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Bees building 3 combs on a bar and up to the ceiling

 
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mickburke
New Bee


Joined: 16 Sep 2012
Posts: 7
Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania. USA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:46 am    Post subject: Bees building 3 combs on a bar and up to the ceiling Reply with quote

I'm new to the top bar and beekeeping world, and have found that my bees are going crazy building comb. When I look at photos here and other locations, they seem to all build fairly uniform v shaped and fit between the bar and the body of the box without any other connection.

Mine, they have built on two bars, both of which they have a comb coming off the left side of the bar, the center (where the actual insert that they are supposed to build off of is), and one off the right side. Also, they build from the side ones past the top of the bar, and in the one case, built all the way to the lid. The last time I checked it, they had built so much that the two bars actually lifted up with the lid. Fortunately I lifted slowly and didn't do any damage... They also built the combs so large that they went all the way down and built into the side of the box.

Am I doing something wrong, or is here something else I should be doing to avoid this?? Someone else said to 'prune' it so that there's just the middle comb on each, but I'm hesitant to remove anything for fear they won't have enough to get through their first winter...

Here are photos of the whole deal:
https://picasaweb.google.com/103425203988192506940/Bees?authkey=Gv1sRgCJKk4Kq_teXctQE

Thanks for any input or recommendations!

Mick
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mick,

The diagnosis is relatively easy, but I am not sure about the cure !

The idea with top bar hives is that you put the bars in so that there is no gap between the bars. From the point of view of the bees in the hive, their "roof" is the continuous piece of wood formed by the bars all squeezed up together. The idea is that the bars are the right width so that you will get one comb on each bar. Then what we think of as the "roof" is really just a waterproof cover and something that creates a chamber that provides extra insulation from the hot or cold weather.

It seems to me from the pictures that it's probably not too late to just turn the bars upside down and close up the gaps between the others to form a continuous roof. You need to make sure that the bees cannot get out by going upwards, so you may need to add some kind of cloth or extra wood or something. It looks to me like the combs will fit in to the hive chamber when you flip them round, but if they don't you will need to be prepared to do some trimming.

You will need to leave a route which allows bees to fly and/or walk from the chamber between the closed up bars and the roof to the main entrance.

A couple of questions about the hive itself : do you have follower boards ? And where is the main entrance ? I don't see one in the pictures, although perhaps it's just on the other side from where the pictures are being taken. You need to enclose the combs in a relatively small volume ( I start with six bars, others might start with a few more ), that only has the main entrance for access.

Adam.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1123
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Top-bars should all be TOUCHING so that bees can't access the roof space. The top-bars should be the colony's ceiling. The roof is to keep the top-bars dry and protected form extremes of temperature.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS when you are moving the combs by 180 degrees, by careful. They are strong vertically but weak horizontally. Apologies for the mathematical language, but the combs themselves need to stay perpendicular to the ground at all times as you rotate them in the vertical plane. You could think about it as driving a theoretical nail through the middle of the bar half way along it and rotating the bar around that. You do it by holding one end of the bar in one hand and the other end in the other, and moving one hand down and the other up. Normally this is done with one comb firmly attached to the centre of a bar. You have three combs on one bar so you will have to be extra careful.
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trekmate
Golden Bee


Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1123
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam Rose wrote:
It seems to me from the pictures that it's probably not too late to just turn the bars upside down and close up the gaps between the others to form a continuous roof.


....But the slope of the cells will then be down-hill!

I think I'd remove the comb above the bars, close up the bars, use follower boards and consider feeding, depending on the nectar flow.

I'd also suggest learning about top-bar beekeeping! Read posts here & other web sites, read books, find a course etc.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekmate wrote:

....But the slope of the cells will then be down-hill!


True. But in the wild, logs fall off trees, get rolled, etc. And in the middle ages one style of log hive beekeeping was to put a hole in the middle, harvest from the top and simply invert the log each season.
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

post deleted by author
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike, great pictures and video, and good commentary, when I first found tbh's, I loved the cheapness that a hive could be made, and the hands free approach, but the same as you, you find the bees don't do what we want all of the time, I therefore added side bars to my top bars, so they give the comb extra strength, and it does not get built onto the side walls, meaning no comb carnage when inspecting, you'll see on this video, how tight the top bars are, need prising out with a hive tool, your pictures/video's, show comb built on the sides of your top bars??? so bars must of been missing to give them the access to do this?
maybe you could add a top edge like I did, so the top bars sit inside and no gaps, it's all trial and error,
you'll see I made my tbh's square, so frames from a national hive could be introduced if need be, if you have lots of tbh keepers near you then its not needed, but I didn't

http://youtu.be/li9obrnaRZE
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Dexter's shed
Scout Bee


Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 307
Location: Grays, Essex, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

just watched more of your video's, you should have used a smaller jar feeder and closed all the top bars,
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exactly - the precise design of your top bar makes no difference if you leave massive gaps between them.
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stevecook172001
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Joined: 19 Jul 2013
Posts: 443
Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam Rose wrote:

