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Discussion Starter #1
I suppose this is a ridiculous question, but I don't know why.

It seems to me that there's something of a conflict between the insistence that the frames in a hive be sleek, clean, and easily removed, and the maxim I often see that says "Let bees be bees."

This is my first year with a hive, and I went foundationless ... almost certainly a mistake, in some respects, for me as a beginner, but primarily if I concern myself with the first half of the issue raised above. So far as the second half (that is, letting those gals do what they want) then, to my observation, the box in my yard is quite a happy and healthy hive. I see no evidence of disease or mites. I have a robust and active population, and they're extremely patient with me ... only one sting so far this year.

My only concern is that the comb in some of the medium supers is fat ... as in really fat, like three-and-a-half inches wide, and there's lots of it (with cool little passageways, too). In some cases — okay many cases — the comb runs from one frame to another. It was vexing at first, but I got to the point that I decided I'd just let them do it if they want, and work on achieving a cleaner working environment (for me, that is) next year, with a foundation/foundationless blend.

For what it's worth, the brood box, a deep at the bottom, is all straight, beautiful comb. (Despite ample opportunity to stretch her legs, my queen has stayed in the deep all year for her egg-laying, and I have a very healthy population.)

So my ridiculous question is this: Why is it wrong for the bees to make super comb as they wish? I'm not taking any this year, probably, so it's really not an issue for me. Even if there's a surplus late in the season, why should I be concerned with breaking some comb to harvest a few frames? In such a case, why is it incorrect to just let the gals build the comb and store it with honey as they wish ... so long as they are building and storing?

Thank you ahead of time for your thoughts.


Mig
 

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Leaving aside human concepts of order and like matters, the only thing "wrong" with the bees building comb any which way is that it may interfere with being able to remove frames for inspection. Removable frames, are I believe, a legal requirement.
 

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Andrew hit it on the head. I don't know about all states but here it is not legal to keep bees in a hive in which the frames can not be removed for inspection.
 

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Hi Mig,
Although this is not an issue for you this year since you are not taking honey, what about next year? How will you know if it is honey or brood in that comb when you want to harvest? How will you know if there is capped honey ready to harvest in the frames? The only way you'll find out is by cutting the frames apart and lifting them up, since you won't be able to lift 8 or 10 full frames at once while stuck together, or see anything that's going on.
By cutting them apart you may cut through brood, bees, and maybe even kill your queen in all that mess. And the bees will be plenty mad, you can bet on that.
If you don't want honey at all but just like having bees on your property, then you can just let them alone I suppose.

I'm not sure how much of anything you can do this late in the season to correct any of this though. Are you planning to just leave that super on all winter? Do they have two deeps underneath it? (most of us in NY keep two deeps for overwintering) Do you know if the queen has been laying in the super's crazy comb?
 

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Why is it wrong for the bees to make super comb as they wish?
Thank you ahead of time for your thoughts.
Mig
Nothing at all, except that it is next to impossible to inspect the combs for brood diseases and because of the impact of such diseases, it is illegal to have combs that are not removable and easily inspectible.

That's the rationale, but you are right, in the basic skeme of things, there is nothing wrong w/ severely crossed comb, of the bees own design.

How does such a situation fit into your hive managment? Or lack thereof? Because there really is nothing wrong w/ being a beehaver, instead of a beekeeper.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Ah, a legal issue. Very interesting!

Perhaps I implied too great an intensity of the crossover comb. Most of it is made up of either nice comb fins that runs from one frame to another, or messiness that's mostly cosmetic. Over the past month or so I've just chosen to to do it less intensely than earlier in the year. I got tired of breaking it. It seemed counterproductive.

Omie, I can remove the frames (even if they get a bit drippy) and I can clearly see what's there: it's honey comb or uncapped honey or empty comb or empty space -- clearly no brood above the bottom deep box, which is hopping with brood activity.

Three mediums sit atop the deep, and I expect to leave them all, possibly with some consolidation of the frames a bit, to provide as much honey for the hive in as close a space as possible for thermal efficiency. (Is this something that folks do?)

New York code reads, "Persons keeping bees shall keep them in hives of such construction that the frames and combs may be easily removed without damaging them for examination of the brood for the purpose of determining whether disease exists in the brood."

