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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
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    34

    Default two questions about comb

    I have two quick questions about comb as I'm getting geared up to re start my bees this spring, I'm a new beekeeper, started last year, and just found out that my one remaining hive (I started with two) did not overwinter. Discouraging, but there you have it. Moving forward I'm planning on splitting that hive full of comb between my two hives to give the packages something to start on (I have a couple frames of honey too, as a nice bonus.). My question is, that hive re-queened late in the year, and so there are empty queen cells in the comb, should I cut those off so as not to give the bees any ideas??

    the second question is, my one hive was continually drawing comb that looked like a sine wave. (I am foundationless) any ideas on how to prevent them from doing this? it makes problems with removing the frames.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Lee County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    70

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I don't believe the bees will get any ideas about swarming unless they are feeling crowded. Feel free to use that comb.

    As for the sine wave; is the hive level? That will effect the development of comb.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    663

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I have always felt that beginner beekeepers should try to stay conventional and make things easier on themselves when learning how best to manage bees and equipment. Foundationless comb building can be problematic. If you have an experienced mentor who can work with you from time to time thats one thing, but if your left alone to figure how best to approach certain situations it can be at least frustrating to a beginner. If you have straight comb to use next year on your packages then use it. I'm sure that most foundationless beekeepers on here would advise you to draw it out in between sheets of drawn foundation in order to keep things straight. You might also want to access why your one remaining hive perished before using that comb on new bees. Find a mentor Lady to assist you in person.
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
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    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I thought level only effected the comb in a vertical plane? this is side to side. the hive WAS level as of last year. I expect I'll have to go back out with my handy level and re-shim it once the ground settles in spring.

    as per mentoring, unfortuneately the only local beekeper who mentors and I do not get along well. she was, to say the least, less than supportive of anything that was not the standard method, or in any way different than what she herself was doing. she constantly disparaged me, my efforts, and my person. She acted like I had no business starting beekeeping. Not much fun as a mentor. I tried really hard to be ok with it, but after the second time she reduced me to tears, I gave up. Wish I could find someone to help, but, until then relying on non local e-mail mentorship, and the forum.

    I do know why the hive failed, first hive (from a package) failed because the queen never laid, and I didn't have a second hive to add brood from, second hive was from a swarm, requeened late, and I'm pretty sure just never got the momentum it needed before winter. It's been a learning experience.
    Last edited by LadySteelsheen; 02-28-2013 at 02:23 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Volga, SD
    Posts
    2,790

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    Were you using a comb guide in the foundationless frames?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,066

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    If the comb is not parallel to the top bar you should re-evaluate the style of comb guide you are using.

    Question: What's the best comb guide?
    Answer: Except for the wax filled groove, there's nothing wrong with any kind of commonly used guide from a strip of foundation waxed in a groove to a triangular guide, but there are advantages and disadvantages. In my opinion the one with the most advantages and least disadvantages is the triangular wooden guide. The bees follow it the most reliably and attach it the most solidly. I like a wax starter strip the least as it's fragile and hot weather can cause them to fall off. I think the least reliable would be dribbling a bead across a plain bar. This is at best a slight suggestion and as a guide it is often a complete failure.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    If you are happy with your comb guides, evaluate whether your bars themselves are the most suitable width, or if using frames, whether they are spaced appropriately. (See the link above for bar width.) here's a page on frame width:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesframewidth.htm
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    hmmmm... I have popcicle sticks glued into the grooves at the top of the frames, I didn't have the equipment to make wedge style guides. My setup has frames with a bar top. non standard, yes, but some other people were having good sucess with it, so I think my problems were really user error. Maybe try a strip of wax foundation? I have enough straigth comb that I can sandwich empty frames between between straight comb most of the way. maybe I can try to put a strip of wax foundation in the top of the other combs? (I still don't have the equipment for wedge style guides)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    Frameless bars can result in all sorts of strange stuff. Doesn't bother the bees a bit, and in fact "wild" comb is rarely flat, but not having flat comb can be a real problem when you have to take the comb out regularly.

    If you are using a top bar hive, you are pretty much stuck with what the bees make. Ensure that your bars are spaced 1 3/8" on centers, no more (too wide and you get more burr and erratic comb, you can go down as low as 1 1/4" with no problems at all, so error on the narrow side). Something else to note, if you use standard 1 3/8" spacing, the honey storage above the brood will be wider than the brood, and usually somewhat lumpy.

    If you are using a Langstroth hive, full frames are MUCH better all round. You can use some foundation that way, and at lest start them off with flat, proper thickness comb. You are lucky, sometimes bees on all foundationless make comb "warm way" to the entrance rather that "cold way" which is the direction of the frames. Needless to say, you won't be removing those frames until you cut the comb out.

    Peter

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I had them try a few interesting things last year, like where they attached two frames together. I cut that section out and put the frame back between two straight combs, and they didn't repeat the experiment.... kind funny actually...

    I had noticed that about the honey storage over the brood, it's very lumpy, and much wider. I just figured that was the most efficient use of space.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Phoenixville, PA
    Posts
    579

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I can't comment on your configuration.

    I was effectively left with one hive a few years ago. Fortunately it went gang busters. I found multiple queen cells and split into two other deeps using two or three frames each from the first. They built up very nicely. The following year I made an early queen-less split and caught one of my own swarms to bring me to five.

