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Clearing bees from comb

 
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:29 am    Post subject: Clearing bees from comb Reply with quote

I made a couple of HTBHs last year and I collected & instaled 2 swarms in June. The colonies established themselves well and each produced around 8 combs of brood and 10 of honey. Whenever I inspected the hives all of the combs were completely covered with bees. With frames I think you can shake bees off into the box, but you can't really do that with comb. How do you HTBH beekeepers get the bees off the comb for inspection & harvesting?
Steve
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madasafish
Silver Bee


Joined: 29 Apr 2009
Posts: 880
Location: Stoke On Trent

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

First of all WHEN you inspect makes a huge difference. If you inspect near 12am or during the afternoon on a good flying day, most foragers will be out foraging. So there will be fewer bees on the combs.

If there are lots of bees on the comb, you can - IF the comb is old and strong - shake them off. Hold top bar with both hands above open hive, drop both hands sharply and stop. The sudden move will shake off many bees.
(Best seen to understand it. Google shaking bees off combs.)

BUT TBH combs can be fragile .. and very fragile with new wax. So I use a turkey feather to gently brush bees off. Or long grass. or any kind of long feather. Bees dislike this - even if you are gentle. If you are not gentle or the bees are aggressive or the weather is bad, prepare for a lot of aggressive bees.


Gentle smoking rarely works in my view.

HTH.
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AugustC
Silver Bee


Joined: 08 Jul 2013
Posts: 613
Location: Malton, North Yorkshire

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can just blow lightly on them if you want to see a particular area during inspections.

I would agree inspecting them at the right time of day makes a difference. I don't think I have ever had to clear a comb to inspect it. I have had to clear a comb to harvest it (for honey or brood transfer). When doing that I move a little way from the hive and lightly brush the bees off of the combs with a handful of dry grass. Remember to brush the bees not the comb or you can roll them which they do not like. I do have a bee brush but found that they REALLY didn't like it. The grass is much easier, more effective, and readily available.
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zaunreiter
Moderator Bee


Joined: 26 Nov 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: Germany, NorthWest

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Use a large goose feather or a goose wing to brush the bees into a bucket. (Do not brush them into the hive, or they will climb back onto the next comb. The more times you brush them, the angrier they get...). Empty bucket after the harvest.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all your advice.

Looking at some pictures I took of the combs last summer I can see that there are fewer bees on them around noon than later in the day.

I guess 1 year old comb is too fragile for shaking – do I need to wait until it's a few seasons old?

I've tried a bee brush but it just seems to annoy the bees instead of shifting them! Judging from a youtube video I've just watched, a feather seems to work well. I'll try using grass too.

Does brushing the bees rather than the comb mean short strokes rather than long sweeps down the comb?

I think brushing the bees into a bucket makes sense when harvesting.

Thanks again for all the advice so far – any more suggestions gratefully accepted!
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zaunreiter
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Joined: 26 Nov 2007
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Location: Germany, NorthWest

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A bee brush is perfectly fine. But you need to moist the brush lightly. And you only lightly sweep the bees. Do not push to hard against the combs.

Long strokes!

Bernhard
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Che Guebuddha
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1549
Location: Hårlev, Stevns Kommune, Denmark

PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Long strokes will roll the bees and in my experience this can p1ss them off, so I do fast short strokes (jerky move in the wrist) which lift them rather than roll them and I brush them into the hive
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prakel
Guard Bee


Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We rarely brush bees at all but the best kit I've ever used for the job is the dried stems of mustard/osr which, of course, are only available at certain times of the year. They flick the bees off the comb with remarkably little effort.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

prakel wrote:
We rarely brush bees at all but the best kit I've ever used for the job is the dried stems of mustard/osr which, of course, are only available at certain times of the year. They flick the bees off the comb with remarkably little effort.


Thanks Prakel - how do you harvest comb that's covered in bees without brushing them off?
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prakel
Guard Bee


Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stm146 wrote:
prakel wrote:
We rarely brush bees at all but the best kit I've ever used for the job is the dried stems of mustard/osr which, of course, are only available at certain times of the year. They flick the bees off the comb with remarkably little effort.


Thanks Prakel - how do you harvest comb that's covered in bees without brushing them off?


We use clearer boards normally, but if, for whatever reason, the need to brush does occur... the dried mustard stalks (grows wild around here) are my number one 'go-to'.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the clarification Prakel. I'm using horizontal top bar hives so clearer boards aren't an option. Last season (my first) I didn't harvest any comb as I wanted to maximise the chances of my new colonies surviving winter. I did remove a couple of small combs in January as they weren't straight, but at that time most of the bees were in their winter cluster. I may want to take some comb this summer, when it's covered in bees, hence my request for guidance on how to clear them from the comb! From the advice I've received on this forum it seems the best approach is to harvest around midday when most of the foragers are out and to use a brush or goose feather.
Steve
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prakel
Guard Bee


Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stm146 wrote:
Thanks for the clarification Prakel. I'm using horizontal top bar hives so clearer boards aren't an option. Last season (my first) I didn't harvest any comb as I wanted to maximise the chances of my new colonies surviving winter. I did remove a couple of small combs in January as they weren't straight, but at that time most of the bees were in their winter cluster. I may want to take some comb this summer, when it's covered in bees, hence my request for guidance on how to clear them from the comb! From the advice I've received on this forum it seems the best approach is to harvest around midday when most of the foragers are out and to use a brush or goose feather.
Steve


