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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
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    178

    Default How does this comb look?

    This is my first year of beekeeping and my first winter. We had some abnormally cold weather and snow during January and I hadn't seen any bees flying in a couple of weeks even though there was some warm days in between the cold snaps. When I looked through the viewing window all I could see were a few dead bees and no live ones. Decided I might as well harvest the honey that was left so I started taking out the bars. I went all the way through the hive and pulled each bar out looking for bees. I only saw a couple of live ones while doing that. There was one cross combed bar that I left together until I'd gone all the way through. When I went back and broke it apart there was a small ball of bees in a cavity between the two combs. Fortunately, the comb didn't break off so I put it back together and put the bars back leaving them some honey. I doubt they make it until spring but I have my fingers crossed. Almost all the bars in front of the huddled mass of bees (toward the entrance) looked like this one. Is this normal for mid-winter?

    DSCN3515.jpg
    The road goes on forever and the party never ends ---- Robert Earl Keen

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Posts
    454

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    The comb looks good.

    If the cluster is too small they may die. It is better if the cluster is a bit larger in winter so they can manage temperature, and get to the honey more easily. Small clusters this time of year are often a result of dwindling from mites/virus or some other malady.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Madisonville,TN
    Posts
    203

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    That comb looks perfect for winter, space on the bottom to cluster, pollen and honey on top. Save it for the spring, that would be great start for a package or split when things start to warm up. I lost one of mine this winter the same way. It was a weak queen going into winter, should have requeened, but didn't. I think the cold was just a little to much for a small cluster. Don t feel to bad, it happens to all of us.
    16 y, 30 hives ULBN, treat when needed.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Comb looks good, remember a colony can starve right next to stores if they cant move or are moving away from the stores. It happens, might be the first dead out but surely wont be the last. Their chances are not good. IF they don't make it SAVE the straightest combs from the brood nest harvest the rest, get rid of the crossed comb. Keep the brood nest in tact and in order make sure wax moths don't get it. This hive is perfect for a swarm.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Being a new beek I may be off base here but MUO (My Uninformed Opinion) is; That comb looks like a perfect follower board. In cold weather anyway. Be damed if I wouldn't cut center holes in all combs going into winter, after wax building has ceased. Other wise the cluster has to go to the hive wall to pass from empty comb to filled comb. TBH were developed in hot, no winter areas I believe, right? The cluster needs a central path from front to back in a TBH when it is cold. What do you think?
    Langs avoid this trap by having central pathways up and out although they may profit from cut central paths from comb to combs sideways. I think I will cut some holes in my Lang comb as a test.
    Last edited by julysun; 02-09-2014 at 01:02 AM.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,520

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    The whole top bar hives were invented here or there is overblown. Kenyan Top Bar hives were adapted for use in Kenya based on long hives used in other places in the world. In northern Europe folks have been running long hives for a long time. A strong hive with resources will make it through the winter. A weak hive going into the winter more than likely will die.

    In some places it is common to overwinter in a single deep box. The resources there are probably not any better in those hives than a small top bar, and I've never heard of folks drilling holes in comb.

    Now on the other hand, I have seen the bees do it on their own.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    178

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    I did see three queen cells on one of the bars so it looked like they tried to requeen at some point. Hopefully I can hang onto that comb until I get another package in March. Thanks for the help.
    The road goes on forever and the party never ends ---- Robert Earl Keen

