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  1. #1

    Default How to fix cross-combing...?

    I just hived my bees about three weeks ago into my first TBH. In the first week I left them alone so they could settle in, and in that time, they managed to pull about 6 frames of cross comb. The problem is that they are crossed so badly, that each comb touches at least two, if not three top bars. They appear to be angled off the center of the bar by about ten degrees, so the ends of each comb are fixed to the adjacent bar(s). I attempted to fix this on Saturday and messed up the hive pretty bad, rummaging around like an old bear and even breaking one comb on accident. I feel terrible for doing this and am praying the bees don't leave me for it. I don't think they will though.

    Anyway, does anyone have ideas on how to fix this, and teach the bees to build straight? I hate the thought that I might have to just keep cutting crooked comb until they learn (however long that might be). I've attempted installing two half leader boards, with an empty frame between them. I built the leader boards to be 1" thick to simulate a chunk of comb, hoping they will fill in the bar between, and be inspired to build a straight comb. So far they don't seem fond of the middle bar. There are a few crawling around on it, but no sign of pulling it out, as if it's just an open space in the hive that they don't care about.

    I've started uploading YouTube videos of my project (struggles) and am seeking any input from fellow TBH beekeepers about what to do. Any advice either on YouTube or on the forums here is greatly appreciated. Here is a link to my videos if you are interested: http://www.youtube.com/user/tdbt3c/videos. Thanks for looking!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Bee build parallel combs. They will not start building them on the bars until the existing combs are on the bars. I would build some frames and cut and tie the combs into the frames. Then the subsequent combs will be parallel to those and parallel will be on the bars.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#superior
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm#messup
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Here's what I had to do.

    http://youtu.be/nn9unz_3S5U

  4. #4

    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Thanks for your input. Thanks Michael. I would have gladly used comb as a guide, but this is my first hive, a package, so I didn't have any comb to start with.
    @rtoney - I just watched your video, and I must say...WOW, and I thought I had a cross combing problem! Yours were nearly at 90 degrees!

    So here is what I have done: On Tuesday I opened the hive back up to fix the one busted comb. I had to cut loose bridged comb in three different spots. I had mentioned that I placed in the false leader boards to try and press the bees into building straight comb in the cavity. However, They still hadn't made any effort to pull comb between the guides, and instead had bridged comb to the sides of them. So I cut loose the bridging and pulled the guides out. I also had to cut loose where they had just slightly bridged two free combs.
    Lastly, the comb that I had broken on Saturday, I had leaned up against the end follower board. The bees had attached that, so I had to cut it loose to. Also, since it had sat in the bottom of the hive, it has kind of a curve to it now. But I got it hung back up, using the hairclip method that I swiped from McCartney Taylor (Youtube.com/OutOfaBlueSky). It is hanging good, and last night I noted that they are building new comb on the rehung portion, so I guess they aren't abandoning it like I was afraid they might. It does still have the curve to it though, so it hangs over towards another comb. Hopefully they don't bridge that too.

    You know, I really hate having to cut back comb so much to line them out, but I really don't see any other way. I just try to make a conscience effort only to cut out empty new comb, or drone or honeycomb. I avoid the brood comb at all cost. That broke my heart to see those larva laying on the bottom board
    I don't like having to open the hive so often, but I don't see any other way around it. I've had to open it every few days to stay on top of the crooked comb issue, before it gets out of hand again. But I'll know for future reference to save empty comb when I get the opportunity, and I'll freeze it for future use as a guide in new hives.
    I'm also working on a design for a TBH frame. It will be the same shape as a follower board, but with a hollow center, and offset from the walls 3/8". Hopefully the bees will fill the void with comb, and leave the sides open for their passage space. It would basically be a Langstroth frame, but with the tapered sides, and no foundation. I figured I'll lay a waxed string on all four sides of the frame as well. If it works it may be worth incorporating further. Yes it makes for more work in building the hive (departs from the simplicity of TBH) but it could also make for a more ridged comb, possibly making the TBH more portable like a Lang.
    Thanks again and happy beekeeping to all!

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    >Thanks for your input. Thanks Michael. I would have gladly used comb as a guide, but this is my first hive, a package, so I didn't have any comb to start with.

    But you do now...

    >You know, I really hate having to cut back comb so much to line them out, but I really don't see any other way.

    There isn't any other way.

    > I just try to make a conscience effort only to cut out empty new comb, or drone or honeycomb. I avoid the brood comb at all cost.

    Make some frames and tie it in, or continue with your hair clip method.

    > That broke my heart to see those larva laying on the bottom board
    I don't like having to open the hive so often, but I don't see any other way around it. I've had to open it every few days to stay on top of the crooked comb issue, before it gets out of hand again.

    Once you get things on track they hardly ever get out of hand. That's why you need to make sure they are on track from the beginning.

    >But I'll know for future reference to save empty comb when I get the opportunity, and I'll freeze it for future use as a guide in new hives.

    It is hard to beat one good comb for a start. Guides usually work fine, but one straight comb sets the stage for sure.

    >I'm also working on a design for a TBH frame. It will be the same shape as a follower board, but with a hollow center, and offset from the walls 3/8". Hopefully the bees will fill the void with comb, and leave the sides open for their passage space. It would basically be a Langstroth frame, but with the tapered sides, and no foundation. I figured I'll lay a waxed string on all four sides of the frame as well.

