Somewhat abortive first inspection
Well, I got into the hives today and checked the feeders (it was time for them to come out), and tried to inspect a few bars. Unfortunately, it appears that the girls have built some cross-bar comb at the tops of the bars. When I began to separate the bars, I could see the honey cells breaking open along the top. And here I thought things were going so nicely - their first comb was perfectly straight down the center of the bar, right on the guides!
Anyway, I'm not too hip to the idea of just going ahead and pulling the bars out and accepting the damage to the comb, but I want to check with y'all and see if I should do so. I know I need to be able to get in there and inspect the comb for brood cells, etc., and I don't see a way to do so without some comb damage. Should I just bite the bullet and pull the bars and try to repair the damage as best I can? I know I'm going to HAVE to be able to show bars of comb when the state apiary inspector comes in a few weeks.
Also - this may seem a dumb question, but how the heck do you manage to get the bars back in without squishing the occasional bee? I can minimize the number that go off to the flower fields in the sky, but I cannot seem to avoid it entirely. I've tried to avoid using a smoker, on general principle, but would it help a lot?
One the plus side, each hive has at least 6-8 bars of comb working!
Edit - Or am I, perhaps, being too squeamish about the comb? Is finding some cells of honey along the top in between the combs (that get destroyed when the bars are separated) perfectly normal by chance?
Yeah, those cross bar combs can be a mess. But you know what? If you wipe them out and the honey spills, they clean it up REAL quick!
And DON'T SQUISH the bees, and sometimes it happens. Sorry....if I can find the recipe for vinegar and water spray I will post it, otherwise use smoke...that is the point of the irritation, to get them to run away, back down into their hive while you close up by laying gently down that bar. A bee broom can help or simply picking her up or fliting her into the hive.
I do not understand your last question, but if it is about spilt honey, as stated, no problemo.
Crushing bees: I learned on this forum how to avoid it and I regard it as an excellent idea. Sorry that I don’t remember the name of this person who posted it.
Stiff, flat batten about 1/8”, longer then the length of TB. Slide TB to about ¼” to adjacent bar but don’t squeeze bees. Gently slide this batten vertically down pushing bees all the way down on entire length of TB. Slide TB all the way to slightly squeeze the batten. Slide away side way the batten and squeeze TB together. No bees will be crushed.
Before doing this clean both sides of TB so after squeezing together TB-s will be no gaps.
Connected combs: Good that you noticed it now. Later would be worse.
Gently, slowly separate TB to see if there is any connection. If you see that there is some connection cut it vertically with knife and keep separating it more until all is separated on entire length of bar. First of course you have to cut a comb from the walls. Having it separated do necessary repairs by cutting, bending smoothing, and etc. Do not wary about dripping honey. Bees will clean it faster then you expect.
Proceed with the next bar the same way. A few hours later you have to check how bees are correcting your corrections.
If there is real mess, situation could bee not repairable, so cut it off completely and eat the honey. Any way, part of comb will be on the floor.
Bees will start to build a new comb but this time bee more watchful.
Smoothing some bulges of honey cells with knife on the external wall of the last comb is not a bad practice.
Thanks for the tips, folks - I'll be going back in and correcting what the girls have done (although I'm sure THEY see nothing wrong with it) as soon as my next supply order arrives. In my initial over-confidence (if you can call it that) I intended to go as natural as possible and manage my hives without a smoker - but having been into the hives a few times, I now realize I'm not nearly skilled enough yet to do that without offing an unreasonable number of bees.
Anyway - wish me luck. I may need it.
I had the same problem, the first couple inspections got real messy with me cutting out the crossover and correcting, each time I go in I still have to correct the very end but it is less and less each time
Now I know how Godzilla feels ...
... or how he would feel if he had a conscience. The damage I just did to bee-town doesn't bear thinking of. They'll fix it, I know, but let's just say that they'll be quite busy, and I ended up with an unintended honey harvest.
The little blighters had built beautiful curving comb. Not just slanting, but curving so that the middle would be on one bar, and the ends on another, necessitating cutting in two places. Where possible, I removed the small bits of errant comb, and I used a knife to trim back where it was not practical to remove it. Bending the comb back to straight proved problematic, as it is just too soft for much manipulation. Right about the time I had one largish piece shaped straight, it all came down off of the bar. After that experience, I did NOT do any manipulation of the broodnest - I was too afraid of wrecking it and/or drowning the queen in a honey avalanche. I don't think that sewing the comb onto the bars would have worked either - it would have pulled through. Anyway, where I thought it would do some good, I inserted an empty bar between the bars on which they are building. I hope they will "go straight" from where I left them. I will be checking more frequently on the new bars, from that point towards the back of each hive, but I'm inclined to just let the brood nest stay the way it is.
The upshot is that I wish I had been in there straightening things up as soon as they started building comb. However, several sources had said that one should leave the hive strictly alone for a few weeks to let them settle in, and so I did just that. That time appears to have been plenty for them to get off to a curvy building start. I suppose I cannot be too mad at the girls for being good engineers ... curves are inherently stronger ... but they do interfere with me interfering with their daily lives when I please.
On the plus side, the honey is quite tasty. Just from the little bit of comb I wrecked, which would MAYBE have added up to one bar from each hive, I was able to crush out about 4 cups of the stuff. Also, having a smoker made a world of difference in terms of my comfort level and the bee mortality rate.
Last edited by elsyr; 05-16-2009 at 03:38 PM.
Thanks - that's pretty much the approach I took, albeit too late. Had I been in there checking earlier, I would have been able to correct the errant comb BEFORE they started brood. Now I know better. As it was, about all I could do without wrecking the broodnest was to get the last bars close to straight and insert blank bars here and there. I was all set to "stitch" comb on to clean bars, but the comb was so soft I could not see it holding.
Originally Posted by Michael Bush
What kind of guides do you have in that hive?
Popsicle sticks glued into a saw kerf.
Last edited by Bizzybee; 05-23-2009 at 04:03 AM.
Well, we went back into the hives yesterday and things are starting to straighten up some. There's still some crooked comb, but I keep removing what I can and inserting empty bars. Shaping the comb just does not appear to be an option - I think it's just too damned warm here in Florida, as the comb collapses too easily. I've been focusing on working with the honeycomb - I'm still hesitant to wreck the brood comb if I can avoid it. I suppose if I want the thing to work right I'm eventually going to have no choice, though.
On another note, one hive had some unwelcome guests - ants. They appeared to be only in the "attic" space between the top bars and the roof, but we still escorted them out and I'll be putting something on the hive legs to try and keep them out in the future. I've read that vaseline works - any other suggestions?
I have also heard of setting the legs in coffee cans half full of used motor oil.
Re: Somewhat abortive first inspection
Me too - but it's not an option at the moment for me. The hive legs are actually sunk a foot into the ground.
Originally Posted by Stevedore