Two hives I have in a melon patch are getting rich. They have the melons for pollen and clover and alfalfa all around the perimeter of the field for nectar.
I decided to move a TBH there, but it is a long hive, too heavy for me. It is a Crowder design.
I decided to transfer the bees to a short, l8-bar hive that I could handle. I grunted and wrestled the long hive to the ground and set my short box on the stand. So far so good. Field bees clustering at the entrance already.
Then I started transferring comb. Beautiful, perfect comb with just a bee space around the perimeter. ---Oops, there is a bit of attachment, oops, a bit more on this next comb. First Mistake: I started at the front of the hive so that I have no place to easily insert a knife to cut, to I carefully TEAR the combs loose.
START FROM THE REAR OF THE HIVE!!!!!!!
Having got the combs loose I put them in the new hive in the order they came out. Another OOOOps. There is a fractional difference in the width of the two hives and the combs have less bee space than before. Never mind; they will either attach or cut.
All done; now to close the hive. Another OOpsie. The combs from the original hive have propolis on their edges. The top bars do not close as tightly as before and I cannot place the spacer stick that tightens and closes the top bars.
Moral: Standardize your hives to close tolerances.
When manipulating, work from back to front.
You tell me what to do about the propolis-induced changes in bar spacing. You surely cannot do much scraping on a top bar with young comb on it in 95 degree weather. My intent is to cut a new spacer, pry the bars tightly together and put in the new, smaller spacer. I am going to make several very thin ones that I can use as shims for the main spacer.
This raises the question of just how important it is to have the hive sealed up at the back. All of my hives are Hardison-style, so I can cover the gap at the back with a bar, and because there's no fixed back board projecting above the sides of the trough, the precise distance doesn't matter. Generally, if the gap is small--say, less than half an inch--I leave it open. I've been influenced in this by Tim Haarmann, a local TBH guy, who routinely leaves a gap at the back for ventilation.
I'm still not sure what the bees prefer. I haven't noticed any difference, as far as the bees are concerned, between the hives which are sealed at the back, and those which are slightly open.
I'm thinking of making more thin shims to put between bars. Sometimes I want one because the bees built a fat comb. Sometimes I need to fill the gap at the back.
Fellows, I am convinced that we still have a lot to learn about managing TBH's. I crank mine tightly closed so that the wax moths and mice cannot find an entry. This also maintains the spacing.
As for ventilation, my Crowder hives have only the three boreholes in the side at front for entry and ventilation. It must have been around 95 degrees F yesterday when I worked the hive. I found a small knot of bees at the entry, but at the far back of the hive, 5 or 6 frames from the nearest honey, I found festoons of bees clinging to the bars as if building comb. Perhaps a pound of bees back there. The inside walls of the hive were also covered with bees, but no extraordinary number of bees on the comb, only a few. I estimated 4 to 5 pounds of bees in the whole hive, a good healthy colony with lots of brood both capped and younger. By the time I was ready to move the old hive the bees had cleaned up the attachments so that the wax was was cry and all I had to do was scrape it off the sides.
Given the fact that there is no ventilation othe than thru the entryway on a tight TBH, I am beginning to wonder how the bees do it.
Huber made that same observation, how amazing it is that they can ventilate the whole hive through such a small amount of area.
Definitely the bees do fine for ventilation in a TBH, with just a single small entrance. But I'd gotten so tired of trying to keep a movable back board on each hive, that was of the precisely correct thickness to leave no gap between the last bar and the back of the hive, that I finally got rid of the back boards, and, since I knew Tim Haarmann had been leaving an entire bar (!) out at the back of all his hives every summer, with no ill effect, I starting thinking I'd just put in enough bars to pretty much cover the whole hive, and not worry about small gaps. Then, when I put small entrances on my hives, influenced by the Crowder hive, I started sealing the back up again, thinking that's the most natural configuration--a feral hive isn't likely to have a vent at the back. But then I reverted to my recklessness again, leaving out the backboards and just getting the hive closed up in an approximate way. I guess I should be watching to see whether the bees propolize the gap at the back--if they do, then I can conclude they'd like me to seal the hive, and not leave the gap.
But, I also don't often scrape the propolis from the edges of the bars. That causes the spacing to vary, so that, for example, on a hive that once had a nice tight seal, the back board might no longer fit with all the bars in place, after a few months of propolis build-up. My thinking about the propolis was that if some people can successfully use bars of 1 1/2 inch thickness, a millimeter or two of added thickness from propolis shouldn't matter, on a 1 3/8 inch bar. If it's really thick, I'll scrape it. But my habit of not scraping has probably led, at least partially, to my frustration with the back boards.
I think where this is all heading, in my own practices, is toward a beekeeping ethic of complete laziness.
Now I think I'll start regularly scraping propolis again.
I have three all the same size 30 bars 1.5 inches so far good strait coomb, one with side attachments but i noticed that where I hung the queen cage greatly influenced where they built all the coomb. Also the kerf I filled with melted wax was the whole length of the bar giving them the choice where to build. As they build they seal the space between the bars. We are having a cold wet summer so far. I think that the bees decide how they want their house. If I wanted my windows closed and someone kept comming in and opening them I'd get a little mad wouldn't you. There is a picture of a feral hive in the side of a house on this site. The bees curved the comb I have to believe that they did this to support weight. My point is as long as we can get the bars out why try interfere anymore. Altering mother nature always ends in a disaster. Less interference more observation is what I'm going to practice.
1. Hang the queen cage in the middle bar 4 or 5
2. fill the middle of the kerf
3. Regardless of the flow feed until the hive is at about 10 bars.
4. Let them do their job
[This message has been edited by MIKI (edited July 14, 2004).]