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  1. #21
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    I read through the post as I am a one TBH beekeeper with 150 Langs. The TBH has been nothing but frustration, but I cannot say I have the experience to make it work...yet. I have no plans of converting, but I thought I should be open enough to give it a try and report my findings. I found out I haven't learned how to make it work...yet.

    I didn't think the post was condescending, just sharing an opinion...kind of like 99% of the other stuff that floats around here on beesource.

    All the best,

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  2. #22
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Hi Pat,

    Looking at the pics of your hive, i think it is inevitable that if the bees perform normally, they will outgrow the hive. You then either split it, or it swarms.

    At it's most basic, a hive split can be done by moving the hive a few yards away and putting a new empty one on the old location. Then take at least one comb with eggs in it from the moved hive and put it into the new hive. Brush the bees off to ensure you left the queen behind. Enough bees will return to the old location to get the hive going again, and turn one of those eggs into a new queen, which will take around a month.

    There are numerous ways to split a hive and some other ways are more reliable, but the above way is probably one of the most simple.

    The lack of expansion potential is one of the biggest drawbaks of top bar hives. Some folks get around this by designing a top bar hive that can have another box added on top, for the bees to expand into and store honey in, on a seasonal basis. This does present some design challenges, and requires that some of the top bars are modified to allow the bees to move up between them. It also removes some of the simplicity of the top bar design. But it will allow the bees more room if they need it, and greatly enhance their ability to provide you with a good honey surplus.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  3. #23
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    All of these replies are filled with incredible wisdom and patience.

    I am very humbled by the willingness to help each other and I also apologize for my initial paranoia which kicked off this thread.

    Muchas gracias.

  4. #24
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    I tend to agree with those who think he's just trying to be helpful. I am also just trying to be helpful. Here's my response.

    >CCD is a big problem, but the facts are that no one knows exactly what is causing bees to abscond from their hive. It could be treatments, it could be systemic pesticides, environmental changes, mono-cropping or any other stresses or a mixture of all. Treatment free or top-bar hives aren't the cure-all to CCD that anyone has found out, yet.

    True.

    >I saw someone mention that a smoker isn't needed in a top bar hive...

    The idea of not smoking being better is a mystery to me. Not upsetting the bees with a defensive reaction is less disruptive than setting off a defensive reaction. I would light a smoker. I open a lot of hives without smoke because I need to catch a queen, and not because I think it's better. They still eat honey at the same rate. I don't believe it sets off them eating honey to smoke them. Nor does it make them think their "house is on fire". It just covers the alarm pheromones.

    >Gathering your own "unmedicated" swarms: No one can say you're getting an unmedicated, organic line of bees in a wild-caught swarm. This is impossible.

    The small bees are almost always wild ones... unless you have a small cell beekeeper nearby...

    >I saw the top bar hive you're building and estimate it's probably 2.5 to 3' long.

    IMO way too small... make a longer one with the same shape for a hive and use that one for a nuc and to collect swarms... You can swap from the smaller to the longer one when they have the smaller one 80% full...

    > If you're going to get into beekeeping, I'd have at least 2 hives to start off with

    Definitely. 2 1/2 is even better. Two hives and a nuc gives you some resources.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beespanacea.htm

    >and those would be Langstroth.

    I would say they should be interchangeable, they don't have to be Langstroths to be interchangeable.

    > The reason is; a 3' top bar hive is going to be filled to capacity within a couple of months...

    Yes, a 3' top bar hive is probably going to swarm... several times a year...

    > With a TBH you're stuck with what you have.

    Pretty much.

    >You can't expand the hive body to give them more room like you can with a traditional Langstroth hive.

    Which is why you need to manage the space well. But you need space in order to manage space...

    > I'd also recommend starting with a traditional Langstroth hive as a beginner hive because Langstroth hives are all built with standards that make the frames and boxes easily interchangeable between hives or between boxes of the same hive.

    Interchangeability is nice. But if you have several top bar hives with the same width and shape you can interchange them as well.

    > bees are much more likely to build a complete mess of comb in a TBH than a Langstroth hive.

    I've seen plenty of messed up comb in a Langstroth... but one bad comb leads to another and with no foundation between the frames you may have more messed up comb if you are not on top of things.

    > Also, you're going to want to put a door covering the glass of the window. Bees prefer total dark.

    And the window will make a great solar wax melter... not good.

