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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    25

    Default Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Due to losing one of my colonies last year, I have a lot of old top bars with attached comb that I want to re-use this year to save the bees precious nectar usually lost to comb build-up. The combs have been frozen to kill any pests during the winter.

    Last year I also had a LOT of trouble with cross-combing.

    I'm worried that putting old top bars in (due to the waviness and irregularity of the combs) will cause a lot of problems with cross-combing, as the combs are not in the original "order".

    Would it be worth it to "shave" down the sides of the combs to the width of the top bar in order to prevent cross-combing due to lack of bee-space? Theoretically wouldn't that allow the bees to re-build the comb out to a proper bee-space?

    I guess I'm looking for any helpful info for re-using top bars with attached comb. Thanks for any input.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,495

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    I think it is Michael Bush that says straight comb makes straight comb. If you can get the comb straight it would be worthwhile. I don't know that shaving would work, the center of the comb would be offset, so they may just pull it back out straight. What if you warmed it with a hair dryer or something to get it pliable and then get it straighter? You may have to detach the comb on the bar at places that are far off. The bees will fix it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
    Posts
    142

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    I would straighten the ones that are feasible and for the others trim away the bad bits.
    Cheers
    Rob

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    I sort of thought there might be something wrong with the idea of simply shaving the combs down. The center, or back of the cells I suppose, is where the bees would build out from, and they would probably end up just as cross-combed as if I hadn't shaved them down.

    I'll try the hair dryer thing to bend them into as straight a line as possible. Anything too out of whack I'll just cut off. Thanks for the advice!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    426

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Do the combs have honey in them? If they do you can place a comb at a time in the back end of the nest for the bees to clean out during your dearth period. Scratch the cappings so they can easily remove the honey. Once they are empty you can straighten them with the hair dryer idea.

    Those combs will come in handy for a fall flow if you have one or for early spring expansion if some are nice worker combs.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,125

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    If the comb is not as straight as you want, I would not reuse it. If it is straight enough, I would. No natural comb is perfectly straight but it should all be on the top bar and not running off the bar to the next bar...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Troutville, VA, USA
    Posts
    66

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    I too was wondering about reusing comb. I have some empty combs from 2 current tbh and have 2 new packages coming next month. Would it be helpful to the new packages to put a couple of empty combs in each new hive for them to start out on, and if so, how many would you put into each new hive? Is there any drawback to adding empty combs to new package bees?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,495

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Rob, anything you can do to give them a jump start well help them. Did your hives make it?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    25

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Here's my new thoughts on the matter, especially with new packages.

    As Michael Bush says, I'd use the straightest combs only, and offset each one with an empty bar. That way, as the new combs are built, they'll conform naturally to the guide bars you have provided them.

    I'm a newbee, and there may be some problems with this idea (let me know!), but I fear if you set them side by side (not in their original comb order), the natural waviness is sure to get you cross-combing, which in my opinion is not worth the "head start" that the pre-built comb offers...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,125

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    >how many would you put into each new hive? Is there any drawback to adding empty combs to new package bees?

    Empty combs are an asset. Especially straight ones. Straight ones are an asset because they give a guide to the next comb. Drawn combs are an asset because the queen has somewhere to lay, the bees have somewhere to cluster and store pollen and nectar.

    How many would be as many as you can. I would evenly divide what you have among the hives you are starting.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Canada BC Delta
    Posts
    426

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    If any of the combs are offset of the center guides you shouldn't use them to start off a new colony even if they are straight. Otherwise all the newly built combs will be just as offset but they can still be used in the honey harvest area of the hive. A spacer placed on the offset side will be helpful when harvesting them as combs of honey.

    Combs centered on the bar and straight is what you want when starting them out.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Troutville, VA, USA
    Posts
    66

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    Rob, anything you can do to give them a jump start well help them. Did your hives make it?
    I won't say they made it yet, but there seem to be a lot of bees in them. When I open the front bars on a 50 deg day, they come flowing out the opening and are difficult to get closed back up. I haven't inspected throughout the hive to see if there is brood, but I thought I might be queenless back in October, as there was no brood or eggs then. But there seems to be as many bees as there was then, so I assume they raised bees through the winter. What puzzles me is that there seems to be a lot of honey still at the back of of the box. I would have thought they would have eaten more of it by now.
    I probably have 6 or 8 empty, straight, full combs so I'll split them between my two new hives, with an empty bar between each, when I dump my packages in. They started fast last year from nothing, so I hope they get started even faster this year having combs to lay in immediately.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,495

    Default Re: Question on reusing old top bar combs

    Good deal!

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