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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, the good news on today's first inspection is that I did see plenty of evidence of a thriving hive: nectar, capped brood, about 8 bars with comb, larvae, and foraging bees returning loaded with pollen (yellow-orange color).

The inspection stand I built this morning was very helpful -- easy to build and held bars nicely. As this was my first ever "real" inspection, I will say that bee behavior was "fine" -- that is, there were some unhappy moments (details below), but all in all, they didn't mind my company much. I had a spray bottle with water, which I used liberally, and which the bees may have even appreciated, as many stuck around on the bars where the water gathered. (I have a small pond, and also put out a bucket with floaters yesterday, but I'm not sure they've found either of them. In fact, there is blooming lavender 5 ft from the entrance with nary a bee on it.) Also, I filled the feeder just before commencing.

I began by taking off the top which I haven't done since day three. There were no bees inside the roof, though a wasp did high tail it out of there (I checked and there was no nest). Then, the inspection stand was set on the half of the hive not being used.



Also, the bees established their first entrance in a tiny space I failed to close in when the hive was built. This has turned the feeder station into the front porch! They are also using the entrance hole quite actively so I didn't close it up.


After using the hive tool to loosen bars, I used a long slender knife to run between the bars to make sure I could lift them. This wasn't too much of a problem with the outer most piece, but the fact that there was any problem at all heralded problems to come.


The next piece really tells the story -- I think the chamfer molding I used was too big. The bees are building comb from either side of the comb guide rather than from bottom of the guide. In the second picture, the problem is very clear: they are creating bee space between the two sides of the bar. You can see the damage from the knife on the comb.



I ran the knife between a few more bars, and pulled one up...it was heartbreaking. I'd cut through brood, and the larvae was exposed. I didn't have the heart to pull the bar all the way out, so I don't have a picture, but just take the last pic above, make the comb thicker, cover it with bees, and place capped brood on the "inside" piece and newly exposed larvae on the "outside" piece. The knife shows the damage.



What is the best strategy for fixing this? I think I should cut new top bars with smaller comb guides and replace all of those yet to be used. Do I also need to cut ALL the comb from the current bars and re-attach down the center? I only took out 3 bars today -- the first two most outer ones and one which is 4 in from the edge. I feel like I will have to destroy so much of the brood nest! Is there a best pace for this so that the bees won't abscond? I guess they won't leave the queen -- she is clipped/marked, though I didn't see her today -- I didn't take out each piece though I did cut between all the bars. I imagine the bees will just repair all the damage I did today.
 

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What I would do is on the farthest most comb back I would push the comb together on the side facing the back of the hive. If you can get that one fixed then everything after that point should stay straight. Did you hang the queen cage? This looks like one of those situations were the queen cage is hung and the bees start making comb based on it's location, not on the comb guide, but I could be wrong. I can't tell exactly what you have for a comb guide, but I cut a wedge in the bar which is the width of the bars and that isn't a problem (it is full width). In this case they are matching the next comb to the previous comb "As M. Bush says, straight comb makes straight comb".

Getting the first set of combs straight could be done by cutting it loose and re-attaching, but this is difficult without making bars that allow you to do this. It may make more sense to let the comb upfront harden first and get some brood hatched out before you go that route. That is your call. You are not at the point yet that you even have the first brood hatched out, so you may not want to do that just yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Getting the first set of combs straight could be done by cutting it loose and re-attaching, but this is difficult without making bars that allow you to do this. It may make more sense to let the comb upfront harden first and get some brood hatched out before you go that route. That is your call. You are not at the point yet that you even have the first brood hatched out, so you may not want to do that just yet.
Thank you -- this is what I was thinking, too. That it would better to let them hatch the first batch of brood before hacking into that area of the hive, and focus on the outer bars.

I did hang the queen cage, right next to a small piece of brood comb that was tied on straight -- and this on the bar right next to the follower board, per Christi Hemenway's suggestion. I was hoping this might inspire straight comb (oh well!). I did not see much in the way of comb when I removed the cage, and she was freed within 48 hours of being hung. The first inspection is scheduled for May 12, so one way or another, the brood comb will be inspected then. Maybe I should move the date back!
 

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I'd be careful with that knife, what if you cut through the queen?

I'd do like shannonswyatt suggested and focus on fixing the combs at the end that you already have cut out and leave the main brood area alone for now. When you get the brood nest expanded into an area of straight comb then remove the cross combed section as a block. Don't cut through between the combs (that will cause needless destruction). Pull it out, rotate the block until it is upside down and you can set it down then starting at the outside cut the comb area that is crossed off the bar and straighten it and attach it to the proper bar. Then put that bar back in the hive and do the next. If it is not too bad the bees will cement the attatchment but if it is too bad you might need to treat it like a cutout. Someone on here that does cutouts into top bar hives has a nice method of attaching the comb. I think it is Patbeek but not sure. It uses a flat bar with hardware cloth attached to the side and bent into an L shape that goes into the comb.

Hopefully this won't set them back too much. Good luck!
 

