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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Posts
    61

    Post

    I decided I couldn't wait a week to check to see if the queen had been released, so I opened my hive this afternoon.

    The queen had been released, but the combs were running in the direction the queen cage was hanging, which was at right angles to the bars. I tried to twist some of the combs straight, but most of them fell to the bottom of the hive. (They sure can build a lot of comb in five days)!

    I closed up the hive, and called a beekeeper I know. He said that he would come by on Monday and help me straighten out the mess.

    Then I thought I should go ahead and remove the comb, rather than open the hive in a couple of days to see if they were building straight. Might as well take care of everything while the hive and I are both stressed.

    I opened the hive and pulled the comb out, brushing as many bees as I could back into the hive, and putting the comb and remaining bees into a bucket. I couldn't spot the queen among any of them. After I closed the hive, I brushed the rest of the bees off the comb and brought it inside.

    None of the comb seemed to be brood comb, (some unripened honey and pollen), and I didn't see the queen. Should I worry about that five days in?

    I'm going to leave the bees alone until Monday, and then I'll take another look with my beekeeping acquaintance.

    I never knew that becoming a beekeeper would feel so traumatic, but I can see how fun it will be if my bees begin to build their combs straight.

    Paul

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Well, if you destroy a nest in progress with newly installed bees you stand a pretty good chance they might abscond. The better thing to do is try and straighten the combs as you did, but tie them up with yarn or something else thick like hemp twine if you can get it untreated.

    What do your comb guides look like anyway that they could build straight accross them?
    Scot Mc Pherson<br />McPherson Family Honey Farms<br />Davenport, IA<br />BeeWiki: <a href=\"http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org\" target=\"_blank\">http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org</a> <br /><br />Pics:<br /> <a href=\"http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/\" target=\"_blank\">http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/</a>

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Posts
    61

    Post

    The guides are half-inch quarter rounds nailed and glued to the center -- well aligned with the center -- of each bar. The queen bee cage was literally part of the largest comb, so I think they used it as the initial guide rather than the quarter rounds.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    I hang the queen below the bars dangling her a few inches below. It works well because she's in the cluster but not part of the comb guidance system.

    I don't feel round comb guides work well. Sharp points seem to work the best, it gives the bees less choice, rounds give them a little room to try something different and doesn't make it hard on them to divert from the guides. Sharp points make it a little harder to divert.

    That's just my feeling ont he matter.
    Scot Mc Pherson<br />McPherson Family Honey Farms<br />Davenport, IA<br />BeeWiki: <a href=\"http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org\" target=\"_blank\">http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org</a> <br /><br />Pics:<br /> <a href=\"http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/\" target=\"_blank\">http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/</a>

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Posts
    61

    Post

    A website by David McDonald has some examples of the hive design I used:

    http://nambehoney.com/topbar/hive/crowder/

    David runs his bees in a Hardison Hive, but he's coming by on Monday to take a look at what my bees are up to.

    Now that I consider it, I think that part of my initial problem may be that my cleats are too short. I hung the queen cage over to the side, under a part of the bar that had no cleat, so maybe the bees started their pattern there and then progressed to extending it across the cleats.

    Now, I just hope they will use the cleats now that the queen cage is gone, and I've realigned/removed what comb they had built.

    As of tonight, they are still in the hive.

    [size="1"][ April 20, 2006, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: pcooley ][/size]

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Kernersville, N.C.
    Posts
    110

    Post

    pcooley:

    I had the same experience with 2 TBH last year and they both wanted to cross comb.

    If I ever install another package into a TBH I am just going to free release the queen.

    I use pointed comb guides also centered and installed to allow 1/4" to protrude below the bottom of the top bar. But the bees in these 2 hives still crossed and followed the orientation of the queen cage dangling below the top bar.

    I followed Scott's advice last year on these two hives and straightened the combs to the bar and tied them with heavy twine.

    The key to this procedure (as in most beekeeping) I found last year is to stay ahead of your bees. Inspect often and correct often! Small, new comb is much easier to straighten than full height comb full of brood and stores.

    I had to be out of town last year for 1-1/2 weeks during our major flow and could not inspect during that time. 1 of the two had straightened out their handiwork and the other had continued to cross, even after 4 or 5 interventions. Those large combs were a bear to straighten, but they too eventually staightened their work.

    Once you get a couple of straight combs, feed a bar between them and they will build straight, beautiful comb. Continue this until you get the broodnest size they need.

    Enjoy your TBH! I wouldn't have anything else.

    Regards,
    Miles

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Rhea County, Tennessee
    Posts
    127

    Post

    Paul,
    I am sold on the starter strip method....doesn't take much, an inch or two makes a good start, beautiful comb.
    I used a whole sheet on two, half a sheet on four, and a 1/4 sheet on 4 more. Still, only half the foundation of a lang, including trimming off the angles.
    It takes 10 days for the egg to get to the capped brood stage...a little early.
    My biggest worry in your case, did the queen get squished by the falling comb...that would be bad at this stage.

    Roy

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,453

    Post

    I think it would be worth it to any top bar hive keeper to have some swarm catching frames that fit their hive. That way really bad comb can be easily converted to really straight comb.

    http://www.beesource.com/plans/swarmframe.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    chatsworth, calif usa
    Posts
    405

    Post

    On Michael's advice, i made swarm catching frames and was very glad i had.

    I started a TBH with a swarm in a TBH nuc that went cross comb right away. I caught it right away and removed the small amount of comb they had built and turned the nuc to run the bars along the direction they wanted to build. Took care of that problem just like that.

    Fun!-j
    My Mom's other kids are smarter than me, but i'm not nearly as nice.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Posts
    61

    Post

    I checked on the bees again yesterday, and their combs were a little bit straighter, and they were still small enough that I was able to straighten them a bit. I was going to check again today, but the wind has really kicked up.

    I spoke to a friend of mine who is taking Les Crowder's master beekeeping class, (he uses top bar hives), and she told me he advocates checking on a new package of bees daily to make sure they are building their comb straight. She also told me that I can just squish the comb up on the bar when it is still fairly new. I guess I just have to be careful not to squish the queen bee in the process.

    Yesterday was the third time I've opened the hive, and I found that, while I still broke out in a cold sweat, I was much more comfortable with the bees. I'll check them again tomorrow if the wind dies down.

    Thanks everyone, for your advice. I'm already thinking about building another hive.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,453

    Post

    It takes some finess to learn when to try to straighten comb, when to cut it off and when to not worry about it. If it's new comb, heavy with necatar and the weather is hot, you're better off to cut most of the crooked part off below about an inch and just try to straighten the top one inch. Otherwise you may set off a collapse and sometimes a collapse, in hot weather with new comb, goes like a row of dominoes. Once you have some tougher comb it's not so much of a problem.

    Comb that is a little tougher or lighter, you can straighten more easily. Brood comb is usually not much of a risk to straighten as it doesn't have a lot of weight on it.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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