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Cross Combing Implications..

 
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Rebecca
New Bee


Joined: 09 Mar 2014
Posts: 7
Location: Helsinki, Finland

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 2:58 pm    Post subject: Cross Combing Implications.. Reply with quote

Hi,

I've been keeping bees in a TBH with an eco floor (built to Phil's design) for two summers now, I lost my first colony this time last year to wasps and so started again with a small swarm in the same hive this summer.

Last year my bees built perfectly straight comb, and seemed a very strong colony before they got destroyed by wasps. But my colony this year have been really rebellious, building double and cross combs right from the start. At the beginning I corrected the cross combing by either removing the (broodless) comb or cutting the edges and bending it back onto the bars if it wasn't too far off, and still mostly empty. The bees responded by building 2 new cross combs for every one I fixed, and within a couple of weeks it became impossible for me to lift out individual bars without breaking comb. One honey filled comb broke off during this process and it was quite messy. I built a 'baffle', (follower board with a large hole in the middle) and put that at the edge of the crossed comb with 3 top bars after it before the follower board, but they have so far ignored it and not built on the empty bars after the baffle (I put in the baffle about 3 weeks ago).

They have also largely ignored the entrances on the side of the hive, preferring to dig through the eco floor to make a new entrance under the follower board nearest the brood chamber, and fly out under the roof on the other side.. I have to say I kind of admire that they have their own plans and aren't so interested in mine, despite the difficulties it's causing! Very Happy

It's been a bad summer here in Finland, and they are a fairly small colony (originally made up of two small swarms), so I have been reluctant to mess around inside the hive too much, for fear of causing damage and attracting wasps with the inevitable honey spilling that intervening in late summer would mean.

It's getting cold now, so I've been planning to basically leave them to it after I've given them some sugar syrup and insulated the hive, but this means that if they survive the winter then doing splits/swarm prevention is going to be very difficult next year, and also means that I can't treat them for varroa this winter. But I'm not sure what choice I've got at this stage.

Sorry for this long message, but if anyone has any helpful thoughts or advice I'd be very grateful!
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 584
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Rebecca,

Unfortunately sometimes bees have their own ideas !

I think you're right, there's nothing much to be done at this time of year. I would just insulate them as much as you can, feed if you think necessary, and wait until next year.

The baffle was the right idea but at the wrong time of year. At this time of year they're not usually building new comb but back filling existing comb with honey as the brood nest shrinks. It might well work in Spring as the nest starts to expand again.

In the spring, if you get the timing right, you will find a lot of the comb furthest away from the entrance is full of honey and the brood nest is near the entrance. At that point, you can just cut away all the honey comb, whether or not it's cross combed, and start them off with something like your baffle idea ( or you can just use a follower board with the bottom third cut off ). If you have some bad weather and think they need feeding, you can feed the honey that you have taken back to them. And as the nest expands, you can move the outermost, straight comb over and get them to build between that and the rest of the comb. That way you'll always have straight comb. [ Not that I practice what I preach with that ! ]

A few questions :
- what is the width of your bars ?
- how many bars did you give them between the follower boards when they first moved in ?
- what is your deep floor filled with ?

Thanks,
Adam.
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Rebecca
New Bee


Joined: 09 Mar 2014
Posts: 7
Location: Helsinki, Finland

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, thanks so much for the incredibly quick response!

The top bars were built to Phil Chandler's measurements - I just measured a top bar and they are 37mm wide. They have triangular doweling wedges for guides. My bees last year built perfectly straight comb on them.

I can't remember exactly how many top bars I gave them at first, it was 8 I think..

The eco floor is a mixture of forest floor compost (mostly crumbled bits of rotting wood and bark) and dried grasses.

Thanks again,

Rebecca
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To stop them exiting under the follower, fill the space beyond the follower with top-bars. They won't build on them as they see that area as "outside". Filling the whole hive with top-bars will also help prevent wasps getting in. The fewer entrances the bees have to guard the better.
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Rebecca
New Bee


Joined: 09 Mar 2014
Posts: 7
Location: Helsinki, Finland

PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice!
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 584
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rebecca,

I'm no expert on keeping bees in cold countries, but using Phil's design with no modifications may not be the best thing to do. I have seen people use thicker wood than Phil recommends, or even a kind of double glazing arrangement with two planks of wood separated by a layer of air.

Particularly if you have a small colony, you will need to think about insulation over the winter. The most important place to put insulation is on top of the top bars, inside the roof. But if you're only using 1 inch ( or 2 cm wood ) you might want to think about insulation on the sides as well ( maybe polystyrene or that reflective stuff you get from DIY stores ) and maybe even in the gap between the follower boards and the end of the hive.

I know there are people using TBHs in Canada an other places on this forum who might be able to comment on this. And maybe you can adapt what local beekeepers do as well.

Adam.
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