Burr comb in feeding shims

May 6, 2019

Spring feeding in Alaska brings us challenges. I like to use Feeding Shims with Ziploc Bags, as I feel it's a guaranteed way to get warm syrup into the brood nest regardless of what Mother Nature is throwing at us. One of the hazards with using a feeding shim is burr comb. Burr comb is any comb in a hive that is not placed on the face of the foundation. It is a waste of resources, and must be removed. If allowed to continue, they will add to it, eventually making your frames unmoveable. Feeding shims give the bees access to open spaces. Sometimes, instead of going into the brood box to build comb, the girls decide to utilize the free space in a shim. I find this occurs much more frequently when you have brand new foundation in the brood box, as opposed to drawn comb. I use 1"x2" Select Pine, which actually measures 1"x1 1/2". Basically, a shim is a box on top of your deep brood box, but it's only 1 1/2" tall. This gives them enough room to feed from the top of a one gallon Ziploc bag with just enough bee space, and no extra room. Extra space around the Ziplocs is great for placing your queen cage, as hanging her between frames can be dangerous. The combination of the queen laying on top of the frames, next to the feed, in free space is sometimes too tempting to resist, and they will start building burr comb. Deeper shims (such as a medium or deep brood box) are even more of an invitation to build burr. If I find that burr is being built in the feeding shim, I remove it and try to take up most of the empty space. This can be done by adding additional sugar bags, or empty bags half full of air. I have used pieces of scrap wood, even bricks! The point is to take up the empty space in order to convince the bees that there isn't enough room up top to start their brood nest, and force them down onto the frames. Make sure that you leave them access to the top of the Ziploc!

This is how I go about removing burr comb.

This is an experimental prototype hive with an equivalent of a medium hive body for a feeding shim. Although there is drawn comb underneath, they decided to start building up top instead.


In this situation, if there is comb being built, the queen is usually laying her first eggs there. Very carefully and gently brush the bees off of the comb, letting them drop into the brood box. Keep a close eye out for the queen! If you see her, gently move her into the brood box. She typically can't fly when she is in egg laying mode as her abdomen is heavy and distended. I did not spot the queen during this process, but as you can see in the last pic, she was clearly laying. I changed the configuration on this hive in order to remove this empty space, and will re-check in a week or so to make sure she is laying eggs down in the frames.

Get yourself a coffee can or bucket for any wax that you scrape throughout the year, it's pretty incredible stuff!