But if the nectar flow is too weak in your area, you can speed up the process by feeding your comb with sugary water.
Some people don’t like the idea of keeping sugary water around for bees to feed on because this doesn’t produce the right kind of honey. However, we are not here to produce the right kind of honey but only enough honey for the bees to use for beeswax production so that they will be able to speed up the process of comb building. You are essentially using sugary water as a cheat code that could help speed up the initial process.
Of course, the speed at which bees are able to draw out comb depends on its population as well. For instance, having plenty of bees that are at their prime is essential because these bees are able to maximize their honey and wax production. As such, it is important for you to keep track of your brood cycle so that you can tell how old your bees are. Once you have calculated that the current cycle is at its prime, that is when you should feed the bees with more sugary water so that they can truly maximize honey and wax production.
Moreover, it is also essential that you allow your bees to work under the right temperature conditions. Make sure that they have enough warmth and sunlight because this promotes the foragers to forage for nectar and pollen and for the workers inside the hive to produce more honey and wax.
It is important for beekeepers to prioritize drawing comb during the first year because of how this will allow them to maximize the colony population as well as the honey production in the coming years. A common mistake among beginners is thinking that comb will just get produced naturally, but the experienced beekeepers know for a fact that you have to encourage your colony to produce comb. This is where the knowledge of the entire comb drawing process comes into play, as you would know what the bees need to draw out comb.
Will bees build comb without a queen?
So, what if your hive’s queen went missing or had died, will the bees still build comb without the queen? The answer is yes, they will still build comb without a queen. However, expect that the entire process will be slower because of how the colony will not have enough reasons to build more comb considering that they also use a comb for the eggs or the larvae that the queen has laid. Without the queen, there will be no eggs or larvae to take care of in the individual cells found in the comb.