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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my 1st year of my top bar hive. The bees came from a local swarm. The bees are doing great, the hive is expanding. The combs have been filling with pollen and honey, and I've got tons of new breed cells. My goal with this hive was to get an introduction, provide extra pollination to my property, and not worry too much about honey this year.

There's been a lot of cross combing, which I'm not too worried about (If they want to live that way, that good too.) But, we've had hotter than normal weather and last week I saw that 6-8 combs fell off the bars! They are laying side by side. The bees don't seem to mind...it actually looks like they are expanding their operations!

I've tried a couple things to re-attach the combs to the bars (string, no. tying up a comb between a top & bottom bar, worked somewhat.) I bought some plastic hair clip/grippers today, but the bees look even more happy on the downed comb, so I didn't upset the apple cart.

Any advice? I hate to overly disturb the bees, and they seem happy. Would it be easier to rework the hive over the winter when they are less active? Should I rework the bees into a Langstroth? Should I just let them bee?
 

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I tried Rader's trick. I found that unless the comb was butted up against the top bar that the bees were not too interested in it. It ended up being taken over by small hive beetles. I have had some success with masking tape and combs as long as it is not heavy honey comb. You really should take care of the comb now so that come spring they are ready to go to work (even if that means removing it from the hive).

My bigger question is Why are that many combs falling off the top bars? What type of design do you have? It might be that something else needs to change before spring time. My bars have a piece of wood that is nailed into the top bar for the bees to build from. Many different designs, some sturdier than others.
 

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Ruthie has a good point. The photo is not particularly clear, but I suspect that the shadow visible under the top bar is a triangular wooden comb guide.

More info on different comb guides here:
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm#combguide

The page linked references foundationless frames, but the same info applies to comb guides when using just top bars.
 

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Did you use a carpenter's level to make sure the hive was plumb in every direction? It's critical as the bees will build comb perpendicular to the ground, which might not mean perpendicular in the hive if the hive is not level. Aside from that...keeping TBH's is a more hands-on type of beekeeping than with Langs: you have to keep the bees on the straight and narrow. Are you handling the top bars correctly? New combs are too fragile to be flipped over like a Lang frame. Even if harvesting honey is not your prime goal (it's not mine, either), you need to straighten out the mess now, or at some point later on you will have to destroy all of it. You won't be able to wait until the winter - it will probably be too cold to open the hive on most days. Bite the bullet, watch some videos about re-attaching and straightening comb and get down to it. BTW, I tried the hair clip thing...it was an ugly mess, although it seems to work for a lot of people. You can use some narrow painter's tape to attach the comb to the top bar...the bees will eventually eat through the tape and dispose of it. Good luck. I love my TBH's.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the good tips! I hadn't thought about the exact leveling of the hive. I got it close, but that could be it. I'll also try the wire...looks like it would work, but the comb I am trying to hang is larger and heavier than the comb in the pic.

Keep them coming!
 

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Thanks for the good tips! I hadn't thought about the exact leveling of the hive. I got it close, but that could be it. I'll also try the wire...looks like it would work, but the comb I am trying to hang is larger and heavier than the comb in the pic. Keep them coming!
I leveled the hives when they were first placed outside, and then again a month later (living in New England, the ground swells and shifts: "frost heaves") just before putting in the bees. My combs have all been miraculously straight. No one is more surprised than me because I was ready to do battle with crooked combs, based on what others said.

As for your specific fallen comb, maybe try the wire trick but also re-enforce it with a tape sling too. The tape is thin enough that it won't cause gaps in the bars if you run it over the top.

The bees may or may not be happy with the situation as is...they tend to make the best of what life throws at them. But from feral hives I've seen...they seem to like keeping things orderly and the combs nice and neat. You need to get a long knife (mine is practically a samurai sword) and use it to loosen comb, and cut off cross and burr comb (a bread knife will probably work, 9" or 10"). When cutting comb from the walls or whatever, go UP with the knife if possible. Cutting downward with the knife may pull still-soft comb off the bar. And in the end...yes, you may have to sacrifice some of the comb. And as Michael Bush always says...if you have 2 bars of straight comb, place an empty bar between those. He also says...once one comb is crooked, all the following comb will be too. You can't hope they will fix it. They won't. Now get out there and get to work, bamajenk!
 

