Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Default Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Hi, this is my first season with bees. The TBH started off well and they filled out the area I had given them, which was in the middle of the TBH. The season progressed and I didn't expand the hive in time. The boards on both sides do not have a very tight fit and the bees have crawled around them and built comb on either side, filling the entire length of the TBH. The original comb was oriented properly, but the newer comb is going perpendicular to the bars. I am amazed how quickly this happened (about a week) but now they are maxed out for space. What steps should I take to get things back to manageable? Should I harvest some comb to create more room or just cut out all the cross comb and destroy it? If the cross comb has brood in it should I wait to cut it out or is it worth trying to reattach it? I have only done the most minimal hive inspections at this point and no comb manipulations. Thanks.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Lansing, IL, USA
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    131

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    If the perpendicular combs are empty, you can cut them and reattach them properly. If they are filled with honey, it will be difficult to reattach them because of their weight. If you don't fix it now, I'm not sure how you are going to remove the top bars and manage the hive. I would personally fix as many combs as possible, remove the comb that can't be fixed, and then remove the follower bars and let the bees expand as needed so this doesn't happen again. With a top bar hive you are going to have to "check" on them more often and make sure they are building combs under your top bars. This can easily become a mess, especially the first year, if you don't watch them. Make sure you have spacers so that when they begin making wider combs for honey you are prepared or combs will begin spanning more than one frame.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    WNC
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    11

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Thanks. Couple more clarification questions-

    1- if I remove both follower boards and reattach as much comb as possible and the hive is nearly 100% full, will they be swarming soon? Should I try to harvest honey before then? I don't have any space for a new hive right now.

    2- in the future, is it better for the follower boards to make a better seal, so bees can't crawl around them? I think the hive window makes this difficult.

    3- what is the best method for reattaching comb?

    Thanks so much. I will get it figured out and track things better from now on!

  5. #4
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    Apr 2014
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    Lansing, IL, USA
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    131

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    1-If the hive is full, then chances are greater they will swarm. It's pretty easy to crush and strain as needed with a top bar hive to leave the bees some space.

    2-The only time I've used a follower board was in the winter to reduce the amount of space that needs to be heated.

    3-I like using alligator hair clips for empty comb and I've also used tie wraps. There are other methods, but that's what I've used.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Bristol,RI
    Posts
    652

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Run it full open.. they will use what they want and ignore the rest until needed. That is how they do any other cavity they use.. trees, walls, ceilings. etc

    Definitely harvest some honey.. that is the beauty of foundationless type comb.. crush/strain. throw the bar right back in and watch them build it again. Put some empty frames into the brood area between 2 nice combs so they build it nice and straight.

    (not my pic but my preferred way to attach comb)

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Reedsport, OR
    Posts
    186

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    How large is your hive? I run 48" ktb 15" at the top, 9" at the bottom and it'd be a miracle for bees to fill out 2/3 of the hive in a week. Where is "WNC"?

    I recently built some rescue bars with the welded wire after being resistant to the idea - but I've made an improvement... The pic above shows the wire wrapped up around one side of the bar which will create gaps...

    So I snipped off all but 3 leaders on the "top" (one toward each end and one in the middle), then drill 3 matching holes the diameter of the wire into approximately the center of the angled part of the bar - slide the leaders into the holes and bend the rest of the piece of wire to suit.

    The wire is firmly attached but can also be easily removed and reused later and no gaps. It's kind of a pain to make these, so nice to be able to easily recycle them after the comb is attached, or at least that's the theory.

    I made 30 bars this way because I thought the green stretchy plant tape had failed on a cutout I did and I thought I was going to have to go in and redo it with the wire on all the bars. But I was wrong - the plant tape had not stretched and I only ended up using 2 of the rescue bars as I moved the bars into the new large hive and removed the old tape!

    But now that I have them fabbed, I will definitely use them for the next cutout because tying comb on with the plant tape is cumbersome and takes too much time - I think a cutout with the rescue bars will go much quicker and be less of a mess and ultimately much easier on the bees, brood and me.

    Will post pics in a bit.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Hephzibah, GA
    Posts
    306

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sinthome View Post
    Thanks. Couple more clarification questions-

    1- if I remove both follower boards and reattach as much comb as possible and the hive is nearly 100% full, will they be swarming soon? Should I try to harvest honey before then? I don't have any space for a new hive right now.

    2- in the future, is it better for the follower boards to make a better seal, so bees can't crawl around them? I think the hive window makes this difficult.