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Quote Originally Posted by BeeGora View Post
    I did see three queen cells on one of the bars so it looked like they tried to requeen at some point. Hopefully I can hang onto that comb until I get another package in March. Thanks for the help.
    A break in brood rearing would explain the lack of bees. Something may have happened to your queen that was totally out of control.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Quote Originally Posted by julysun View Post
    Being a new beek I may be off base here but MUO (My Uninformed Opinion) is; That comb looks like a perfect follower board. In cold weather anyway. Be damed if I wouldn't cut center holes in all combs going into winter, after wax building has ceased. Other wise the cluster has to go to the hive wall to pass from empty comb to filled comb. TBH were developed in hot, no winter areas I believe, right? The cluster needs a central path from front to back in a TBH when it is cold. What do you think?
    Langs avoid this trap by having central pathways up and out although they may profit from cut central paths from comb to combs sideways. I think I will cut some holes in my Lang comb as a test.
    Actually Long Hives are not really popular in Europe I believe they are catching on. Skeps were the hive of choice way back to the Monks. Prior to that in ancient Greece and Rome evidence of clay pots with sticks across the top were found.

    Long hives were not developed because the environment was hot. The design for topbar hives came totally out of necessity and available materials. Consider this. Actual Kenyan topbar hives are made from hollowing fallen trees and placing sticks across the top. The reason Kenyan TB Hives are shaped the way they are today is because of the modern materials we have today. the angled sides are mimicking the curve of the fallen tree Its just the way we cut the wood. Remember the KTBH was the original model for the modern TBH. James Satterfield did it with TTBH's in effect making a long Lang.

    The holes in comb left by bees are communication holes.

    Bees move in a cluster along the comb faces as they consume stores and raise a bit of brood along the way and work laterally in a TBH around the combs not thru them. IMO Cutting a hole in the comb will stress the colony because that's one more thing they must fix before winter.

    When bees scout out a cavity the volume of the cavity is either acceptable or not, constantly changing the size they have to work with in the brood nest with a follower board seems counter productive. If I had plans to build a house and you shrunk my available space my plan now has to be adjusted. IMO when tree cavities start changing sizes I'll add follower boards until then they are a waste of materials.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    "Long hives were not developed because the environment was hot." Duncan T

    I said they were developed in, not because of a hot environment.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Got ya, read it wrong.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
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    178

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    It seems to me that it would be very hard to cut holes in the center of the combs without breaking the comb off of the bar. Since it's been so cold the comb I took out was extremely fragile.
    The road goes on forever and the party never ends ---- Robert Earl Keen

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    not being crtical of anyone but when you are in a hive consider the hypocratic oath ......virtal keyboards are terrble......first do no harm. Consider the impact of what you ar about to do. are you moving in a positive direction.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,520

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    I would guess most mistakes are well meaning.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Baytown, TX., USA.
    Posts
    651

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Hey, I am just thinking about my top bar before I moved the bees into a Lang. No harm, no foul as is said. My girls clustered up in the center of the hive, about five frames of them. There was little movement on cold days from one frame to another. I have windows. The comb bas built out wall to wall, stuck in places. Now how is a cold averse bee going to move to a new frame. No way, she will just sit there and starve, I think. I don't have extensive cold times here so cannot test this very well. I can cut holes and will. Dadant makes wax with pre-cut holes.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Let me guess the entrance to your TBH is in the middle of one side??????

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    The bees will get around the combs don't worry about that. you have a much bigger problem, You stated the cluster is in the middle. That colony is GOING to starve anyway. The bees in a TBH will move in one direction and hit a wall there they will starve. You should rearrange it soon.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,520

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    He may be ok. He is in Raleigh. My guess that in a couple weeks he will have maple in bloom. Just need to brush this oncoming snow off the hives!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
    Posts
    178

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    My top bar hive has a side entrance on the end of the hive. It had around 16 bars of honey and brood comb. The bees were in the middle of the bars with plenty of honey in front of them. I'm waiting for the next warm spell to go back in and check again. Thanks for all the comments
    The road goes on forever and the party never ends ---- Robert Earl Keen

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Hardin Cty, KY, USA
    Posts
    112

    Default Re: How does this comb look?

    Keep this in mind.....If the bees form a nest on the first half of the TBH and never go past the 15th or 16th bar the volume of the hive is too large. Streamline the size down and the bees will store honey in the rear. This will make it easier to do manipulations and harvest some honey.

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