I may be fine with that -- especially since the focus there is on the brood, and I can access those frames with no problems. I'd have been vigilant about maintaining the individuality of the medium super frames if there were any brood there, or if I'd seen any evidence of bad issues.

What I really don't understand, though I hope to learn, are the answers to my new questions: When beekeepers insist that they leave the bees alone, how do they avoid the "bees being bees" and running comb across frames? How do they maintain that separateness beyond either relentless cutting or just good luck?

A novice for life,


Mig
 

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Hello again,

It comes down to the bees don't read the books and so do what they want to. As beekeepers we can understand concepts like bee space and only set the bees up to follow it - then you **could** pretty much leave them alone. Though this summer whenever I've let a hive go a month between inspections it usually turns out that they've swarmed and if I'm lucky have made themselves a new queen.

One big reason for not going foundationless is to avoid the extra work! Drawing good foundationless comb is not just a matter of dumping a package in the box and letting the bees take it from there. I'll let the people that regularly use foundationless frames describe their techniques - if I were doing it (and I never have) I'd be limiting the area the bees have access to until they have a few frames drawn well - and only then give them more frames to draw.
 

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My second year foundationless. Don't worry about it - yet. When the comb is empty - in a few weeks or late next winter - trim it up and straighten it out. Do the best you can, but don't worry too much about damaging it because the bees will repair it. I have some frames that were initially terrible, but are nice and straight now.

Why worry about it at all? Because you need reasonably straight comb to expand your apiary, and you will need straight comb if you want to extract honey. You will need comb in the spring so that your queen has plenty of room to lay instead of waiting for it to be built. If you do splits or buy more packages they will get off to a much better start if you can give them some comb.

I started last spring with one package of bees, and at this point I have 6 booming hives and 3 small hives with good queens, and 6 2 frame mating nucs with brand new queens in them - without buying or collecting bees. But what is going to dictate how many hives I actually go into winter with is how much comb I have.

Comb is like gold if you are trying to grow. Crossed up comb - not so much.
 

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As beekeepers we all have management practices that we have become comfortable with over the years. Mostly they are not right/wrong, but which is easier, or better, or less work. Obviously these last ones are subjective and each individual beekeeper will choose the methods that they want.

As far as straight combs go...as was mentioned above comb is very valuable if you want to get as much honey as possible or want to expand. If neither of these is important to you, you have a lot less worries as a beekeeper.

At this time of year I consolidate honey frames. In other words, if I have three supers on a hive, I might find a frame partly full in a lower box and I will swap with a fill frame from another box that only has a few frames done. That was I can pull the full boxes and leave partly filled frames or uncapped frames to be finished. To do this I need every frame to fit next to every other frame. This only works with straight frames.

This happens in the brood area also. When I make nucs up, I pull frames from different hives or areas of the hive and expect them to fit next to each other in the box. If they don't I can't use them.

So, as you can see, there are reasons for straight frames, but none of those reasons might be important to you. As far as "let the bees be bees" goes, I suspect that we all have our limits on that. I know that I do.
 

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Your experiences are very much like my own, if they're building brood comb it's nice and straight/narrow, but if it's for honey storage the width and direction of the combs tends to be more willy-nilly.
 

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Mig,
I too have a let the bees be attitude - but I still like to be able to get in there, see what's what, and use an extractor (when I am lucky). I love foundationless, especially in the honey supers.

My girls really made crossed, messed up combs until I realized - the ground had heaved over the winter and the hive was no longer level. I leveled it using cedar shakes, now they are doing much better.

I agree with LaFerney, straighten it out in late winter and make sure you level your hive in the spring. then let them bee. It will work out as you harvest honey and rearrange comb.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I had a laugh today, and I wanted to share, after all the discussion above.

This morning I went out to do a quick hive check, and while the comb that bees had drawn previously still has fairly involved crossover comb, there's a new box that I'd added on July 15. It hadn't seen much activity in terms of drawn comb when I asked my question that started the thread above on 7/28. Today I looked at it, and wouldn't you know? My gals have gone gung-ho drawing comb in that new box, and it's remarkably (!) straight and even. Just one frame is seriously out of alignment, and I was able to fix that with a bit of a push with my hive tool, and a rubber band or two. Heh!

I'd just like to add that it's a terrific feeling to see the bees seeming to enjoy a day as beautiful as today. They really do seem joyous, somehow, doing their work!
 
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