Very few beekeepers ever give a thought to the age of a brood-comb, and they are of ten heard to say “that they like the tough old combs.” Yes, possibly they do, but does the queen? It must be remembered that at least five bees hatch and mature in each cell every year, each one leaving behind its cast pupa skin, which during the busy season the bees have not time to remove entirely before the cell becomes the recipient of another egg. In course of time the cells must consequently become smaller, with the result that the bees reared in them must be affected in the same way, and eventually a miserable, stunted strain of bee fills the hive.
Four years at the most should constitute the life of a brood-comb, for during that period there have been no fewer than twenty bees that have made use of every cell in it.
By marking the brood-combs when they are first put in the hive, it is an easy matter to detect the age of every one in the apiary.
For instance, in the first year they should have one notch cut in the end, the next year the new combs can have two, and so on till the fourth year is reached. When autumn comes with its examination of the colonies and the arrangement of the brood-chamber for the winter, the oldest combs should be placed on the outside of the chamber and the best and newest in the centre; then if any combs should become mouldy during the winter it would be the oldest, as those on the outside are usually the first to be affected. They can easily be dispensed with when spring comes, without the expense that would be incurred had the newest ones been the victims.
As proof that the queen does not care about old combs it will be noticed that she will always prefer to lay in the new ones, and often when a new one is added in the centre of the brood-chamber she will make use of it before the bees have completely drawn out the entire comb.