Does this scenario sound familiar:

You extract your honey, and you put your wet supers on top of the hives to let the bees clean them off. Once they’re finished — and they do their usual beautiful job of getting the honey and straightening the comb — you go back in and take those supers off. You put the moth crystals on the boxes, wrap them up, and Presto! You have reduced you hives for the year. The bees are happy. You’re happy. All is well.

But think again. Have you really done the best thing for your bees?

Starting from the bottom in reducing the hive means that you have to break apart the entire hive. That's a difficult task, but the benefits are worth it.

Starting from the bottom in reducing the hive means that you have to break apart the entire hive. That’s a difficult task, but the benefits are worth it.

Wouldn’t this be an ideal time to leave those good supers on the hive and instead, go down to the bottom box of the hive and get that bottom box off. The bottom box of the hive is the one likely to have the oldest comb, and one of the things that few beekeepers (including me) do a good job is taking off and discarding old comb.

There are several reasons we’re so bad at it.

One is that we hate to discard drawn comb. This is comb we value because the bees don’t have to spend energy making it. It means more honey.

Another is that the oldest comb is probably in that bottom box, and if the day is hot and the bees are ill-tempered, we can probably think of many things we’d rather be doing that taking apart the hive.

But old comb is not particularly good for our bees. It’s absorbed everything that bees have brought into the hive. Comb gives up nothing. The bees would probably abandon it if they could.

So, let’s help our hives stay healthy. We should take every chance we have to get rid of old comb, and just after extraction is one of those times.

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