    Instead of splitting your single hive evenly, I suggest just start a new nuc with a couple of frames and keep an eye out for a repeat opportunity. You may have a decent harvest from the one while building your numbers.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    maybe I wasn't clear? I had a total loss this year, so I've nothing to split from. I'm just dividing the drawn comb and remaining stores between the two empty hives in hopes of giving my packages a decent start. I want to prevent as much as possible, the future drawing of "sine wave" comb, since it makes hive management difficult to say the least.

    Today I took the hives apart, scraped all the propolis, and cut out all of the really crooked comb, and cleaned up those frames. Tomorrow I'll scrape the rest, and get it all cleaned out and ready for the new package in a little more than a month. At that point I'll see how much straight comb I have. My tenative plan is to alternate full comb with empty in front of the reducer, putting the comb with honey closest to the bees when I install. I'm hoping to have enough to alternate two empty then one straight comb behind the reducer, but won't be sure until I really count if that will work. I'm trying to decide what to do about comb guides, since the bees seemed to pretty much just ignore my popsicle sticks. I was thinking of pinning in a starter strip of foundation? Maybe the top 1/4 of the frame? Just enough to get them started in the right direction (I hope) Some of the comb at the very back of the hive had gotten so wavy that it spanned two bars, and I had to break it apart to get it out. I would like to prevent dealing with that in a hive full of bees if at all possible....

    It's weird with the horizontal hives, some people have great luck, and some people none. I can't seem to find a unifying factor that spells success or failure (climate, management, etc.) One thing is certain, with the huge body of knowledge out there langstroth hives are a much surer path to immediate sucess (or so it seems to this newbee.) Still, there's a lot of things that I like about managing my Horizontal hives that seems much easier (relatively) than doing the same in a lang. For one, it's very easy to shuffle frames around, or to work just one end of the hive without disturbing the other. And, for me with available tools and materials, they were much easier and cheaper to put together myself.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
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    2,492

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    Some bees make nice flat comb, some bees make a huge mess even in a Lang, you got messy ones. You must watch carefully as they start and fix non-flat combs pronto, else they will make them all the same with bee space between! Doesn't bother them at all, but drives the beek crazy.

    Using foundation only helps, they can make a mess with that, too -- one of my hives is going to get a lot of work done on it this year, they insisted on building the outer frames really fat on the outside, so I have several frames that are fairly normal on one side and a mess on the other (all storage). One is going completely, the foundation warped badly, so I'm going to trash it at the first opportunity. The other side will get trimmed down and put into a nuc when making splits, hopefully I can get rid of that one soon.

    Peter

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,084

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    > Foundationless comb building can be problematic.

    So can foundation. Especially plastic foundation... I would recommend starting with foundationless. You will learn much more about what bees actually do, and you'll give them the best chance of survival with clean wax and natural sized cells. Also you won't have all the habits that old beekeepers have as far as handling combs. You'll learn to be careful. The main thing to remember is that bees build parallel combs, and because of that, one good comb leads to another and one bad comb leads to another. You need to keep an eye on the first few combs and straighten as needed. Combs should be in the middle of the frame.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    I'm hoping that this year I have enough straight comb to alternate most of the hive with straight comb/empty bar/straight comb. At most I should have to put two empty bars between straight combs. I was vigilant last year and got a LOT of crooked comb that i had to cut out, then at the end of the year they built all this sine wave honey storage and I just left it. what gets me is that they totally ignored my posicle stick comb guides. <sigh> I don't have the tools to make wedge guides, which seem to work better. they seem to love to build off to one side of the stick, or on the stick, then with the end of the comb curling forward or backwards. Maybe it was just this one hive though. I'm not going to use foundation because of the expense and the dirty wax, but it would be nice to have to do less cutting out of bad comb!!

    what about foundationless supers? should I put a medium down in the hive, let them draw it out, then put it in the super and give them soemthing to go from? I guess it doesn't really matter if the comb in the super is straigt or not, since I'm going to cut and crush, but it's easier if I can get it out to see if it's full/capped/ready to harvest.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,084

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    >I'm hoping that this year I have enough straight comb to alternate most of the hive with straight comb/empty bar/straight comb.

    This works well in the brood nest. It works very badly in the supers. It's not an issue of foundationless either. If you alternate drawn comb with undrawn foundation, you'll get the same problem, which is that they will draw honey combs very thick if given the room to do so. Brood comb, though is a consistent thickness.

    >what about foundationless supers? should I put a medium down in the hive, let them draw it out, then put it in the super and give them soemthing to go from?

    Yes, a drawn comb is always helpful as a guide in any box you want the bees to draw comb in.

    > I guess it doesn't really matter if the comb in the super is straigt or not, since I'm going to cut and crush, but it's easier if I can get it out to see if it's full/capped/ready to harvest.

    I wouldn't say it doesn't matter, but it is easier to deal with. It's always better if you can pull frames. You may need to brush the bees off the combs which you can't do if it's a mess of crosscombs.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Esperance, New York, USA
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: two questions about comb

    so do you just manage the supers like you would the brood and honey storage below? continue to straighten out the comb? this could be hard if they insist on drawing it reallly thickly though? Should I just start out with less frames to give them more room? it's a horizontal hive with two supers side by side on top, but I've never needed to use the supers yet, so I have no exerience at all. I've had trouble finding information about foundationless supers, except "don't do it" which is hardly helpful.

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