Preparing Boxes for Splits and Supers

Spring is upon us.  Flowers are blooming, drones are flying, it is time to put supers on the hives and/or split some of the hives to create homes for the newest queens.  What follows are photographs of what I am doing to prepare boxes that will be used for splits and supers.

(if you are looking for the blog post about why we are leaving the Bellingham Farmers Market as of June 30, that’s here)

My work area is the hayloft of my barn.  It can be awkward, because of hauling stuff up and down the stairs.  However I have a lot of room to work in because I only have 8 goats these days.

My Bee Equipment Work Area

Bee Box Work area Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls Washington








As boxes come in from the bee yards. They get stacked around my desk.  These boxes are usually the the bottom boxes of my hives, which are empty by spring.

Bee Boxes to be cleaned








Cleaning Bee Boxes

I stack the boxes on a tarp that I have laid on the “deck” – this process gets very messy.

Bee Boxes Stacked for scraping

The frames are removed and quickly examined.  Any frame older than 5 years is discarded.  This is because pathogens can build up on the older foundation.  Is this painful to do? You bet.  But I had some experience with American Foul Brood, and discarding old frames is way less painful.










I just toss them off the deck. Then pick them up at the end of the day – the tossing part’s fun.

Then I look at the remaining frames: Any frame over 3 years, is put in the “for honey” area.  Frames that have been drawn 2 years back get put in the “for brood” area.  Thus 2012 and 2013 can work brood this year along with 2014 drawn comb.  2010 and 2011 are in the “for honey” area.  Usually the bees concur.

But regardless of which area the frames are headed for, the frames and boxes need to be scraped.

Cleaning Bee Boxes and Frames

Boxes get the frame rests, top edges, bottom edges, and inside walls done.  Usually, it’s the frame rest areas that are the most heavily coated with propolis.  If left on, the frames become very difficult to move.

Frame Area Before:

Lip of bee box with propolis

And After:

Brookfield FArm bee box - edge clean

The frames get a lot of build-up as well.

Where they rest together:

Propolis Thick on a Bee hive foundation frame



Clean foundation frame

Even the tips of the frames can get “extended”.

Propolis extends edge of bee hive foundation frame

Once everything is scraped (and this goes quite quickly once you get a rhythm going), the frames are organized into the cleaned boxes.


Bee Frame and Foundation Organization

I use 6 frames of new undrawn foundation, 2 frames of “brood foundation” – the most recent years, and 2 frames of “honey foundation” – the older years in each box.

The line up from left to right:

New / Older / New / Younger / New / New / Younger / New / Older / New

Frame Placement in Bee Box


The new foundations in positions 1 and 10 will be swapped with the Older in positions 2 and 8 when the new foundations at 3 and 7 are drawn out — hope that makes sense.

If the box becomes a super, the new foundations at positions 5 and 6 will be replaced with brood frames from the box to be supered (bringing the brood up), and the new frames will go to positions 2 and 9 in the lower box.

The arrows on the tops of the frames (see photo above) mark the direction of the foundation – as per the Housel Position Method . This has worked well in my hives.

The year that the undrawn foundation was placed in the hive is written on the edge of the frame.  If the bees do not draw it out that year, then the next year date is entered.  I could do this when I pull them out, but I’m usually hurried, so I find it easier to just to correct the date as I put the boxes together

Dates on frames to record year drawn
Then the box is all ready to be hauled down to the truck and taken to the bee yards.

Frames in Bee box


Of Honeybees and Packgoats

This and supering and making queens and splits has taken up a lot of my time.  However I always make time to walk my pack goats (and the retired goats).  We’ve had a new addition to the group: Jerry Lee Lewis (his mom’s Good-Golly-Miss-Molly).  He’s a handsome 5-week old kid, who is already doing the daily walks with the group.

5 week old cashmere goat, Brookfield Farm, WA

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls Washington.  How go your beeyards?

About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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7 Responses to Preparing Boxes for Splits and Supers

  1. Bruce says:

    Great post on hive preparation. I follow a similar method but found “Housel Positioning” very interesting. Do you raise your own queens (grafting) or let the splits make their own? What gives the frames the red coloring? Have you considered making Jerry Lee Lewis a beekeeping goat (

    • I do both : I let some of the splits raise their own queens. Other I use a cell punch (rather than a grafting tool) – this lets me avoid the “pick up larvae and put it down again in the same position without hurting it”, which I find difficult as I don’t do it often enough. The cell punch only leaves one hole, so only one drone cell will be built at each spot. The red is the propolis – and probably some camera issue reacting to that color of red. I love donkey in the beesuit – for me 1) I can’t sew 2) packgoats are probably too small – but it would sure be funny – and functional.

  2. Your propolis is red! It’s much prettier than our brown/black stuff! (In case that makes the scraping anymore enjoyable, haha!)

    • At first I thought it was my camera making it more red than it was, but it really is that red – I have lots of the brown as well – maybe it’s from our Red Cedars? I’ve no idea. It is pretty isn’t it? Just as hard to remove though.

  3. Percy says:

    I am using Kenyan Top Bar hives how can i split or multiply my colonies pliz help

  4. Pingback: Harvesting Honey, Treating Hives | Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey Blog

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