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If it is really crosscombed you are probably damaging all of the combs when you open it up which may be why they're falling. We have three four foot hives that have built great comb and one has been a battle. But you have to keep on them or the hive will be unusable as a "kept" hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
3 cheers for masking tape! got two bars resurrected today before they got really angry. but, the tape worked! can't wait to see the bees work to repair the comb and destroy the tape.
thanks Marysia2!
 

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Excellent! Now make it a habit to check every week or so. As jwcarlson said, you have to keep on them...that's your job as the beekeeper. Crack that tiny little whip and keep them on the straight and narrow. Remember once they start storing only honey on the comb, they like the bar a little wider, so add 1/4" "spacers" between those bars if possible. You can make them but I bought mine.
 

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Bees seem so also be sensitive to the lay lines/magnetic lines of the earth. I started with two top bars, one cross combed like crazy the other not. I shifted the hive about a couple inches in the way the bees were running their cross comb. Within a few weeks they had righted everything and no more cross combing. Well until I had to move them to a new site and I guess I didn't place them "correctly" and they started all over again.
 

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Bees seem so also be sensitive to the lay lines/magnetic lines of the earth.
I've read about this as well. Supposedly it explains why swarms are attracted to the same barn wall, or same tree, or same *whatever* location, year after year. Kind of like Feng Shui for bees? If true, the problem then becomes: how do we determine where these ley lines are?
 

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Sometimes the bees will glue two bars together and build across two of them. I've never had them go beyond that. However, it is critical to be sure that the hive is "plumb level" in both axes. My hives simply sit on top of cinder-blocks ... they have no legs at all ... and they are shimmed to be level using a few scraps of wood. (I'm a "$25 beekeeper" because that was my entire expense, other than the first boxes of bees.)
 

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I keep my bees in Lang's-dimension boxes with TBs. From time to time I have disconnected comb. It is not big deal, because, comb usually is connected to the hive body at the sides and did not collapse. My foundationless honey comb is heavy and fragile when fresh - it is difficult to manipulate it. Based on messy experience, it is easier just to remove honeycomb and enjoy fresh honey! If for some reason, it is not an option, than I am using green garden wire, something like that: http://www.nerdsnook.com/implements/186-green-garden-wire-twistees.html
Depending from state of the fallen comb, I cut it in pieces; on clean plastic tray place wires x2.5 longer than piece of comb (2 wires/piece); on top of wires place the TB; move comb out of beehive and place on top of the wires as close as possible to TB; tight up the comb to the TB using wires and than carefully return TB to the hive - better to place repaired comb in position #1 or 10 (8).

In my hands, hair-clips work OK with brood comb, but do not strong enough to hold heavy honeycomb.

Masking tape - clever idea! Thank you! Do bees really destroy it? How fast?

Good luck with your bees!
 

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If true, the problem then becomes: how do we determine where these ley lines are?
Here is a little bit about ley lines that I was able to track down. I don't know yet how to do it and there is also a lot of "woo woo" connected with it all sometimes. I'm just willing to step outside the box and look at the possibilities. Bees have been building hives for how long? I think the next time I do a cut out I am going to talk my compass and see if there begins a trend of some sort. Or maybe learn dowsing
http://www.dowsingaustralia.com/A_Apiculture.htm
 

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[, I'm keeping an open mind - but it would be really helpful if it were true!!!

http://www.dave-cushman.net/bee/leylines.html[/QUOTE]

What a fascinating article. I too am happy to keep an open mind to the possibilities. A club member and I were just discussing last night about working "with" bees to give them what they need to survive and thrive, as opposed to us bending them to our will, Ha like we could anyway. But it is a different way of thinking I believe. Truly the only way we can help them is to study them from "outside the box" of common thought. But if we are set on what we think they need, nothing of the mistakes of the past will change. I am going to give this leyline issue some more study.
 
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