So a few years ago I built some long langstroth hives - basically a long deep box that could hold about 30 frames. A year into using the hives, the wood got so warped/the rabbets were cut crookedly enough/the gaps between frames had been propolized enough that standard langstroth frames would no longer fit into the hive and those in it were stuck, which was terribly inconvenient. So, I had the bright idea to convert them into Tanzanian style top bar hive and do away with frames.
Now, being a frame beekeeper, I was used to leveling my hives side to side (I do not use foundation so need to level them side to side to keep the bees building comb straight). I never worried about leveling them front to back because the frame created a natural boundary for the bees. Well, I made the mistake of doing the same for these hives as top bar hives on a fairly steep slope front to back, meaning the bees started bulding their comb in the upper back corner of the hive, attaching it to the back wall and moving forward as they built. So basically the first 10 or 12 top bars have comb primarily attached to the side! No problem, I thought. I'll just cut the combs off the side. Well, I did this with the first comb I came to, and it being the newest, softest comb, you can guess what happened. I got it successfully cut off and a few seconds later, the whole thing collapsed. The bees were mad. I was mad. It was a massive pain trying to attach a fallen piece of comb to a top bar with a rubber band.
I have since leveled the hives front to back, but even if the bees fix their comb-building (which they probably won't, as they are prone to build next the prior comb), I have AT LEAST 12 top bars where the large pieces of comb (since it is a deep) is attached entirely to the back wall of the hive!
My plan is to give the bees some time to harden up the comb they have already built, hope they build comb in the middle of the top bar now that the hives are level, and then go back on a cool weekend day and use a long bread knife to cut the combs off the wall, using rubber bands to support the free-hanging comb if needed. Given the pickle I am in, does this sound like the right plan to any experienced top-bar beekeepers out there? If not, how would you fix this without dooming the hive? Should I just leave them alone, hope the bee inspector doesn't need to inspector my hive, and go back in to fix the comb in the fall once the colony is smaller?
I would rotate the hive 180 degrees, open/make another entrance in the exact spot where the original entrance was prior to rotation, and fill out the hive with top bars with 1" starter strip of foundation . (see p. 183 in Keeping Bees with a Smile, 2020 edition). By the fall, the brood chamber will likely shift toward this open entrance, at which point you can address the comb attachment with minimal risk.
Dr Leo Sharashkin
Beekeeper and Editor
I'm having same problem. I have kenyan type hive? The sides are angled. I use 19" long top bars foundationless. I've never had bees attach the entire side of comb to side wall, only a spot or two for bracing, but they are now.
I'm wondering if I just got the angle so out of whack bees are building comb accordingly. I've had to cut the entire side of comb with knife away from wall to remove bar. That is an accident waiting to happen. This was a new hive I built and I coated the inside walls with melted bees wax, too much I'm afraid. I wondered if I had overstimulated them by doing that?
Did you resolve your problem?
Being a smart ass beats the alternative. This tiny ad knows what I'm talking about: