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  1. #1
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    Oct 2010
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    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
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    Default Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    I am running 8 langstroth top entrance hives all with sbb. A skunk got into 2 of the hives and the bees have since taken advantage of the holes in the screens and are using them as a bottom entrance. Anyhow I noticed that the bees have been congregating on the underside of the sbb the last few weeks. I wrote this off to bearding since it has been in the 100s for almost 2 months but, upon inspection, I noticed that they have actually built comb out the bottom of the hives where the sbb was torn by the skunk. The other 6 hives have actually built comb off the bottom of the frames far enough to where it bulges the screen on the sbb down about an inch. I have deep brood boxes and 1 deep super on top of each of the brood boxes for expansion.

    The bees have been hesitant on moving up so my question is can i swap the boxes so the brood box is on top and the super is on the bottom since each hive seems to want to build down. I actually put a medium super under the 2 hives that have comb coming out of the the bottom.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2009
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    Manning, SC
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    2,270

    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Does the 2nd top deep brood box have comb or foundation?

  3. #3
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    Oct 2010
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Yes the top brood boxes all have a frame of comb in them that I moved up from the brood box (a frame of honey and pollen and i have tried a frame of brood too), the other 9 frames are foundationless with wax on the guide. Their trend is downward, should I swap the brood box with the super?

  4. #4
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    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    That's where the trouble is coming from... bees build natural comb downward, and work foundation upward... so for natural comb, move the box with the empty frames to the bottom... the gap from the bottom of the frame to the guide is too large for them to want to move to, but when its under them, the top bars and guides are right there... make sense?

  5. #5
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    Oct 2010
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Yeah that makes a lot of sense. Swapping boxes seemed like the thing to do but being a first year bee keeper I had to ask It seemed like they would stop when they hit the screen but they didnt, the screen on the sbb was bulged down from the comb and the bees were actually trying to work it from beneath the screen. It looked like bearding... Im glad I stopped to look. Now I have to swap all those brood boxes up top, wheres my back belt...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Lol. Here's a tip..."borrow" the wifes longest kitchen knife and have to ready when you start to separate the chamber from the screened bottom board... setting the whole thing on its back temporarily will make your task much easier... as you spread the chamber and screen apart, use the knife to cut the comb away from the screen... you want to try to leave as much of that burr comb that's hanging beneath the bottom bars as possible until they get started on the lower chamber... just keeps them thinking that Your idea, is Their idea...

    Tip 2... CLEAN THE KNIFE VERY WELL BEFORE SNEAKING IT BACK INTO THE KITCHEN! She will know, not sure how, but she will!

  7. #7
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    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    27,782

    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Quote Originally Posted by rwurster View Post
    can i swap the boxes so the brood box is on top and the super is on the bottom
    Sure, you can, but then your brood would be above your honey. Just because you call a particular box a "brood box" doesn't mean that's where the brood is. Seems to me, from your description that the brood is probably in the so called super and not the brood box. So, if you switch places, the brood, or some of it, will be above the honey. Which is backwards. Not a good idea.
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  8. #8
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    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Mark, from what I gathered, his top deep is has all empty frames with only a starter strip, except for one frame in the center... so all of his honey and brood are in the bottom deep... is that correct?

  9. #9
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    Oct 2010
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Yes all the brood is in the bottom deep right now and the top super is all empty with only the one drawn frame in the center. I don't know if saying they're Carniolans helps and that they are at the corner of 4 - 40 acre plots of alfalfa, one of which is a first year field that has only been cut once. They have had good pollen and nectar all year as even when the fields get cut there are strips of alfalfa that don't get cut (circular arm irrigation systems) that are flowering at all times of the summer along with large strips of weeds that have all been budding/blooming for the last 2 months. The food is there but their building trend is downward, not upward. Also, I checked the hives last night and discovered toads under each of the hives gorging on festooning bees. So something has to be done and although I realize that the standard for bees is to have the brood on the bottom, these bees are building downwards and even if i cut comb off I think I need to get a super under them (with frames).

    I built 20 medium supers w/frames (foundationless) so here is my plan: I'll put the deep supers on the bottom of each hive, brood on top of that, and a medium super on top of that. Now i know its a bit unorthodox but the box on the bottom should (in any scenario) reduce losses from toads and give the bees a place to build since it seems like thats the direction they want to go anyway. The medium super on top will just serve as a buffer between the brood and the board I use as a top cover (I also use top entrances). I'm thinking when the bees start building they will only build in one direction i.e. they will either build down or they will build up and not both.

  10. #10
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    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    That's what I thought. Go ahead and switch the boxes as planned... but I would wait about a week before you put the top box on... they can keep the air flow going with all the space below, so I wouldn't worry about the brood being close to the top... we have plenty of singles in the sun every year in 100+ temps and they don't have the added benefit of the space below that your hives will have... too much space can become a threat for pests...

    Just to get you going on the right track... when using starter strips, they build comb better when its on the bottom... starter strips are a method of creating natural comb, which means it will be drawn from the top down, thus the hive needs to be above the empty frames... once they have built the comb, you can move it to the top if you would like, but try to time it right for the best results... ie, if you are drawing honey supers with starter strips, you set them under the brood chamber, and as soon as they are at or almost at the bottom bars of the frames, you can move them directly above the brood chamber... there may already be eggs and the queen may already be in the frames, so be careful and if you see her, you can pull out a brood frame from the chamber and get her to walk onto it, then put your super on top... if there are eggs, they will tend that brood till it emerges all the while finishing building your combs, and filling the super with honey...

    So to recap... natural comb (foundationless) is built downward, foundation is built upward... its all about the connection to the chamber... if there is a break in the connection of comb, they will go in a different direction...

  11. #11
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    Oct 2010
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    Pueblo, Colorado, USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Very good, already switched boxes and I only put 1 medium on top of my strongest hive. It was so hot today that it took all my energy just to switch the boxes around before coming back into town for a birthday party. Looks like things worked out pretty well. I don't run a queen excluder either, I just didnt think to mention that. I was impressed though at how clean all the sbb were in each hive, no dead bees although in one hive i found a large dead wasp with its wings and legs missing lol. Thanks for the advice, it just never occurred to me that the bees might want to build down instead of up. They teach me new things every day. Thanks again

  12. #12
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    Oct 2010
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Bump - Since I switched the brood box to the top and put a super on the bottom 7 of the 8 hives have already drawn at least 2 frames of comb and are festooning on all the other frames. I wish I had known to stack the hive this way beforehand but hey, now I know There should be a decent nectar flow from all the alfalfa around the hives until the first frost so hopefully the girls will put away a ton of surplus between now and then. In the top boxes (brood boxes) there are at least 3 frames FULL of mostly capped brood which seems like a good sign even this late in the year... The first year has to be the most stressful and interesting year but we'll see.

  13. #13
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    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Default Re: Bees building comb out bottom of hive

    Good to hear! Next spring, you will be know where to add the boxes.

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