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This one can be frustrating! We often want our bees to draw comb faster than they do. However, I usually find that bees will draw comb when they are ready and need the space, not because we want them to. Patience is certainly a big aspect of beekeeping! That being said, I’ll share all the tips and tricks I have on getting bees to draw out comb.

But in general, the speed at which bees draw comb is largely based on two factors: the strength of the hive and the amount of food they have access to. If those two critical factors are missing, bees simply aren’t going to draw comb no matter what.

I’ll start with those two factors:

  1. A hive needs to be strong and growing to draw out comb. Whether you are trying to get them to draw comb in a new super or in frames in your brood box, there have to be excess bees to draw comb and to warm the hive. If there aren’t enough bees to cover the area where they are drawing comb, they won’t be able to keep it warm and thus draw comb. This is one of the most common reasons a hive won’t draw comb. Make sure your hive isn’t declining in strength due to mites or other issues and that it has excess food (more on that below). If there aren’t health issues, your hive probably just needs more time. Be patient and let them grow.
  2. It takes about ten pounds of honey/syrup for bees to make one pound of wax. If a hive is short on food, it cannot draw out wax. If you have a new hive that has a lot of foundation to draw out and you don’t have a strong nectar flow in your area, feeding them almost continuously with a 1:1 syrup will help them draw out comb much more quickly. Check on the brood area every week to make sure they are not filling in the brood area with syrup. That’s a symptom of overfeeding (see Fixing Honey Bound Hives). It’s more common to see this issue in the summer and fall rather than during spring buildup. A rapidly growing hive can eat a few quarts of syrup per day and utilize it properly.
  3. Make sure your plastic foundation has a fresh coat of wax. If frames of foundation get a layer of dust on them or are old, the bees are slower to draw out comb. For me, the test is to smell a frame of foundation. If it smells strongly of beeswax, you are good to go. If you can’t smell the wax, it needs to be recoated with wax. Spraying foundation with a light sugar syrup can help encourage bees to move onto the new foundation and begin working it as well.
  4. If you are adding your first super of foundation above a brood box, make sure the bees begin drawing out the comb before you add a queen excluder. Bees won’t go through a queen excluder to begin drawing out comb. However, once they do start, you can go back and add the queen excluder.
  5. Make sure your hive has a queen. A queenless hive that's declining in population is slower to draw out comb.
  6. If you are trying to produce comb honey or need bees to draw out comb quickly for some other reason, the key is to make sure the hive is overcrowded and has an excess of syrup/nectar. When trying to produce comb honey, you can combine two to three swarms into a deep box, feed them heavily for a few days, then add a super. They can often draw it out in a few days! If you don’t have swarms, you can take a very strong single-story hive that’s 100% full of bees and add a comb honey super to achieve the same rapid drawing of comb.

See “Comb Honey and How It’s Done” for more information.

If your bees still won’t draw out comb, it likely means they just don’t need more comb yet. Wait for the hive to grow, and they will draw out the foundation as they need it.

 Are your bees ready for you to add a box? Check out this video to find out!


Dr. Jamie Ellis explains just how valuable drawn comb is for our bees and to us as beekeepers. Getting bees to draw comb can be as simple as feeding, but at times it can take more effort than that. Let's listen!


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