    3- what is the best method for reattaching comb?

    Thanks so much. I will get it figured out and track things better from now on!
    Before removing the followers, has the queen been able to get behind them and start laying? If not, that means she's been restricted to the straight combs between the followers, which is a good thing. You can expand the hive from the center with either empty bars or comb you've cut off of the cross combing and attached, always placing them between drawn combs. That will also expand the brood nest, alleviating the need to swarm. You don't need to worry about killing brood; just be ready to crush and strain honey from the very new combs, which don't reattach easily once cut from a bar. With no brood, it's easy to clean up the crossed comb. If there is brood, that's going to be a much bigger challenge. If you can find the queen and keep her confined in the straight comb, you'll need to wait until the brood has hatched out before doing anything drastic. That will mean you'll need tight follower boards. I once used foam weather stripping with a board that had too much of a gap, expecting the bees to chew it up, but they ignored it, so that might be a solution.

  9. #8
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    Apr 2013
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    Hephzibah, GA
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    306

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    I've used the galvanized metal rescue bars (and still have few in my hives), but these cardboard slings are a lot easier and faster to make, and hold weaker wax better than the metal prongs. Plus, the bees chew them off once the combs are attached.rescue bar sling.jpg

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Reedsport, OR
    Posts
    186

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    WNC
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    11

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Thanks, everyone. I did some major hive invasion yesterday. On the right side of the right follower board, I found some new comb that was all being filled with honey. I cut it out without attempting to save any comb. In the middle section between the follower boards was a lot of capped honey and, to my untrained eye, I didn't see any brood. I moved most of these bars all the way to the right, with a couple empty bars interspersed. To the left of the left follower board was, assumably the queen and brood built perpendicular across about five bars. I didn't dare disturb her and since there seemed to be zero brood left on good bars I got worried about messing with it. Instead, I slid the whole set of bars over into the center and added a few straight honey comb bars interspersed with empty bars on the left. I am worried about getting the queen to lay on some straight comb once the current cross combs are finished and filled with brood. Any thoughts on how to get her out of there without having to get any more invasive than I have already?

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Nashville, TN, USA
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    40

    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sinthome View Post
    In the middle section between the follower boards was a lot of capped honey and, to my untrained eye, I didn't see any brood. I moved most of these bars all the way to the right, with a couple empty bars interspersed. To the left of the left follower board was, assumably the queen and brood built perpendicular across about five bars. I didn't dare disturb her and since there seemed to be zero brood left on good bars I got worried about messing with it. Instead, I slid the whole set of bars over into the center and added a few straight honey comb bars interspersed with empty bars on the left. I am worried about getting the queen to lay on some straight comb once the current cross combs are finished and filled with brood. Any thoughts on how to get her out of there without having to get any more invasive than I have already?
    You need to eliminate the cross-comb. That means cutting out all of the cross-built comb. Reattach what you can. You'll never be able to inspect those cross-built combs; they will have to go sooner or later. Not only will they be a haven for who knows what, they likely constitute immovable comb, and it is illegal in many places to cultivate bees on stationary comb.

    And yes, if you're going to use follower boards they should fit snugly. Having bee space around the edges defeats the whole purpose.

  13. #12
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    Apr 2013
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    Hephzibah, GA
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    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Cutting out the brood-filled cross combing now will most likely kill brood. The combs aren't seasoned yet, so not only will you be cutting through brood, you'll likely cause the combs to collapse and it will be difficult to properly reattach them to bars. What I have done is to first stop any possibility of further cross combing just like you did by moving the bad comb to one end and then placing good comb at the other. Normally, the queen doesn't like to lay too far from the entrance. If the bad comb is placed further away and the good comb closer, she should move into the good comb. Once she does that, let the brood in the bad comb hatch out and then cut it all out.

  14. #13
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    Jun 2016
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    Nashville, TN, USA
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    Default Re: Full hive, some problems.. where to begin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Wolff View Post
    Cutting out the brood-filled cross combing now will most likely kill brood. The combs aren't seasoned yet, so not only will you be cutting through brood, you'll likely cause the combs to collapse and it will be difficult to properly reattach them to bars. What I have done is to first stop any possibility of further cross combing just like you did by moving the bad comb to one end and then placing good comb at the other. Normally, the queen doesn't like to lay too far from the entrance. If the bad comb is placed further away and the good comb closer, she should move into the good comb. Once she does that, let the brood in the bad comb hatch out and then cut it all out.
    That does make sense.

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