    > It's a good idea to have an Epi-Pen around just in case.

    I saw a picture of one once...

    > You can find some "hive placement" ideas online.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfaqs.htm#locating

    >Propolis is a mixture of tree resin that bees use to seal things up. It also has disinfectant properties that help the hive's microflora/fauna ecosystem. This isn't something you probably want to eat

    I eat it often enough... mostly I chew it...

    -------------------------------------------------

    >Everyone has a different vision and experiences regarding beekeeping.

    Certainly.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesphilosophy.htm

    >Just today I passed a huge row of Langstroths on Combee Rd. and noticed they all had the sugar feeders on top for the winter. It reminded me of the whole reason I'm going the less-invasive, less-taxing top bar method.

    I don't see Langstroths as any less natural or any less invasive... feeding has nothing to do with the box they are in. It has to do with how good of year it was, if they are light going into winter or if you take too much of their honey. You do yourself and your bees no favors letting them starve.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm

    > The bees are supposed to have their honey stores completely raped so they'll have to be fed sugar water over the winter.

    That is only one cause of needing to feed. A failed fall flow, a drought, a bad year are other reasons.

    > They aren't supposed to be put in chemically-laden wax frames with cells that are actually too big.

    Agreed.

    > They aren't supposed to have gaping holes opened up to disturb their internal body temperature too drastically.

    I don't think the temperature of a brood nest changes much with opening a hive. If anything it goes up a bit from the disturbance and then levels out quickly. But then there is no reason to be getting in the hive constantly anyway once the comb is drawn, especially in a Langstroth. You will have to get in the TBH more often.

    >Don't get me wrong, I know Langstroths can be done in a more natural way, but the overall design lends itself to being one of 'The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg' vision of keeping bees rather than allowing them to do things their own way.

    Actually I don't think the design is, nor was intended to be, anything but a way to use what the bees do naturally. The way a Langstroth is run today with foundation and all, may be unnatural, but the original Langstroth was foundationless and L.L. Langstroth was very into what the bees naturally do. Rather than fight what the bees do, he decided to figure out what space they would leave so he could have frames that wouldn't be attached. There is no reason you cannot have all the advantages of a top bar hive, other than not lifting boxes and being cheap and easy to build, in a Langstroth.

    I've added quite a bit to the TBH page based on recent discussions and the recent article in ABJ.

    It is here:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    -------------------------------------------------
    But I will post it here:

    Why a top bar hive? Why not a top bar hive?

    It seems a lot of people get into top bar hives with a lot of misconceptions. They seem to think that a top bar hive is “natural” and there is no other way to have a natural hive of bees. I’m not exactly sure where this comes from, but I suppose par t of it is that a typical top bar hive has natural comb and a typical Langstroth hive has foundation. But I have seen top bar hives done with foundation, and I have thousands of foundationless frames in Langstroth hives. So if your only reason for going with a top bar hive is to get natural comb, you have other alternatives.

    Another is the belief that the shape is more natural. I’d have to say any shape is natural. I’ve seen bees in soffits, gas tanks, walls of houses, floors of houses… bees aren’t particular about the shape. I see nothing more or less natural about a top bar hive.

    Another is that you want a horizontal hive. But you can build a horizontal Langstroth hive. I have a few and they do just as well as the top bar hives.

    I think the real reason for a top bar hive is that you can build it from scraps for next to nothing AND you get the above benefits, to wit: natural comb, (with both natural cell size and clean chemical free wax) no boxes to lift (horizontal). If you want all of these in one combination, then a top bar hive is for you.
    Reasons you might not want a top bar hive.

    A top bar hive, because it has a limited and fairly constant space, requires more frequent interventions to manage it well. This is not a problem when it’s in your back yard and you can’t wait to get into the hive. But it’s very inconvenient if it’s somewhere further away where you have to drive there.
    Proponent or opponent?

    I have been accused of being a top bar proponent most often. I consider myself neither a proponent nor an opponent. I have several and enjoy them a lot. I tell how to build and manage one here for that reason. But if all you want is natural comb, I’d recommend a Langstroth with foundationless frames. If all you want is to get natural comb and no lifting, then I’d put foundationless in a horizontal Langstroth hive. If you also want to be able to build it easily and cheaply I’d recommend a top bar hive.

    Typical mistakes I see newbees make with TBH:

    They buy a nuc for a TBH that cannot take Langstroth frames.