    The frame is worth having. The waxed string is just extra work for no reason.

    > If it works it may be worth incorporating further. Yes it makes for more work in building the hive (departs from the simplicity of TBH) but it could also make for a more ridged comb, possibly making the TBH more portable like a Lang.

    You really only need a few of them so you can tie broken combs in them. The comb will get tough over time anyway. It's only the new wax that is soft and fragile.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    San Jose, Ca
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    372

    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Has anyone noticed a direction that they build comb in? If they have an open box, is the comb always East/West for example?

    Can you tell what direction your comb was? Just wondering if you can always have them start the comb the right way by just facing it exactly south for example.

    Just a thought.
    Disclaimer: I know enough to know I don't know anything yet.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    You know I had that same suspicion too, but I really don't think it matters. I thought it was odd that mine all seemed to be building at a given angle, but then I watched rtoney's video, and their's were at 90 degrees from the bars. I'm under the assumption that, once inside the hive, the bees operate on their own terms, independent of what the orientation is. Ideally the inside of beehive is pitch black, and they communicate through pheromones and vibrations right? So what would the position of the sun outside matter? I don't know, I just can't find a reason as to why they would orient a certain way. I think they just all start building comb however they want, and then hook it together when they get close enough. But as Michael Bush said, once they have a straight guide, they will rarely cross comb. I've been checking mine through the glass window every evening, and I don't see them building at angles anymore. Seems like if you in and fix their errors they seem to learn.
    Good luck and stay Happy!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    It needs to be understood that in my case i had the hive Ozark level and not level level. I think that although in it will not stop all cross comb you do need to make sure that the hive is level and mine was a swarm ready to build that I checked after I believe 2 weeks much to long to wait. On a top bar you need to go in early and make sure they get started right, once right they will normally stay right.

  9. #9

    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    You know, that makes sense, or at least I think it does. It's not so much the orientation, as it is being level. For strength reasons, and for the bees practicality, they should want the comb to hang vertical. Think about it, when we pick up a top bar, we make an effort to keep the comb on a vertical plane so it doesn't fail. Well I guess the bees would want to do that too. Perhaps they can sense if the hive is level, and will always build in a direction parallel to the slope. This is purely speculation on my end.
    Rtoney, what direction did your hive slope. If my thoughts are correct, your hive was almost level side to side, but sloped to one end, which would make the bees build at 90 degrees from your bars. Mine is almost level, but I think just slightly lower on one corner, not one end or one side, which would make the bees go diagonal. So theoretically (by my hairbrain theory) if your hive is level end to end, but slopes, even steeply to either side, the bees should still pull comb straight on your bars.
    Dang, I wish I had a few extra hives so I could experiment with one to see if this worked true. It makes sense to me that bees have a very good sense of direction and up/down. I wonder if anyone has ever intentionally sloped their hive to one side to try it. Has anyone ever discovered a hive in a tree or somewhere that had a sloped ceiling and observed this trend?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    I have faced them in all directions and they follow the comb guides. But I have very good comb guides...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Nueces, TX, USA
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    I believe bees will pretty much always build the comb vertical to the ground, regardless of attachment angle at the top...the angles they use for the cells is very precise from my understanding.

  12. #12
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    Seattle, WA, USA
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Brueggen View Post
    In the first week I left them alone so they could settle in, and in that time, they managed to pull about 6 frames of cross comb.
    Try wax strips affixed to the TBs' undersides. This is recommended by a hTBH-friendly columnist over at Bee Culture magazine. I have a video showing an easy method to make them:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31ovK...hannel&list=UL

    The hTBH guy says they should be about an inch tall, and extend to within a beespace of the walls of the hive. Works for him. I fitted all my Warré boxes with them this year. My topbars have a shallow 1/8" groove milled down the center to help seat the strip.

    /Alex Templeton
    Beekeeping for Poets, $5.99 cheap at smashwords

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Guy had more time on his hands then he knew what to do with.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Kearney, Ne
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    Are all TBH bars started using beeswax to guide the bees? I've seen setup instructions using strings soaked in beeswax and some just using lines of beeswax painted on the bars. And of course now some using beeswax strips mounted in grooves but so far none that use plain bars to get a hive started.

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    >Are all TBH bars started using beeswax to guide the bees?

    No. I have tried them and I use triangular strips of wood now. I use NO beeswax whatsoever. All the wax comes from the bees. I don't even wax the wood as it causes poor attachments to the wood.

    > I've seen setup instructions using strings soaked in beeswax and some just using lines of beeswax painted on the bars.

    These are very unreliable and most likely to get messed up. They really need to protrude 1/2" or so. At least 1/4".

    > And of course now some using beeswax strips mounted in grooves but so far none that use plain bars to get a hive started.

    A plain bar will almost guarantee they will build the comb at some wild angle across many bars. They need a guide. The nice thing about wood is it is permanent. You don't have to put a new one on every time the wax moths tear up the comb or the heat causes the wax starter strip to fall out.


    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#guide
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Worcester, MA, USA
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    Default Re: How to fix cross-combing...?

    unfortunately I have empirical evidence to support Michael's position on wax beads of various types...

    I have a session of rearranging comb in my two hives coming this afternoon... It's going to take a fair amount of time and make everyone upset. The time I 'saved' in not making more complex bars will be long lost...

    Lesson learned...

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