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  1. #1
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    I have two hives in my yard in San Francisco. We had a couple of very warm weeks followed by lots of rain, then a day or two of sun, then more rain. I wonder if the bees just can't take it. I checked on them yesterday and can't figure out why the comb in the super is brown, not uniform (wavy in spots and clumpy in others) and there just aren't too many bees tending to it. The super is a deep and full of frames. Why is this happening? Thanks for any advice on this!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    San Mateo, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    We need pictures to diagnose.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Thanks for that suggestion. I'll take some pictures tomorrow. If it's not raining again!! It just looks so odd to me.

  4. #4
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    May 2007
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    Grafton, NY, USA
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    190

    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Quote Originally Posted by sanfranciscosusan View Post
    Thanks for that suggestion. I'll take some pictures tomorrow. If it's not raining again!! It just looks so odd to me.
    Without seeing pictures, a guess would be possibly Nosema... but pictures would definitely be helpful to get a better idea of what it looks like....

  5. #5
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    http://imgur.com/fqufE[IMG] It is still raining but not that hard, so I went out and took this photo. The bees are very docile and some of the other frames are, in fact, being filled out with white comb and honey.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Sale Creek, Tn. USA
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    173

    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    It is brown because it has been around awhile. This is normal empty comb. As they use it, it will get even darker. I have seen old brood comb that was as black as charcoal. It was probably drawn last summer. They will use it for either honey or brood as they need it.
    This doesn't tell us anything about your bees except that there is some partially drawn comb in the brood nest.
    Raymond

  7. #7
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Thanks for weighing in. I realize I haven't explained the situation clearly, though. Actually, I pulled this frame out of the super that is above the queen excluder and the brood frames. Shouldn't it just be honeycomb? There are some other frames in the super that are white and are being filled with honey.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Palm Bay, FL, USA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    That particular frame has had brood in it for sure, otherwise it would be yellow. Queens sometimes wiggle through excluders and take great joy in brooding up your nice honey frames. Doesn't hurt a thing and they'll still store perfectly nice honey in it. You can see drone sized cells along the bottom bar and that small drawn area to the right in the pic. No problem!

  9. #9
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Thank you so much! That is just what I was wondering! I couldn't figure out how there could be what looks like brood comb but your explaining how the queen got in there makes perfect sense! I hope she has found her way back down -there really doesn't seem to be much activity in this super.

  10. #10
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    Mar 2010
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    Sale Creek, Tn. USA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    I respectfully disagree that the comb necessarily has had brood in it. Yes, there are drone cells along the bottom bar. The irregular blobs are burr comb ( normal ).

    This tells us nothing about your bees. It is normal comb. Your bees may well be producing white comb in, or closer to the brood nest.

    I would not have comb like this on my bees unless I was expecting a honeyflow in the next few days. I try to avoid using a queen excluder. The bees do not like to go thru it.
    Raymond

  11. #11
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    May 2002
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    And that comb perpendicular that makes the wave is probably because it is plastic foundation and they drew a cross comb. SF is a hard area to draw out plastic properly because the flow is slow and long rather than fast. Use wax foundation. The comb definitely has had brood in it or it would not be brown. I have 30 year old white combs because they have never had brood in them.

  12. #12
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Thank you for you response as well. I don't think I am confident to try keeping them without a queen excluder. I did that a couple of years ago and it seemed like there was burr comb all over. It was a mess to clean up and I am so clumsy, I broke honey cells all over everything! I may work myself back up into trying again -after all, the bees don't use a queen excluder in nature!

  13. #13
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    Mar 2010
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    Sale Creek, Tn. USA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    OF COURSE, I respect your decision not to use a queen excluder. The only thing it does is keep the queen out of the supers above it. If the queen is laying in the combs immediately below the one in the photo there is real danger that she might get up into that comb.
    I would probably use a super with foundation in it in lieu of a queen excluder. I would not put it on until there is a good honey flow on because they will damage it.
    The queen very rarely will cross foundation, white comb, or very much honey to lay. It is her nature to lay adjacent to the eggs she has just laid. She much prefers dark comb. Therefore, white comb or foundation can act as a pretty reliable "queen excluder".
    All bets are off if your bees are very crowded. She may lay wherever she has to. I give my bees plenty of room, so I don't have crowding to deal with ( and far less swarming ! ).

    I have never connected burr comb and the use of a queen excluder. They will build burr comb ON the queen excluder. Excessive burr comb usually means they are too crowded. They will build a little burr comb no matter what you do.

    I wish you the BEST with the system you choose to use.
    Raymond

  14. #14
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    Mar 2010
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    Sale Creek, Tn. USA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    By the way, I have never tried plastic foundation. I have heard so many complaints about it that I probably never will. I don't see the advantage.

    My experience is that foundation must be wired horizonally or it will buckle after they affix it to the bottom bar, causing it to bow out to one side. It makes a TERRIBLE mess ! Foundation that hangs free might be ok. Currently, i am using top-bar equipment with natural comb.
    Raymond

  15. #15
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    Mar 2011
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    There is always something new to learn! I never really put it together that the queen likes to lay in the darker comb -I just never thought about the fact that the colors are different for brood and honey. Thank you for pointing that out! It is a nice but chilly day here today so I think I will wait for some warmer weather before I inspect the hives again. (Of course, here in SF, chilly is somewhat relative!)

  16. #16
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    May 2009
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    Palm Bay, FL, USA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    Susan; The combs are different colors because as each bee emerges there is a left behind cocoon in each brood cell. If no brood has ever been in it the combs will usually stay a nice yellow color. Over a period of a few years the brood comb will turn almost black because of the multitude of cocoons in each cell.

  17. #17
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    san francisco, CA
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    What I am wondering, though, is why there is brown comb even where the cells haven't been built up enough to have supported a cocoon. Do the bees just make darker comb when they know it is for brood?

  18. #18
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    May 2002
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    Default Re: Honey comb brown, in waves, not too many bees. What is going on?

    [QUOTE=sanfranciscosusan;626898]What I am wondering, though, is why there is brown comb even where the cells haven't been built up enough to have supported a cocoon. Travel stain

    Do the bees just make darker comb when they know it is for brood?
    They always make white comb and it becomes dark from being brooded in.

    >The queen very rarely will cross foundation, white comb, or very much honey to lay.
    I have seen a queen cross six full honey supers to lay in drone comb in the seventh one on top.

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