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comb replacement

 
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freebee
House Bee


Joined: 09 Dec 2015
Posts: 24
Location: The Neterlands, Leeuwarden

PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:02 am    Post subject: comb replacement Reply with quote

Yesterdag it was 12 C and bees were flying around, collecting pollen. Almost time for a new bee year! That brings me to the question: do I have to remove a number of old bars with comb and replace that for new, empty bars?. I did a course "old school", where they tell you to replace half of the combs every year.
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How old is your colony?

There are benefits to old comb as well as some risks, so it is worth weighing it up. Old comb buffers moisture in the hive better than fresh comb. The cell size also diminishes ever so slightly with each successive generation of larvae, so it can help to slowly transition to small cell without suddenly forcing them into small cell by providing a uniform small cell foundation.... if you believe small cell has the benefits some claim. But of course there are also concerns that old comb can harbour disease and a build up of pesticides etc.

Personally, I don't consider comb old until it has been in use for several seasons. My oldest surviving hive which is untreated for 7 years has many combs that are over 10 seasons old, so it is not critical to rotate out old comb.

If you have a top bar hive then the way you can do it is by inserting blank bars here and there in the brood nest, causing the older combs to get pushed to the outside and eventually used for honey storage, but timing of this is important as it can cause brood to get chilled if it is done too early. Ideally there needs to be a good nectar flow when the colony is actively expanding and has enough young bees able to build new comb quickly on the blank bars.

Hope that makes sense.

Regards

Barbara
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freebee
House Bee


Joined: 09 Dec 2015
Posts: 24
Location: The Neterlands, Leeuwarden

PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you very much for your reply, it has been very illuminating. I just started beekeeping last year in a top bar hive. so I was very happy to see them well and alive last week, collecting pollen.
I will leave them allone this year!
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just be aware that they will almost certainly swarm despite having plenty of room in the hive, unless you take some action.

It is common practice to add empty bars into the brood nest anyway, to encourage expansion over swarming, but timing of it is quite critical.
If you are happy for swarming to take place then positioning bait hives around the apiary is a good idea particularly if you are not able to be there through the day during swarming season.
Alternatively you could do a split when they start producing queen cells.

Swarming season is the tricky time when it comes to beekeeping. The bees natural instinct is to swarm if the colony is strong and healthy so it's important to have a plan of action and probably a back up plan organised well in advance and don't assume that once they swarm, that will be it. Left to their own devices and assuming good forage and weather conditions they will probably throw 2 or 3 cast swarms about 10 days after the prime swarm.
Apologies if you are already aware of this, but just wanting to make you aware of the consequences of your comment "I will leave them alone this year!". Not saying that is the wrong approach as I usually let mine swarm at will, but just so that you won't be surprised when it happens or need to take action if you live in an urban area where swarms may be a nuisance.

Best wishes

Barbara
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freebee
House Bee


Joined: 09 Dec 2015
Posts: 24
Location: The Neterlands, Leeuwarden

PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

O, sorry, but with " I will leave them alone this year", I meant that I will not replace the combs, not that I will do nothing at all.
I have a perfect opportunity at my location to let them swarm, so I hope to witness it (I have the time and I made some bait hives). For cast swarms, I think have learned just enough to prevent that. But it is all exciting, because it is my first full year. I live in The Netherlands and there is not much going around concerning top bar hives. So I'm trying now to combine the books of Phyll with the lessons I learned here and find my own way. It is nice to have a forum like this for some feedback!
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Barbara
Site Admin


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

PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's ideal then.
I'm very much in the same situation as regards both swarming and converting conventional beekeeping to an approach that I am more comfortable with. This year I am going to try a Taranov split from one of my National framed hives into an empty TBH just to try something different rather than let them all swarm. I will be interested to see how that works out. I think that it is best to have experience of different management styles and techniques in order to make an informed decision on what is best for you and your bees, so I feel it is actually beneficial to have some conventional beekeeping input or experience rather than purely "natural" whatever that is.

I hope you have a successful swarming season.

Regards

Barbara
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