Do I need to destroy small-cell comb before installing new bees?

Q: Last year I had small-cell bees in a TBH; it died. I want to install bees in the TBH again, but am getting “normal” bees (not small cell.) Do I need to destroy that comb? Kelly, Indiana

A: We’ve received a variety of answers to this question. We asked Trevor Qualls, an expert on small cell bees. Trevor noted that the queen wouldn’t like it but as small-cell comb was available and drawn out, the likelihood that bees could or would change the cell size would be small. The queen would lay in the small cell comb and then the size of the bee would be small cell size eventually. (By the way, Trevor is speaking at Kelley’s Field Day. Have you signed up yet?)

We asked two more very seasoned beekeepers. (Not) surprisingly, their answers were different. One noted that the big bees probably wouldn’t like it; the queen might have trouble laying in the smaller cell and the entire colony may move on. The other said bees will rebuild the comb to be what they need, so not to worry about it, they may ignore the small comb if they don’t like it and build new to their expectations, or rework it to fit their needs.

Readers, what are your experiences with this? Thanks.

  • email