Steve, while writing my previous reply I actually asked myself what i'd do if I had a horizontal topbar box; my conclusion was that I'd try to build a clearer board to fit (just like I'd build excluders too. but I do realize that my approach is coloured by past experience with frame hives). As for goose feathers and brushes -each to their own but having tried them all I'll be sticking with the mustard/osr stalks as first choice, easy enough to stockpile some Smile.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Prakel. Interesting idea. It would be quite easy to add a bee escape to a follower board. That would be useful if you wanted to harvest several combs at once from the end of the hive most distant from the entrance. However, I'll probably be taking single combs so I'll stick with the "brush" method - not forgetting your mustard/osr recommendation!
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rmcpb
Scout Bee


Joined: 17 Jul 2011
Posts: 447
Location: Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good, sharp shake the a quick brush and you will have a clear frame. Just make sure you have a covered container (nuc) to hold the frame and keep the bees off.

Cheers
Rob.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rmcpb wrote:
A good, sharp shake ....

Hi Rob - thanks for responding. I don't use frames so shaking isn't really an option. From the advice I've had on this forum I'll need to clear the combs by brushing.
Cheers, Steve
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shaking works for top bars, just make sure you keep the bars vertical when you do it.
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam Rose wrote:
Shaking works for top bars, just make sure you keep the bars vertical .

Hi Adam
The advice I've had so far on this forum is that old top bar comb may be strong enough to survive a sharp shake, like you'd do with a frame, but new comb isn't. Are you saying that new comb is strong enough to withstand shaking the bees off in your experience? I need to be sure - I really don't want to have to deal with a broken comb full of honey and a few thousand angry bees right next to a hive!
Cheers
Steve
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair point. I tend to harvest in the spring, so the comb is fairly mature by then. Fresh honey filled comb can be very fragile. But I still think that if you can get it out with it collapsing then you can still shake it provided you keep it vertical as you do so. I have had brand new honey filled comb collapse on me as soon as I cut through the brace comb, but it's never broken away from the comb itself after I've got it out of the hive. Perhaps others should comment.
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
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Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally I wouldn't shake top bar honey comb. The risk is too high.
Brood comb with honey in is another matter as the cocoons strengthen it. The type of comb guides you have will also make a difference to the strength of the attachment to the bar. Also if you are harvesting in the spring, some of the honey is crystalized which gives the comb added strength and the weather is cooler and therefore the wax a bit more robust. Usually in the spring there are a lot less bees on the excess capped honey comb too..... so lots of good reasons to harvest then, although crystalized honey will need warming to extract.

One thing for sure, you are not going to be able to shake all the bees off a top bar comb, so some sort of brush will be necessary, therefore why risk it in my opinion. A handful of long grass works well for me. I haven't tried a goose wing. I also have a home made/modified bee brush, but a handful of grass aggravates them less in my experience. Having a covered bee proof container to put your harvest in is crucial though.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting - I've always used a combination of shaking the majority off and blowing the small number left, never tried a bee brush. Perhaps I've just been lucky. Maybe I will try the long grass technique next time !
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zaunreiter
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Joined: 26 Nov 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: Germany, NorthWest

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rmcpb wrote:
A good, sharp shake the a quick brush and you will have a clear frame.


That's the way it usually is done.

I sucessfully wintered my first TBH this year and will see the differences in handling bees and combs compared to other hive types. Sure a shake takes more care when the combs hangs on just a topbar!

Concerning long/short stroke when brushing: after a short shake a long sweep with the brush is best. If you don't shake the combs, there are too much bees to brush. That'll anoy them. I shake and brush with no veil on. Bees are gentle if you handle them gentle.

Whenever I use a brush of whatever kind, I am reminded of that oldtimer who teached me horse riding (and caring) when I was a kid. He was in the German cavalry before and during the first worldwar. He had a great knowledge about horses. He teached me to do long strokes when brushing the horses. It is interesting how such advice in your youthtime keep hanging around in your head for a long long time. Whenever I take a brush I do long strokes. Smile (Just a short offtopic story.)
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stm146
House Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Ipswich, Suffolk, UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm most grateful for all of the helpful advice I've received on this forum. I've learnt that shaking TBH honey comb is risky and probably best avoided and that brushing is a safer option (though TBH brood comb can be strong enough to withstand a shake).

Bee brushes can be used but quite a few people have found that large feathers or mustard, oilseed rape or handfuls of grass work better. Short brush strokes are best, as this avoids rolling bees on the comb.

It's best to harvest comb around noon when foragers are flying. Spring is another option as cooler honey comb is stronger and there are fewer bees on the comb (though honey is likely to be crystallised).

Obviously personal preferences and variables such as comb-guide shape make a difference, so I've decided to play it safe and only test my TBH honey combs for “shakability” when I have them in my kitchen! When I'm more confident about how much force I can safely use at different times of year I may start shaking bees off comb at the hive.

I did a bit of research before raising this basic issue, both on the forum and elsewhere, but the only info I could find related to processing comb after the bees had been removed. However, I've just come across this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F57xd1f93oA which nicely shows how bees can be cleared from comb by gently tapping the top bar against the sides of the hive.

PS See post below for explanation of "frog".


Last edited by stm146 on Mon Feb 23, 2015 3:26 pm; edited 2 times in total
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biobee
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In case you wonder why the word you used to describe the room in your house where you cook has been changes into the name of a small amphibian, it is to deter spammers who sell fitting for the aforesaid rooms!

You will find that several variations on that word are similarly transformed, so now we all know what you are talking about, we can move on...

Wink
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