    If you want bees on something other than the cells size or frame size your nucs are available in, then you should buy a package. Yes, you’ll find some “chop and crop” videos out there that make it look easy to take a nuc and chop it down to a top bar. Keep in mind these are ideal conditions (wax comb and not plastic which is more likely in your nuc, maybe no wires, or very fragile ones etc.) with an expert doing the work. You will most likely not be so lucky and if you’re a beginner you will (and should) be very intimidated by this undertaking. Probably the newbee's logic is someone told them nucs were better without considering the other ramifications. For some reason the magazines and books seem to assume that everyone wants bees in ten frame deep Langstroths.

    They hang the queen cage and get a first messed up comb because of the queen cage.

    They will always build the first comb from the cage and subsequent combs parallel to that one. So you have now doomed every comb in your hive to be messed up. Hanging the queen cage to “be safe”, is not “being safe”. Direct release her. Yes, they MIGHT abscond, but in my experience they will do it with or without the queen. Typically they like the one next door better and leave that one there anyway.

    They buy or build a TBH that is far too small.

    You only have a limited space to work with and no supers to add on, so if you start with a very small TBH it will swarm. Constantly. You need to start with a large one and manage the space well.
    They are afraid to fix messed up comb.

    One bad comb leads to another. One good comb leads to another. If you have bad comb, wishful thinking will not fix the next comb. It will be messed up unless you make the last comb a straight one by whatever means is necessary. Having a frame you can tie a comb into is good to have. Then you can always create a straight comb. Another solution is to find a straight comb and put it at the point they are building comb and put the messed up comb at the front (assuming you don’t tie it into frames or remove it). Empty bars between drawn brood combs will keep them busy building straight combs. Just don’t spread them too thin. They need to be able to fill that gap with festooning bees quickly.

    They harvest all the honey and there is no fall flow and no drawn comb for the bees to put stores in.

    I would harvest only a little at a time during the flow and try to leave them plenty for winter. This requires a bit of forethought and you probably are not aware how fast conditions can change. To take an old gun saying “aim small miss small”. Keep in mind when harvesting that with no drawn comb you cannot do last minute feeding where they just fill the drawn comb with syrup. They will not be inclined to draw comb when the weather is cold, late in the season.

    If they lose a hive they blame something that is handy, like that it’s a top bar hive, or something they did, which may or may not have made a difference.

    Hives die sometimes. Sometimes they cold starve (starve with stores in the hive). Sometimes they just starve (starve with no food in the hive). Sometimes they just dwindle in the fall or end up queenless after a swarm. Try to be objective about what might be the problem. If they outright starved, then you harvested too much or didn’t feed enough. But some things are beyond your control and all the above issues happen in Langstroth hives just as much as Top Bar Hives.

    These aren’t so much limited to top bar hives, but seem to be common issues with newbees trying to be natural, which includes people going to top bar hives:

    They won’t feed at all.

    Feeding is not a “right or wrong” kind of thing. It is the kind of thing that should be done for the right reasons and avoided for the right reasons. Flows are hard to predict and even the bees fail at it sometimes. If you never feed they will starve sooner or later. Feed when you have a reason. If you want natural bees then try to manage them so you don’t have to, but if you mess up and harvest too much or the fall flow fails, feed them. There is nothing productive about letting them starve. Feeding might be unnatural, but harvesting their honey is too. You may have created the problem.

    Related to this is you should have a plan on how to feed them. It may take some work and time to implement some of the plans, so have a feeder in mind and make sure you have it on hand.

    They won’t smoke at all because they think it upsets the bees.

    Of course this is backwards. What upsets the bees is when you open a hive with no smoke or far too much or far too hot of smoke. The right amount of smoke is a proven thing since man first started to work with bees. Contrary to popular belief, I do not think it makes them think their house is on fire. It simply interferes with their sense of smell. If it really made them think their house were on fire, then you would be able to get them to abandon their home because of it. I have never been able to produce enough smoke to make them abandon their home and I tried many times when trying to remove them from trees etc. I have, however been able to make enough to asphyxiate them. Of course that is hundreds of times more smoke than needed to calm them.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #25
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Maybe I am different in some way. I have had more trouble with a lang hive than I have with my TBH. The TBH has built beautiful comb on 20 bars with me only having to trim one bar. The lang that I have constantly ties the frames together with comb and I have had to straighten it up four times.
    I plan on setting up another lang to see if it is just the bees that I have in the one that is the problem. They came from a "feral" hive that was built on the side of a rock pile. It was messed up when I retreived it. I have since re-queened, but they still build messed up frames.
    Robert

  6. #26
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    That has got to be MB's longest post ever.

