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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First year for me.
I have a large swarm drawing lots of comb. Front 5 bars the comb was curved attached to 2 bars.
I removed some and straightened some.
I've pretty much let them do what they want.
What tricks are there to avoid crooked comb?
I've herd of flipping bars around while they are drawing does that work?
Some of the comb is straight but not quite centred on the bar.
 

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First year for me.
I have a large swarm drawing lots of comb. Front 5 bars the comb was curved attached to 2 bars.
I removed some and straightened some.
I've pretty much let them do what they want.
What tricks are there to avoid crooked comb?
I've herd of flipping bars around while they are drawing does that work?
Some of the comb is straight but not quite centred on the bar.
Constantly pinching the ends back to the center of the bar. And if you have some straight bars, put the empty ones in between them.

Level the hive very well.

How long across the hive are your bars. My TBHs have about an 18" opening on a 20" bar (so they can fit in a Langstroth). I know some of the folks have HUGELY long top bars of 23"+. I have no clue how you wouldn't have major curving problems with that big of a bar, especially when starting fresh with no comb as a guide.
 

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Good comb guides help the most.
Sounds like he has good ones, I have noticed that my one piece bars are a bit less likely to deviate from being straight. Tongue depressor ones are 85% as good, and about 100% easier and less time consuming to make. They do curve the ends more, but it's not been bad enough that I can't fix it every couple of weeks when we get into the hive.
 

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I have found that if you intervene with comb shaping quite a bit early on, then you save yourself trouble down the road. They are more likely to build brood comb straight and get especially creative with honey storage. Push, pull, cut, shape....make sure that those first several bars are straight and the rest will be much more likely to follow, especially as you add empty bars in between full ones. Then be vigilant again during flow, since they will build quickly. Once they build them to the shape of your hive, you will have all these nice hanging-file folders of honey and brood.

I once left a TBH alone for far too long and found that they hand run the honey at 90 degrees, radiator fins that crossed 9 or ten bars. What a mess!
 

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I have found that when they are strong and on a good flow building comb for stores it is very challenging if you don't go in often. When they are small it is hard to screw up, just don't let them get out of wack. Once you have a few hives it gets easier as well since you can rob straight comb to act as a comb guide.
 

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The bees will not straighten what you think is a crooked comb, no matter what you do. Not only that, they will build the next comb parallel to that one, so unless you intervene the next one will be at least as bad. If you put empty bars between straight combs, this is the best way to get straight combs. If you have crooked combs, either straighten them or put them where they will not influence more combs.

One bad comb leads to another. One good comb leads to another.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the help all.
I was on holidays for 12 days. Got back and they did quite a bit of building unfortunately not where I wanted.
Hopefully I can get things straightened out before it gets too late in the season.
 

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I started my first TBH from a package. They didn't care for my 1-1/4" top bars. They have triangular cross section guides, and they do like those; but while they built straight combs at first, each subsequent one was offset more and more from the center, until they were far enough off center that they started crossing bars. I had to add 1/8" spacers to accommodate them. Now, many generations later, they accept the 1-1/4" spacing. If you started your hive from a package this may be an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The bees in my TB came from a swarm out of a house. They are a little smaller than purchased.
I think I had all of the problems. curved at the front, straight in the middle, and offset as you go back.
I did an inspection today and tings are looking better.
 

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What tricks are there to avoid crooked comb?
It's my first year with TBH's so I can only speak from my own experience. I have hives, one with Russian hybrids, one with small cell bees. They are both building perfectly straight comb. The only thing I can think of is that I made sure the hives were level when they were placed (using a carpenter's level) and then they were checked again a few weeks later to make sure they hadn't shifted from settling into the ground (obviously before bees were installed). I live in New England and we have humongous "frost heaves" in the winter, so I expect that next spring I will have to re-check the level and make adjustments. I don't think the need for the hive to be level can be overemphasized.
 

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My bees seem to build brood comb straight. One comb per bar. But the honey combs are almost always crossed and connected. I've tried spacers and wider bars, but neither worked. So I let them build however they want, and when I harvest capped honey I separate the comb with a knife. The bees clean up any comb and honey that falls to the bottom of the hive.
 

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The best trick is to use guides that give the best results. I started my first hive with foundation starter strips and had excellent results with all combs straight with the mid rib running down the center of each bar. It seemed so easy and was a pleasure to work the hive. From there I tried some of the other types of guides and found if I wasn't diligent I would too often find curved and offset combs. I do have hives that I may not get to for two weeks or more and find that foundation starter strips have always given the best results. The goal is to have the bees build comb with the mid rib centered along the full length of each bar. From there minor adjustments are all that is needed such as buttering back cell walls or trimming them back so that they are drawn out evenly on both sides of the mid rib.

Often I start new colonies by shaking swarms with no need to make comb adjustments or pull bars for a month or more. One comb of brood to help glue them to the hive and fill the rest out with foundation starters or at least the portion of hive I think they will need for that length of time.
 

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I created a "starter" bar using a sheet of foundation to help encourage alignment.

http://billybsbees.blogspot.com/2014/07/top-bar-starter-comb.html

I also ended up using some drawn frames from a Lang as it would turn out. The point though, as others have mentioned, is that it helps to place empty bars between straight drawn bars. That's not possible when starting your first hive, thus the reason I created the starter bar with foundation.
 

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Not really. It may defeat the main purpose of *your* top bar, but certainly not mine.

That said, if you read the blog entry you'd pick up on the fact that I do a lot of foundationless in my Langs as well. The choice to go foundationless isn't driven by the hive design.

But regardless, we are talking about a single bar out of maybe 30 ... and a temporary one at that. Really not a big deal for me.
 

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An empty bar between straight capped honey works. An empty bar between straight brood combs works and as the brood nest expands in the middle the outer edges will get filled with honey. I try to have most of the new comb being drawn where I want it (between straight capped honey or between straight brood combs) whenever I am in the hive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Nice, I'm not against using some foundation to help in the beginning. Too late for this one, maybe in the future.
 
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