True. But in the wild, logs fall off trees, get rolled, etc. And in the middle ages one style of log hive beekeeping was to put a hole in the middle, harvest from the top and simply invert the log each season.
I can see what you mean. But, in the case of a medieval log hive that is turned over, the bees have the length of the log going downwards to rectify, over time, the vandalism to their comb by simply outgrowing it. In the case of a HTBH, it is a non expandable triangle of space underneath the top bar and so the bees are stuck with the comb that is there.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually I think the opposite is the case. In this particular case, if you look at the pictures, not much comb has been built yet. So we should just find the easiest way to get all the bees, the queen in particular, into the hive. Then the bees can fill out the rest of the TBH in whatever way they want.

In the case of the medieval log hives, the bees would fill the entire hive with comb, the beekeeper would take the honey in the top part, and the only "new space" would be whatever the beekeeper had removed.
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stevecook172001
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Jul 2013
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Location: Loftus, Cleveland

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I see what you mean, the bees can still outgrow the inverted comb sideways, as opposed to downwards.
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mickburke
New Bee


Joined: 16 Sep 2012
Posts: 7
Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania. USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great info thanks!

The entrance is to the left (in most of the pictures). It's like I've seen in other top bars, small landing pad and maybe half inch opening on the end. They've been coming in under the lid a lot though.

From the sound of it, my goal now is to get it to a state where I can put all the bars together (rather than that darn 'bee spacing' I thought I needed to use) and then put a blanket over the bars to fill in the gap between the lid and the bars so they don't come in to the area above the bars, then snug the follower up to the end.

One question would be, should I move the ones that they are currently working on, to the back or to the front relative to the entrance?

Thanks again for your help!
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MikeRobinson
Foraging Bee


Joined: 01 Apr 2012
Posts: 200
Location: Upper Northwest Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could also slice some thin board sections and place them in-between the existing bars to close up the gaps. There still will be spacing problems, but this should at least be an improvement.
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mickburke wrote:

One question would be, should I move the ones that they are currently working on, to the back or to the front relative to the entrance?


When you start off you would normally use the follower to create a smallish chamber close to the entrance. Since you have an end entrance, you would need one follower on the side away from the entrance to do this. As the colony expands you add extra bars and move the follower, keeping a bee-tight chamber, with only the entrance for access. There is some debate about the initial size of the chamber. I tend to start with six bars and start adding bars quite quickly. I have heard other people like to start with ten bars, in which case they can wait a while before adding bars.

I would put your comb somewhere near the entrance and have most the the space on the other side of the comb. Perhaps one empty bar, the existing combs, then six empty bars and then the follower ?

From the bees point of view, you will be moving their entrance from the gap between the roof and the bars to the official entrance. You might want to think about moving the entire hive so that the official entrance to the hive is as close as possible to where most of the bees are currently going in and out, perhaps rotating the whole thing by 90 degrees. Or you could balance some branches with leaves on at the sides of the hives to deliberately confuse the bees so that they no longer recognise the side of the hive as their entrance. It might be that some bees start building comb between the roof and the top bars as they are now, in which case you should scrape the comb off, open the follower, and shake the bees into the chamber you have created, and shut the follower. You might want to check for this everyday for the first few days after you have moved the comb.

I think you should act quickly rather than allow more comb to be built.

Good luck !
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mickburke wrote:
and then put a blanket over the bars to fill in the gap between the lid and the bars


A blanket is OK, but something more solid ( and more insulated ) would be better. Maybe you can use a top bar balanced on top of the bars to the left and right, if you see what I mean ?

And don't forget to close off the gap at the ends as well as at the top, so you create a bee-tight chamber with only the official entrance to get in and out of. I sometimes get those foam things you use to wash cars and cut it up to plug up small irregular holes like that.
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MikeRobinson
Foraging Bee


Joined: 01 Apr 2012
Posts: 200
Location: Upper Northwest Georgia, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are three things that I have found to be most-important:

(1) The hives should be level, along both axes. This is easy for me because the hives sit on cinder-blocks with boards used to shim them up. (No master-woodworker here ...)

(2) There must be no gaps between the bars. As you cut the bars, save the little scraps of wood of various widths that are left-over from the sawing. Those will be your spacers. Plan to always have a few in place, because, as the humidity changes, wood expands and contracts. The end-boards of the hive should be slightly higher than the sides, both to support a roof and to secure the bars.

(3) As you work the hive, let there be exactly one gap between the bars: the one gap that you're currently working in. As you move from bar to bar, the gap "slides" from one end of the hive to the other, but you must press the bars together completely as you proceed, so that there is no additional gap, however slight. You will quickly (and perhaps, painfully) observe that the hive becomes much more agitated if there is more than one opening up there with sunlight shining through. I guess that this must be some ancestral signal that: "The integrity of the hive has been compromised! General quarters!!!"
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