    My only comment is on the "size" Langstroth came up with for his hive.... I think he recycled a wooden wine box which is why frames still fit nicely in wine boxes. Charles Dadant was more into looking at an appropriate amount of space, which is why he went with a larger volume box.

    But this is just a theory.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  7. #27
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by RE JOnes View Post
    I plan on setting up another lang to see if it is just the bees that I have in the one that is the problem. Robert
    I think it might be the beekeeper!

    If the lang is foundationless, the bees do not know they are supposed to build the combs neatly on each frame. It is over to the beekeeper to start them off with comb guides, and then manipulate the combs if they get anything "wrong", so the combs are kept straight.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  8. #28
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Great post, Michael.

    One of the things that really sets you apart as a person a lot of people go to for information, is that you do have experience with top bar hives, and your take is pretty moderate. As you say, you're not a proponent or an opponent. The bottom line is that each approach offers different pros and cons, and the individual beekeeper and scenario will come with different needs.

    I'm glad you wrote the additional information for the top bar section of your site.

    Adam

  9. #29
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Oldtimer, the frames are not foundationless, they are plastic that have been coated with wax. They are shoved together as tight as I can get them, and they still attach about four inches of comb between the frames, tieing them together.

    I have tried everything that I know(not much) and everything that people have told me, and still they continue to do this. Maybe it is the beekeeper, and maybe I should concentrate on TBH's instead of langs??? I see to have better luck with them.

    As soon as I get some more bees, we will be trying another lang.
    Robert

  10. #30
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by RE JOnes View Post
    It was messed up when I retreived it. I have since re-queened, but they still build messed up frames.
    Robert
    I would suggest putting a new frame of foundation beyween each of the "messed up" combs and eventually moving those messed up combs to the outside of the box. If there is a rib of comb sticking out from the face of the comb the bees will reattatcxh it to the adjacant comb.

    I'm not surprised you have had trouble w/ this colony and not w/ a tbh. I imagine you put a package of bees into a tbh and let them do their thing. Had you done the same w/ a Langstroth type hive you may have had similar success. Maybe not, but just as likely, imo.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  11. #31
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    None of the bees that I have are from a package or nuc, they are all "feral". All are swarms or hives that I get from where I work.
    I will try your suggestion and see what happens.

    As I said in a previous post, this hive was the most messed up one that I have ever seen in the wild. They had built on a bush and comb was running every way possible. They still seem determined to continue in this fashion.
    Thanks, Robert

  12. #32
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Then you shouldn't be surprised, right? And you shouldn't expect them to do differently in a tbh or Langstroth were you to shake them into either giving them top bars or empty frames. I would think.

    Isn't life interesting?
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  13. #33
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by RE JOnes View Post
    Oldtimer, the frames are not foundationless, they are plastic that have been coated with wax. They are shoved together as tight as I can get them, and they still attach about four inches of comb between the frames, tieing them together.

    I have tried everything that I know(not much) and everything that people have told me, and still they continue to do this. Maybe it is the beekeeper, and maybe I should concentrate on TBH's instead of langs??? I see to have better luck with them.

    As soon as I get some more bees, we will be trying another lang.
    Robert
    Oh, that's the bees telling you what they think of plastic, rather than build on it they have been trying to squeeze comb in between.

    Give them something a bit more natural, like normal beeswax foundation, and your problem will go away.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #34

    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    Oh, that's the bees telling you what they think of plastic, rather than build on it they have been trying to squeeze comb in between.

    Give them something a bit more natural, like normal beeswax foundation, and your problem will go away.
    I would have to agree with Oldtimer on this. I have kepted bees on and off since 1967. And helped manage 450 hives with my Uncle in San Antonio, Florida during the 70's and 80's. Never had plastic back then, used natural wax foundation set in wire. I dont have Langs now, I have 4 Warre's. If your worried about CCD, then wax starter strips or wax coated guides in top of frame. I do believe bees are better off with new wax comb every year or two.

  15. #35
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Great discussion. Thanks for all the info, MB and others. I've got both tbhs and langs, but I've been thinking my next hive would be a horizontal langstroth, which I think can give me the best of both worlds.

