View Full Version : Tall vs Short Natural Comb
09-12-2004, 11:09 AM
BerkeyDavid graciously sent me some photos of his tbh comb. It is shallower than my tbh comb. I tabulated it by cell size and location. Then I compared it to comb from one of my deeper hives.
Some interesting trends are apparent. First, much less small cell sized comb is seen on the shallower comb.
Second, it's very hard, if not impossible, to maintain the broodnest structure seen in my 'undisturbed' tbh when managing a tbh in the conventional manner. Both David and I managed some tbhs in this fashion.
In one hive, I did the usual cutting, rotating and inserting to get straight comb. In another I slide the entire broodnest toward the rear of the hive, a few top bars per week. In all cases the process was very disruptive. And the core area of the broodnest was compromised. Maintaining it's integrity is not a simple matter of keeping track of which top bars go where.
If my small cell beekeeping experience applies, the loss of integrity in the small cell core area will greatly impact the colonies ability to tolerate mites whether the comb is short or tall.
For more detail see:
09-14-2004, 11:47 AM
Very interesting, and thanks to both of you for your work.
I was initially surprised at the relatively small percentage of small cells in both of the hives given the supposed effect on mites. Then I remembered we are talking about all areas of the hive, not just brood. It might be usefull to break out just the percentage of brood area at given sizes, as this is what would impact the mites.
10-02-2004, 08:09 AM
I didn't compile the results by area for Davids hive, but did it for mine. See:
10-02-2004, 09:57 AM
>When starting a top bar, what do you use for >"starter"? Have you used strips of 4.9mm >foundation to see if it encourages more 4.9 >mm cell construction throughout the comb?
I've tried using small cell foundation as starter strips. But the bees completely ignored its cell size, even when they were drawing out small cell comb on adjacent top bars. The structure of the broodnest overruled the foundation cell size. The bees knew what cell size belonged where and built what they wanted.
It also interesting to note that the bees drew out the small cell sized comb during a major honey flow during the middle of the season. That contradicts my experiences with small cell foundation, which couldn't be drawn during any kind of flow and only during the wanning times of the season.
So I only use a short, blank starter strip now. It's much more robust and faster to construct. Check out:
[This message has been edited by topbarguy (edited October 02, 2004).]
11-13-2004, 08:18 AM
I've just finished analyzing comb from Barry's top bar hive. His hive is much deeper and has a larger volume than either David's or mine. Some interesting observations are apparent.
Barry's bees didn't build comb all the way to the bottom of the hive. The longer combs were constructed about 2/3rds of the available depth or about 16 inchs.
The bees drew out comb on 11 topbars. That made the broodnest just about as long as it was deep. It appears the bees don't prefer long or short comb but prefer a shape that produces maximum volume and minimum surface area. That's very conservative on material and energy.
Looking at three different top bar hives, it apears that the volumes needed occupied the first season was about the same regardless of the shape of the tbh. It will be interesting to see what happens this next year.
Barry will be posting the details here at beesource. I will probably generate a web page as well with a direct comparison between the three hives.
11-13-2004, 02:56 PM
Hi Guys. I've been traveling, back now.
Today it was sunny here, about 45 degrees, northeast wind about 10, and so - of course - I checked out my bees. I was surprised to see that, while my Lang hives were busy busy, my shallowest top bar hive had NO action except for a solitary bee that peeked out after I rapped on the hive. My deepest TBH had 3 or 4, and my middle TBH had a single guard out.
Conclusion? - the deeper the hive, the easier to break cluster?
I am thinking that my TBH's may hvae trouble getting through the winter.
11-19-2004, 12:06 PM
I have just finished analyzing the visible comb in the picture of a feral hive that Joe W., Pennsylvania beekeeper, sent me. The colony is located in a wall between two studs and is almost seven feet tall.
There are a few more assumptions made in the analysis as the comb picture wasn't taken for comb analysis. But overall this hive had about twice as much small cell size comb as I measured in my top bar hive.
So, how tall is tall enough? It makes a difference for us top bar hive guys.
I am building a web page with the details and will post the link here when it's available.
Thinking there could definately be a survival advantage to a taller hive than the one I built.
[This message has been edited by demerl51 (edited November 19, 2004).]
11-19-2004, 12:49 PM
>I am thinking that my TBH's may hvae trouble getting through the winter.
So far my long hives have all done fine. They are only long mediums.
11-19-2004, 06:31 PM
I have been trying to think why there were few bees from my TBH's flying on marginal days. 45 degrees. At first I thought it was because the longer the comb (deeper the hive) the more bees that were flying. The Langs had lots more bees flying than the TBH's. But I am wondering if it might be that the Langs and deeper TBH's had more exposed Hive surface to the suns rays, causing them to heat up quicker. It was a sunny day.
Dennis, it is very interesting your findings of more small cell on the longer combs. If it is agreed that small cells are better (fewer mites) then we should work for that.
I am thinking that maybe they build more small cell to improve the strength of the structure. They always seem to finish the comb with the larger cells. Larger cells hold more honey... etc. so they will build them when they can, but where necessary for strength they must go with small cell.
The small cells seem to be in the center and top of the combs, where the greater strenght would be necessary.
I am curious what would happen if you took some regressed small cell bees and put them in a Top bar? Of course that would be a rather expensive experiment I guess since from what I understand it takes quite a lot to regress them, so probably no one will do that experiment.
11-19-2004, 07:09 PM
I've seen slightly more early entrance activity with my Langs, than with my tbhs. But not by much. I think the tbhs might warm up slower as the activity at my tbhs is usually greater than the Langs, later in the afternoon.
I'm not sure how good very much winter activity is. According to Brother Adam his best hives would appear dead all winter with little or no bee flight until spring. I had a hive like that last year. I figured it was dead or on it's way out with a cluster too small to keep warm enough. But by May, it was my most populus hive. It was my second best producer, after my combo hive, and it's behaving the same way again this winter. One a really good, when all the rest are flying freely, maybe 2 or 3 bees will be seen at the entrance.
I put small cell bees, who had been only been in hives with small cell comb for three plus years,into my first top bar hive. Some may argue they were not fully regressed bees.
So, Barry sent me some comb photos from his top bar hive. Barry was running lusbees in both his small cell hives and his top bar hive. I had run a couple of small cell Lang hives with lusbees but they weren't available for any testing (that's another story).
And if any bees can be regressed, then lusbees are, as they are obtained from Ed and Dee Lusby in Arizona, who have worked harder and tried longer than anyone to regress bees.
I did an analysis on Barry's comb just like I did on the other colonies. That web page is still in draft. Barry will be working up a web page detailing the comb itself. And I will post the link here, for mine,when it's ready.
But I will give the overall results for Barry's Hive with lusbee in them.
5.9mm and Larger 40%
5.9mm to 5.4mm 21%
5.4mm to 5.2mm 17%
5.2mm to 4.9mm 4%
4.9mm and Smaller 17%
I saw the same kind of broodnest structure I've seen in my other hives and that's just about the same cell size distribution as well.
11-20-2004, 10:20 AM
My new comb measurement pages are up. Barry's comb can be seen at:
Joe's comb can be seen at:
Joe is in the process of transferring his website to the new link at the bottom of my page. It's not active yet, but will be in the future.
Have a great Thanksgiving