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Combs sticking together

 
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rakeman
House Bee


Joined: 28 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: East Harling, Norwich, Norfolk, U.K.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 7:29 pm    Post subject: Combs sticking together Reply with quote

Hi. We're new to bee caring. We tried to lift a top bar today and the combs are 'welded' together. It looks impossible to lift the bar without damaging the next comb. I made the bars at 1 1/4" wide and placed them tightly together before introducing the colony. Advice gratefully received. Thanks
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1581
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2015 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi and welcome to the forum

You did right to butt the top bars up tight to each other but unfortunately it sounds like your bees need wider bars than 1 1/4inch which is 32mm according to my tape measure. That is on the narrow side. Some bees can cope with that for the brood nest but most people err on the side of caution now and go for 35 or 38mm(1 1/2 inch). The overlapping combs will need to be cut away from the top bars and reattached. If this is a new colony this season then I would leave the problem combs alone for now and correct them in early spring next year, when the comb will be stronger and more stable to handle and with luck, mostly empty. At the moment they will be very fragile and full of heavy nectar and brood and they will not be strong enough to cope with being handled or reattach to the bars and rapidly become a sticky and probably angry mess.
You need to make/get some 1 1/2inch bars and use those from now on and have some extra thin top bars to hand (shims or spacers) 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch are useful and use them as appropriate to get them centred on the new wider bars.

Can I ask you to update your profile with more information regarding your location. This is an international forum and beekeeping is very dependent on local conditions and seasons, so it's important to be able to see where in the world you are at a glance, so that advice can be tailored to those conditions. It also helps people identify other members in their area and develop local support networks. I haven't a clue where East Harling is, so a county/state and country are required.

Many thanks for your assistance in this and good luck with your bees.

Barbara
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rakeman
House Bee


Joined: 28 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: East Harling, Norwich, Norfolk, U.K.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 6:16 am    Post subject: Narrow Top Bars Reply with quote

Thank you Barbara for your comments. I've added two wider bars so hopefully this will diminish the problem.

East Harling is in Norfolk, U.K., between Diss and Thetford in the Brecks. I'll amend my profile as you suggest.

David
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AugustC
Silver Bee


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

PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If they are new to natural comb the bees will often make wider comb to start with. Bees that were breed on 5.4mm foundation cannot make small natural cell size of ~4.9mm. It takes a few generations of bees with the comb being circled out before they stabilise and you know exactly what comb size they will (except in the honey area which changes). I find 38mm works very well generally. 36mm is ok for the brood nest but starts to drift after about 10 bars.
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All my bars are 32-33mm wide. And I can see the bees are using the guides to at least start each comb on the bar. What are the risk of leaving those bars without intervention? Will they stick them together?

Am I naive thinking they will respect bee space and if there is no space to make them wider they will just make new combs further inside TBH? Or is 32 mm not wide enough for brood on both sides?

Also if 32 mm is not optimal why by default the bars in Phil's design are not wider?

*******************************
Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14[/url]
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1581
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Luk

We are all learning all the time. What works for one person and their bees doesn't always work for others. Bees are not uniform in their behaviour either within one hive or between colonies. In a feral hive, the spacing between comb varies and of course the combs are not usually straight. The cell size also varies within the broodnest. Beekeeping in a top bar hive is about trying to encourage the bees to build in a manner that is helpful to us but not force them as frames of foundation do. To simplify it we try to standardise the spacing of the comb by using specific top bar width for the brood nest and wider ones for the honey. If we use good comb guides the bees will usually follow this but where you seem to misunderstand is that bees will always respect bee space, they won't always respect comb guides. So if they feel they need wider spacing between the combs, they will maintain bee space and disregard the comb guide and that is where you get combs overlapping bars. Since honey is usually stored in the top of brood combs anyway it is now felt that 38mm top bars are beneficial for the brood nest, but honey storage combs can be made significantly wider and shims are now routinely used to widen bars where the comb is overlapping.

I have a table saw and can make top bars to whatever width I like and I have bars from 31mm- 42mm plus shims of various widths. I mark my bars with the width in pencil so I can easily see which are the thinnest. I use those for the very centre of the brood nest and slightly wider ones for the outer brood nest and wider still for the honey storage. It also allows me to put a wider bar in next to a narrow bar if they are starting to run off. It's not practical for the vast majority of people to run a hive like that as timber comes in standard sizes, so an average size was chosen, but it will not work in all cases. People are now finding that 38mm top bars for the brood nest gets the most consistent results.

Every book that is written will have elements that can be improved upon as knowledge increases. so no one book or plan should be considered as comprehensive and 100% accurate. I think one of the main benefits of this forum is that ideas and experience can be shared so that best practice can be more easily assessed and disseminated.

I can't say if your bees will continue to keep to your 32-33mm bars. You will need to monitor them and insert shims or wider bars as necessary.

Regards

Barbara
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AugustC
Silver Bee


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

PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2015 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara is right... I could just leave it at that to honest Smile

We cannot say whether or not your bees will stay ok with that spacing. It does seem on the small side to me but then I am not your bees and it is their opinion that matters not mine. I think you may well find that the spacing will begin to drift as the nest grows. As Barbara says you can easily adjust for this by adding in some shims. These are always useful to keep in your toolkit. You can then use the shims to gap out bars that are obviously only for honey storage. It is less effort for the bees to build a existing comb wider than build a new one so you may increase honey yield.

Do keep an eye on those 32mm bars though as when the bees build the top out for honey they may well join them together in place resulting in tearing when you seperate them.
best of luck
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luk_lak
Guard Bee


Joined: 06 Dec 2013
Posts: 85
Location: Isle of Dogs, London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the answers.

But my technical brain is still missing something...

How can bees make wider comb to join another bar if a) there is no space as it lies between 2 combs that are already there or b) there is enough space so they can use the guide.

Here is what I mean:

My bees started as a swarm, there was nothing there apart from 1 donated comb. Bees started to build combs and they started about 10. After few days they focused on the first few but there were already some small beginnings of comb up till 10. All of them on the guides.

Slowly as the colony grew they were making those further combs bigger and bigger. But before they've finished current combs they started another 3 small combs at the back, and of course the furthest is always the smallest. Once all the 10 were long, wide enough they started to build another few.

New combs are always build next to bigger / older combs. But those combs are not yet thick enough to cause bees to ignore my guides. The older combs are usually long to the bottom but still quite thin (1cm maybe?) when the bees start building new comb next to it.

Similarly when the bees adding thickness to existing combs (lets say 1-5) they are always between 2 big and wide combs so there is nowhere to extend. I assume they've build them in the same pace in the same time so they all occupy the same area on the bar. Their only choice is to start building new comb at the back, and because there is a lot of space and last combs are still small they will use the guides out of convenience.

I hope that is clear...

*******************************
Lukasz - Friendliest gardener in E14


Last edited by luk_lak on Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:30 am; edited 1 time in total
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AugustC
Silver Bee


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

PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am sure if you explain all this to the bees you'll never have any trouble Smile

I know what you are saying but once the brood nest is established (~10-12 full combs) they get more interested in storing honey and all bets are off. You already have a marvelous resource, your straight comb, which will help a lot. Best of luck.
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