At some stage you may find that your hive contains old/damaged frames or frames that are honey/pollen bound in the brood box of your hive. You can remove these frames from the brood box and replace with fresh foundation frames or stickies but if they contain brood or aren’t fully capped there are some additional points to consider.
If the frames are honey/pollen bound you may want to move them into the super so they can be fully capped before harvesting/extracting.
If the frames are damaged/old and contain brood, you may want to move them away from the queen (above the excluder) so the brood on the frame can hatch out before the frames are removed. You may also have brood frames with large amounts of drone comb that you want to replace to increase the amount of laying space for workers in the brood box.
There are several approaches to achieve this, but I wanted to put together a basic list of steps to move the frames out of the brood box through the super and then out of the hive.
Note: Clicking the first image to enlarge it, and then clicking on the enlarged image will create a basic animation of the process.
The following is a basic 10 frame full depth Langstroth hive. The lower box is for brood, and the upper is the honey super. I didn’t put an excluder in the following diagrams, but please assume that there is a queen excluder separating both boxes.
The first step is to identify how many frames you want to cycle out (red). If these frames are being cycled out for honey, choose fully capped honey combs in the top box. If the frames are being cycled out because of age/damage/quality, select the ‘worst’ frames and remove them from the top box.
Remove these frames from the top box and place them to the side. If they contain honey, place them in a storage container to prevent robbing. Removing the frames first will make lifting the top box easier.
Depending on the state of the remaining frames you may want to shuffle the frames to the outside of the super. If there is brood on the frames that are to be removed from the brood box, placing them closer to the centre of the super is preferred to help prevent chilling of the brood.
After lifting off the top super and placing it to the side, identify frames in the brood box that need to be removed (purple). In this example I am removing frames that are honey bound. It is common for the frames filled with honey/pollen to be on the extremities of the brood box so that is what is used in this example.
Ensure the queen is not on the frames being removed (purple) and brush off bees before moving them into the gap created between frames in the top super.
Reshuffle the frames in the brood box to make a gap for the new foundation frames or stickies. I prefer to insert the new frames in or near the centre of the brood box pushing the existing frames out from the centre. You may prefer to place an existing brood frame between the two new foundation frames in a ‘checkered’ configuration.
Insert the new frames/stickies (green) in the gap created in the brood box.
Place the hive back together with the queen excluder in place. Monitor the brood frames in the top super over the next few weeks to confirm that the honey in the frame is capped and/or all brood has hatched out.
There are some additional points with this process that need to be considered:
When placing brood comb above the excluder, you may move unhatched drones in the brood frames (especially if you are cycling frames out to reduce drone cells). Unlike workers, drones cannot move freely through the excluder so will remain ‘trapped’ above the excluder after hatching out. Regular inspection of the super is required to allow the drones to exit after moving the frames. An alternative approach is to use a queen excluder with a top entrance. This style of excluder provides an entrance to the hive above the excluder and allows the drones to leave/enter the hive without moving through the excluder.
When moving brood combs into the super it is critical that the brood isn’t exposed to cold. If the brood temperature drops too low the brood will be chilled and perish. Only move brood combs into the super in warmer weather and when the hive is strong enough to warm to maintain the brood temperate of the frame moved into the super.
If i’ve missed anything, or there are any suggestions for improvement for the above, please let me know