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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    11

    Default New hive won't build straight comb

    Hi all:

    I installed a new package in May (not my first) and the bees are healthy, productive, docile. However, they will not build straight comb. I am running 8 frame mediums, foundationless. My other hives are the same set up, no problems. This hive, every time I go in there's burr comb. They're building from the bottom up, from the sides, etc. They're in three boxes right now, first is brood, I have no idea what's in the second as all the frames are all built together- it is impossible to pull a frame. I went in every 4 days, cut out the burr, and they would rebuild it how they like, times 10. Not sure what to do now- run it like a Warre and let them do what they want? I was thinking of putting a shallow super on top and just harvesting the whole box rather than individual frames. Is it a queen problem? I am loathe to kill her as they are so productive, calm, and healthy. I tried giving them a guide frame with foundation, no go. All my frames have a starter wood piece to build from.
    I was thinking of waiting until winter, hopefully getting them all in one box, and starting over with new boxes. help! Thanks.
    Casey

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Clinton, Iowa
    Posts
    647

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    Everything is level and it hasn't settled since you installed them?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    128

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    If the bees are building comb in the wrong direction, move the whole hive so its parallel with the direction they are trying to go.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    One good comb leads to another. One bad comb leads to another. Do a cutout. Rubber band the combs into the frames. Once you have straight combs they will build more straight combs.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    Hive is level, and on the same platform as another hive building straight. I have to say, the second box intimidates me- it's a warren of comb. Michael; when you say do a cut out, do you mean dismantle the whole thing, and tie each individual frame? My fear is killing bees and brood; the thing is all bound together and I would have to take apart the whole box. I'll do it, but jeez....

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,001

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    That is what he means I believe. I like to drive five tacks top and bottom half way in and make a web of fishing line that will hold the various pieces you have to cut out into a flat surface and drive the tacks in to hold the string in place. Prepare several that way. Lay your jig saw puzzle together keeping the upwards orientation if possible. have tacks for string on the open side and after piecing comb, weave your line and drive in the tacks.

    Sounds like this mess was a foundationless situation that got away. Much easier to draw good combs between a foundation frame with capped brood and another the same. It is amazing how bees are individuals and how different they are at building.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,492

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    This is why foundation remains quite popular.

    When you get bees that build crazy comb, foundation does quite a bit to keep them on the straight and narrow. They can still make a big mess, but wilred and crosswired foundation will at least get them to start all the comb in the center of the frames.

    I would also suggest cutting out wonky comb and tying it into frames to straighten it out -- if you don't they will just keep making more of it. And once a hive starts with that stuff, it takes forever to get it cleaned up.

    As for adding boxes, put the a couple frames of the nicest comb you have available in the new box, in the center. This will start them off properly, and since they have a "ladder" up to the top, the bees will be more likely to festoon off the frames and make clean comb. Make sure you have a nice sharp edge for them to work from -- the wedge broken out of a wedge type frame and nailed in at a 90 degree angle works very well. Tapered sides with a flat in the center is much less likely to give you good comb.

    Peter

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rödön, Östersund, Sweden
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    Guess you could put the wonky box above a queen excluder and use it as a honey super.
    After the brood hached out they can fill it with honey. You could then harvest the whole box, cut out the comb and crush and strain.
    Make sure the queen stays below the queen excluer.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    479

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    This is one of the reasons why I have mostly gotten away from foundationless after trying it for a season. Unless you are doing as Vance said and putting them between frames of capped brood or even honey, they are a pain. You have to constantly be in there correcting. Even with foundation, some colonies draw it out a lot nicer than others. You will lose some brood and a few bees with a cutout, but as long you keep the queen safe the bees will tidy things up for you. I like use elastic bands to hold in the pieces of comb.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    > it's a warren of comb.

    If you can't pull combs out, flip the box upside down and pull the box off the top.

    >This is why foundation remains quite popular.

    Of course... they never mess up foundation... ;>

    >This is one of the reasons why I have mostly gotten away from foundationless

    Everything has a learning curve. You learn a lot more about how bees think from foundationless... and once you do, foundationless is a lot less work than foundation.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    479

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Everything has a learning curve. You learn a lot more about how bees think from foundationless... and once you do, foundationless is a lot less work than foundation.
    I really think this is a bit of stretch. It's really easy to take a PF100/120 out of the box and not have to assemble an empty wooden frame. I also think for someone starting out without drawn comb that at least getting the first box drawn out with foundation and then inserting foundationless frames between capped frames would make life a lot easier - especially when you have one of those special hives like the OP's that really wants to do their own thing. The bees definitely draw out foundationless frames much faster than either wax or plastic foundation.
    Adam - Zone 5A
    www.adamshoney.com

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

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    You will get that one hive once in a while that builds crazy comb, even with foundation, but if you put a whole box of foundation, especially wax coated plastic, on next time, likely they will make much less of a mess. I have a buddy who caught a swarm the first year we kept bees, probably four years ago now, and that hive STILL makes crazy comb since my buddy is still trying to get it to work foundationless. Quite the mess, even after we have cut down a number of frames to extract them, they still make bulges and lumps and build from frame to frame.

    A box full of frames with foundation may not completely eliminate the urge that hive has to make lumpy comb, but it should at least force them to start off with fairly flat and regularly spaced combs.

    That said, unless the foundation is wired and crosswired (or plastic, which doesn't warp) is is possible for it to sag. Wired foundation in deeps is quite prone to this as the wire retains some "memory" from being wound on a spool before being embedded in the wax, and sagged foundation is also a nice way to make a hive nearly impossible to manage. I had one from a swarm capture a buddy did for me, took forever to get rid of the lopsided comb! No more slotted top bars for me, thank you!

    I'm sure the bees greatly prefer making their own comb as they please, but when you get on of those 'untidy' hives foundation suddenly begins to look very attractive again.

    Peter

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,212

    Default Re: New hive won't build straight comb

    >I really think this is a bit of stretch. It's really easy to take a PF100/120 out of the box and not have to assemble an empty wooden frame.

    Plastic one piece frames are certainly less work that building frames. But foundationless is a lot less work than wood frames and wiring foundation.

    > I also think for someone starting out without drawn comb that at least getting the first box drawn out with foundation and then inserting foundationless frames between capped frames would make life a lot easier

    Drawn comb is always an advantage in any circumstance.

    >but if you put a whole box of foundation, especially wax coated plastic, on next time, likely they will make much less of a mess.

    I've seen them make a total mess with plastic... I'd say they can mess up either one just fine...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

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