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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Watsonville, CA
    Posts
    18

    Sad

    I am new to this forum and new to TBH and beekeeping in general. I put a 3# package of Italian bees in my first TBH in mid-April. The hive is strong and thriving dispite my clumsy inspections.

    Here's my dilema: I have a disasterous brood comb section. I don't even know how bad it is because once I get in there even moving one comb causes breakage to the next comb (and hence the domino effect). I get too nervous to keep going and so each week I have left it alone except for moving broken combs to the back of the hive for the bees to clean out. Last week I got my courage up after reading several posts about moving cockeyed combs to the back. So I ventured forth and moved my first nasty brood comb to the back, causing a partial break to the one next to it! I stopped there. I am hoping the bees repair what I did.

    Here's the question: Should I attempt to do the same every week - move one bad comb at a time? We are in nectar flow here through November (with warm weather through October).

    My bees are capable of making beautiful straight comb -- I have harvested 2 fully capped combs. The front combs are also nice and straight. I have been very careful about continuing to put empty bars around the brood nest so the queen doesn't get claustrophobic. I have also put emptys next to straight comb to encourage better comb building.

    This forum has kept me going when I felt like giving up! Reading the other trials and tribulations of other novice beekeepers and excellent advice and kept me from giving my TBH away.

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

    Post

    Well, the first thing to talk about is regular inspection. Its the only way to ensure they are building straight combs before it becomes too much of a mess. Now having said that....


    Wiggle each bar away from each other just enough to peek down between them and see. The comb is somewhat pliable and you won't do as much damage as simply removing the comb completely, however this isn't insurance that you won't get breakage.

    At some point, unless they STARTED crooked, the combs will begin to be straight again toward the front of the hive...

    When you find combs that only span 2 bars, pull them out carefully and put them to the back for safe keeping while you work. Keep them together and in order....number you bars if you haven't yet...

    Now go ahead and as carefully as you can (stuff will break), remove all the bars from the hive and separate them....it will be a mess.

    Take the combs that still attach and striaghten them...if you have comb from two combs on the same bar, you MUST remove one of them and try and tie it onto the match bar and strighten it.

    Eventually you will be left with a messy lookiong brood nest combs, but the bees will repair it and glue everything back together...the pieces you straighten will squish brood and make irregular comb...however it will be striaght...

    Take your best honey comb and put that to the front of the hive...then place the best lowest numbered comb and put it next...then your lowest numbered yucky comb, then the next lowest best comb, then the next lowest yucky comb. etc etc etc....By putting good combs between bad, you will help them fix the bad comb and help rebuild it straight again...In a week (leave them alone at least a week) or two you want to put them back in order AFTER they have reattached everything, and have joined any pieces back together, AND they have started building down and making new comb again THAT IS STRAIGHT...even 1 or 2 inches is enough. Then you can put the combs back in order....next spring you will want to cull the worst of these combs and make room for new and better build comb. Start early before mating season, but after the last freeze.

    During this whole process....do you best to find the queen and segregate her so she doesn't get hurt...just put her to the back of the hive on a comb while you work the front. I know you can't do a normal manipulation, so you'll have to find her as you work the mess apart...
    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
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Watsonville, CA
    Posts
    18

    Post

    Thank you for your advice Scot. After much deliberation with my husband and fellow newbie, I decided we will convert this hive to a horizontal lang. I came to this decision since your suggestion involves basically redoing the whole hive frame by frame.

    Here's the plan: make some of those removeable swarm catching frames that Michael Bush has on his web site (Thanks Michael). And make the rest of the frames with a 45 degree triangle wedge on the underside to make foundationless frames (thanks again Michael) for your details on that. We figure we will connect two deep hive bodies at the side - respecting the bee space where they join (we still haven't quite figured out how to do it or if its that important). Then if we need to super, we can put one on the top of one of the joined hive bodies. This way, when I deconstruct the TBH, I can move the broken and messy brood comb into the swarm catching frames and then maybe alternate my top bars (they do kinda fit the Lang width-wise but they are kind of tall 1" as opposed the 3/4" tall lang frame).

    Of course this is going to take us ~a week to get it together so I will still do my slow intervention inspection...

    I want to change the TBH to the horizontal-style lang so I can interchange it with my other langs (I have 3 others). And I think it will be easier for me to manipulate with the frame-style. I know with the foundationless I will still have to encourage straight comb building. Thanks again for your very detailed advice and I will give you a progress report when we do the transfer

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Washington County, NY
    Posts
    115

    Post

    Checking my hives after 2+ weeks, I found comb attached to more than one bar in both hives. It's the honey storage comb though, not the brood comb. Basically they started building at a slight diagonal to the bars at some point and then kept that up. Of course pulling the bars out is a big mess. I had to cut off quite a bit of comb and clean things up so there is only one comb per bar. The hot weather didn't help either... It was very messy business.
    Too many bees drowned in dripping honey. I am waiting for the weather to cool down before attempting to fix the second hive. I am not sure why they started out straight, then began attaching comb across more than one bar. Didn't push the bars together tight enough?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Watsonville, CA
    Posts
    18

    Post

    Thanks space bee for the empathy. Its been so hard to go into the hive each week to inspect and kill 50 - 100 bees from falling comb, dripping honey etc. And then of course my big fear is that I am squishing the queen underneath some comb that has fallen and I am madly checking to find the queen. Of course I have yet to even see this elusive queen though her brood pattern and output is poster girl quality.

    My husband got sick of me falling into a depression each week after the hive check and was trying to convince me to give it away....I guess I am getting a bit soap-operish here but I really want to make this work. I really love the bees. I know I am rambling but I guess it was nice to get a little comraderie between us neophyte top bar folks.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Drums, PA, USA
    Posts
    331

    Post

    I have the honey storage combs being built out. The brood comb os ok. I check mine about every two weeks, and usually pull the combs apart. If it breaks, the bees will fix it, even if there is brood present.
    Dale Richards<br />Dal-Col Apiaries<br />

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Washington County, NY
    Posts
    115

    Post

    Hi 123sweet,
    how is the brood comb rescue going?
    It's been so hot here that I haven't dared to take on straightening out the other hive, but will have to take at least a peak soon... Wish me luck.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Watsonville, CA
    Posts
    18

    Post

    Hi space bee,
    Not much has happened in taking apart my hive yet. Both my husband and I have been on the sick list, and hence construction of any sort of a horizontal hive is not in our near future.

    I did do my weekly check and noticed that the wavy brood comb I put in the back of the hive was not entirely hatched and the queen has started laying brood on the back combs....so I guess that means I won't be doing much honeycomb harvesting this season.....darn.

    I did try to straighten out the next brood comb in line and extricated a whole piece of drone brood that was free standing and leaned next to it! I am getting a little more ept and confident on cutting through side attachments and pushing around comb. I guess I am still taking it just one frame at a time which probably a good philosophy given my present state of health.

    The bees are a good metaphor for my life.

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