  16. #36
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    I am just barely starting and so all I have are first impressions. It sounded pretty objective to me. I built the top bar style mostly because of startup cost and I thought it was interesting about maybe doing the comb their way might be slightly smaller, faster to cap and help against the mites. I don't have a smoker but might get one. So far they tolerate me. Anway I might try other style hives too if I can afford it. What I see in it all is bees seem very flexible, adapt and work with what they've got Whatever style it is, we are inviting them to live in a box we built and want them building their combs to suit our intent to eventually interfere to varying degrees and harvest honey ...humans and bees go way back and I would like to keep it going.

  17. #37
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Quote Originally Posted by clumsy red bear View Post
    I don't have a smoker but might get one. So far they tolerate me.
    I'd have to say: Get One. ... Or at least have a "spritz" bottle of syrup that's been scented with some LGO handy, so you have something to use to help you calm the bees on the inevitable days when they're simply not GOING to be calm on their own. I've used both smoke, and the scented syrup...didn't notice much difference in bee aggression between the two, but queens are easier to find when using only the syrup, so that's what I use more often. That's my personal preference, use what works for you...just have SOMETHING available, because you WILL need it (and likely very soon).

    As far as the rest of this conversation, most of it sounds fine to me, and the only part of the post at http://www.polkmoms.com/forum/topics...=msg_com_forum that I personally disagreed with is the part about TBHs being more likely to build crazy comb...that's already been addressed in this thread, and just about everything else he said appears to be about spot-on.

  18. #38
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Clumsy bear, I have both. a lang for 5 weeks and the top bar for two so not a ton of experience. But I can say they both have there pros and cons. the lang is a terror for me right now because the brood nest is down there under a couple of boxes and I really shouldn't mess with it. The top bar it is right there like everything else is so it is no more disruptive to check on brood as it is to check on anything else. But disruption of the top bar so far is way more serious. cutting and reattaching of comb. tearing things up on a regular basis. nectar the bees have worked hard for getting spilled from comb. brood put at risk. now that is a nightmare and it really does not set well with me. That is not everyone's experience with a top bar and getting comb drawn so I may have just drawn the short straw. I love visiting my bees and do it more often than I should . But I don't really like feeling like the drunken belligerent uncle Mo afterward. But for now that looks like how it will be for a while. They are getting better at putting the comb where it needs to be so maybe this will turn around for me in the next couple of days.
    If I had to put it in simple terms. I find the top bar easy in regard to most things. the lang is flexible. There are also things that I think might be worthwhile to do in regard to top bar "Frames" I think it might take out most of the negative for me. at least until the hive outgrows the box.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  19. #39
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    Daniel Y:
    What are you using for comb guides in your TBH? In my boxes, I've found that good comb guides have made all the difference...and I imbed about a 1/2-drop of artificial Nasonov along the bottom edge of my guides to be sure

  20. #40
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    Default Re: How would you all respond to this "constructive criticism" of the top bar hive?

    I put a wooden strip and then coated it with wax. I was also told to put dowels in the bar pointing down to add stability to the comb for later. Several of the combs they got started in the right place just fine but as soon as they met that dowel they turned the comb at almost a 45 degree angle and headed off across multiple bars. I had to cut away bits of comb, not a lot because I am watching them pretty close ad then give them some incentive to build around those dowels. They are past the first one (there are two) on most of the bars. most of the comb is starting to stay centered on the bars now but a lot of it has strange spots in it. comb that is almost sideways etc. I am just waiting to see if they sort it all out or if my hive will just have some strange passages in it. The good news is there is a lot of brood in every comb and quite a bit is capped now.
    I also have two bars that I attached 1 inch wide strips of foundation wax to. The bees don't seem to appreciate it much but it is helping them put the comb where it is supposed to be.

    on other bars they went from starting the comb in the center to starting them on the edge. again these had to be cut away and reattached in the center of the bar. these have been the worst. IN other places they want to keep starting a new comb right dead center of two combs that are where they are supposed to be. that is not much of a problem I just take the bits of wa and add it to my growing collection. Then there is the burr comb also again not a huge problem. But when you add it all together it seems I am almost tearing it all apart as fast as they can build it. I know eventually they will get comb drawn where it is supposed to be but for now it looks like it will be a long road getting there.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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