Bees need three things to produce comb: 1) Lots of worker bees of the proper age (adolescent bees that have just finished their nurse bee duties), 2) Warm weather/proper time of year (bees will not produce wax in cold weather or during a dearth or when they are storing honey for winter), 3) Lots of fresh nectar or sugar syrup (it takes roughly 7lbs of honey to produce 1lb of wax)! Bees produce tiny flakes of wax from glands on their abdomens. Bigger, well-fed colonies with more bees will produce more wax.
Bees need someplace to put the wax and build their comb. Most beekeepers place foundation inside their frames to aid the bees in building sturdy, straight comb with cells of the proper size. Foundation is a 2-dimensional template with cell outlines stamped on it. It can be made of wax or wax-coated plastic. When you reuse plastic frames, you may have to recoat them with wax. Some beekeepers use foundationless frames. While bees will build wax in these frames, the comb will be delicate, hard to handle, and impossible to extract without destroying it. Also, it will be difficult to prevent crooked comb or cross-comb (sideways comb connecting 2 frames together) which will ruin the comb when the frames are pulled apart.
Honey comb or wax comb is incredibly important to a honey bee colony and a fundamental resource for the beekeeper. Bees raise brood and store food in the comb, and cluster and communicate on the comb. A colony cannot function without drawn comb. Drawn comb refers to 3-dimensional beeswax with hexagonal cells. Comb doesn’t last forever and old, dirty, dark comb should be rotated out of the hive every 3-5 years because it is full of dirt, debris, and absorbed chemicals like pesticides.
More Information: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/the-conditions-necessary-for-comb-building/
Jen Haeger is a new master beekeeper and board member of A2B2.