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I did hang the queen cage, right next to a small piece of brood comb that was tied on straight -- and this on the bar right next to the follower board, per Christi Hemenway's suggestion.
...and how long after installation did/does she recommend checking for straight comb?

deknow
 

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It may not have been the queen cage, but it seems like what happens with a queen cage in the way. Bee's make comb like a you lay tile. Everything is keyed off the first row of tiles or in this case comb. If it is of then then the rest is off. Once you get the comb going straight you can start working on the old comb, or just get it to where you can get the bars out for inspections this year and cull it over time. Once you get a few straight you can put empties in between and get them straight.

The good thing is for you next hive you have more experience, and you can pull out a piece of straight comb from your existing hive to ensure it is straight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
...and how long after installation did/does she recommend checking for straight comb?

deknow
Fairly quickly -- within the first 10 days. I didn't open it up sooner b/c of weather, work, and family stuff. Apparently, 18 days was too long.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I'd be careful with that knife, what if you cut through the queen?

Hopefully this won't set them back too much. Good luck!
Yeah...I thought the same. I didn't cut through the last few nearest the end where they started building. I really had no idea they'd built that far out already. Live and learn, as they say. Thank you for the instructions. I will let the colony recover from today for a couple of days, then start with the end comb as suggested!
 

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When they fix it they may just repair the combs you cut back together.

Be really careful with the new comb. It is butter soft when newly drawn and any weight in the wrong direction can lead to collapse. When you turn it make sure you rotate in the long direction of the bars and don't tilt it front to back. You may want to make up some of the hardware cloth bars (or be prepared to somehow reattach the comb to the bars) as a backup before you get into it. Once in there won't be any stopping so be ready.
 

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I would do as little detaching as possible. Rather than slicing between the bars cut up the comb to the bar at the point where the combs runs off one bar to the other. You should have two pieces of comb on the same bar. Then you can bend the two ends so that the mid rib is aligned so when the bees repair it the two ends will meet. The sooner the better. The combs will still be wonky but workable to where you can feed new bars in at the front to push the wonky ones to the back and out over time. Try not to over correct causing the combs to fall.

Do most of the repair by pinching the comb together from the bottom of the comb up as high as you can go with very little detaching of the comb from the bar. Just enough so the comb doesn't fall off but points toward each other.
 

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The important thing is that the LAST comb (which will act as a guide to the NEXT comb) is straight. Make one frame, cut one comb out and rubber band it or tie it into the frame so it is straight. Put this at the back of the hive where they are building comb so the next one will be straight. Otherwise they will continue to build very comb off of the bars...
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You may want to make up some of the hardware cloth bars (or be prepared to somehow reattach the comb to the bars) as a backup before you get into it. Once in there won't be any stopping so be ready.
Yes, this is what I was planning last night (who needs to sleep:rolleyes:?) -- I really like the idea of the hardware cloth -- it makes sense, and I'll make up several bars ahead of time. I hope they do repair the damage I did -- I wish I'd read about pulling out several bars as a "bulk" object before! I look forward to when I can look back on this and merely shake my head at n00biosity.
 

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Just to emphasize that this new comb is extremely fragile! I told someone it was like working with soft serve ice cream. I went in to correct some crooked comb and thought I would just clip off the crooked comb and press it into the comb guide.

Well, comb structure is completely amazing because those bees can keep nectar, pollen and brood in those tiny cells and it all supports itself, but when I made one small little slice, the whole comb just started to detach. I ended up having to slice off the part that had gone off the comb guide. I, too, exposed capped brood when I did it. But there was no way to work with that comb! I tried to reattach that piece to a different bar, but it could not hold its own weight. I tried a zip tie and some light cotton string--even a rubber band, but the rubber band just cut right into the comb, and the comb would just tear away from the string as soon as I tried to suspend the comb.

I'm glad I got things straightened out in the hive, but it was not fun to have to cut away that comb and then just throw it away. That was comb that at the most was 21 days old. I am looking forward to comb with a little more muscle to it.
 

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My suggestion, after listening to Mcartny Taylor (Outofbluesky on youtube) on fixing cross combing is use your hand to detatch the part that is crooked and then mash it back straight since its pretty soft. Older, more well used comb would probably need to be cut off.

Hair clips zip tied to bars work well to hold up comb if you break a comb or it needs to be moved to its own bar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
My suggestion, after listening to Mcartny Taylor (Outofbluesky on youtube) on fixing cross combing is use your hand to detatch the part that is crooked and then mash it back straight since its pretty soft. Older, more well used comb would probably need to be cut off.

Hair clips zip tied to bars work well to hold up comb if you break a comb or it needs to be moved to its own bar.
Thank you -- this may seem like a silly question, but in my world, "hair clips" come in a dozen sizes/styles. What kind are you talking about? The only hair clip that seems like it would work for this would be a butterfly clip because the "clip" part is comprised of interlocking teeth. Is that the sort you mean? hairclip.JPG
 

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I don't mean to be critical, but I have never understood the obsession with hair clips. They don't work that well on old brood comb and they don't work at all on soft comb. If the comb is tough enough to use a hair clip, you can use wire and sew it onto the top bar with better results... two strands of telephone wire works well. If it's not that old tough brood comb, your only hope is a frame or a cloth sling and the cloth sling is frustrating enough that I think it's easier to build a frame...
 
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