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The Bailey Method of Comb Change

The Bailey comb change is a beekeeping manipulation to remove old or diseased comb and replace it with fresh wax that has been drawn out from foundation by the bees. Leslie Bailey of the Rothamsted research institute, was a leading authority on diseases of the bee.  It was he who suggested that brood comb be changed at regular intervals to minimise the spread of viruses.


"Consider this .... the last thing that happens before a new bee emerges from her cell is - she evacuates her bowels in the cell.  The cell contents are then polished into the cell walls along with some propolis.  As each cell with have 3 or 4 occupants during a year, eventually the colour of the comb turns from the colour of new wax, to brown and after time looks almost black."

It is now known that viruses and pathogens can lie dormant or infest the wax comb in a brood chamber.  As part of their colony management and to minimise the spread of infections, beekeepers need to replace the brood combs at least every 3 years.  This can be done as a third of the comb changed each year, or for all comb to be changed after 3 years.  If the latter method is used, this can be performed as either -


1.  Shook Swarm (not described in this section)

2.  Bailey Comb Change

In addition to completing a comb change, the procedure described below is also used when converting to a different brood box e.g. changing from a standard brood box to a 14 x 12 brood box.

For this manipulation, you will need -

1.  New brood box

2.  New frames and foundation to fill the brood box

3.  New floor


Remove the Roof, Crown Board, any Supers and the Queen Excluder from the hive.


Place a new brood box with frames of fresh foundation over the brood box with the old comb.  Add a feeder and give the bees a liquid feed to encourage drawing the comb on the new foundation.


After approximately 1 week when the bees have drawn some of the comb, locate the queen and place her in the new brood box.  Add a Queen Excluder between the two brood boxes to prevent the queen returning to the old brood box.  Record this date as all brood will have emerged from the old comb after 21 days.


When the majority of the comb has been drawn, a super and queen excluder can be added.


After 21 days, or when all the brood has emerged from the old comb, prepare a new floor and place the brood box with queen excluder and super onto the new floor.


The Bailey comb change is now complete and the old floor and brood box can be removed for sterilisation.

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