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A hive out of control  RSS feed

 
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Admittedly this is my first year where the bees survived so my first year of bees. We have a langstroth hive. I've put an additional box on as they'd filled the bottom. The problem I'm having is constant cross and burr comb. I'd like to not bother them but I'm opening it up weekly to cut the comb off of where it's not supposed to be. It's 10x worse with the second box now. The first box had frame. I thought maybe I'd try the second box without frame to see if it made a difference. Well it did. They've gone sideways on the whole thing. I even beeswaxed the middle of each frame as a guide. They aren't following it. It's a disaster and there is brood in it already so when I was cutting and lifting out frames I exposed some brood. Hopefully didn't kill them but.....what am I supposed to do with these things? Should I call this hive quits for honey production and just let them grow like crazy? I have other hives so when they swarm I could put them in another hive. Wrong to consider this my swarm creator hive?? I don't know what to do.
 
steward
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if you don't have any frames, which direction the comb is oriented doesn't really matter. you won't be able to harvest individual combs very easily, but you can just wait until you're ready to take the whole box.
 
pollinator
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tel jetson wrote:if you don't have any frames, which direction the comb is oriented doesn't really matter. you won't be able to harvest individual combs very easily, but you can just wait until you're ready to take the whole box.



I'm just guessing, but I believe the OP meant "without foundation" since they mention putting wax on the "frames"

I'm not an expert on Beekeeping.  I have a top bar hive and pretty much let the ladies do what they want.  However, I'm wondering if they have some reason why they keep building the comb at right angles to where you want them to.  Would rotating the hive 90 degrees incline them to follow your frames?  

You are leaving a gap between frames?
 
elle sagenev
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Peter VanDerWal wrote:

tel jetson wrote:if you don't have any frames, which direction the comb is oriented doesn't really matter. you won't be able to harvest individual combs very easily, but you can just wait until you're ready to take the whole box.



I'm just guessing, but I believe the OP meant "without foundation" since they mention putting wax on the "frames"

I'm not an expert on Beekeeping.  I have a top bar hive and pretty much let the ladies do what they want.  However, I'm wondering if they have some reason why they keep building the comb at right angles to where you want them to.  Would rotating the hive 90 degrees incline them to follow your frames?  

You are leaving a gap between frames?



Good idea on rotating the hive. I'll give that a go.

I've been trying to be careful not to give them a big enough gap between frames. They're just driving me nuts!
 
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I've read that energy or ley lines can cause them to cross-comb. If rotating the hive 90° doesn't work for you, you might try putting the bees on lockdown and moving them to a different location to see if that helps.

More info on bees & Ley lines may be found here:  http://dave-cushman.net/bee/leylines.html


Good luck!
 
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Bees need hives to be absolutely level side to side to draw comb straight. They also benefit from a frame or two drawn straight to act as a guide. Once the cross combing has started the only thing you can do is be brutal and cut and manipulate it into place.

Your options:

1) Go for a full on cut out, reattaching comb to frames in the correct orientation. Look up videos on youtube of how to do a cutout. Watch few of them. You want plenty of rubber bands.

2) Move the box to the top of the hive so the queen stops laying in it. Wait a month or so for all the brood to emerge. Then harvest the honey using cut and strain method, preserving any straight combs to put back in again as a future guide.


This whole situation is best avoided by earlier and more decisive management early on, rather than with a whole mess later on.

When I add foundationless boxes to my hive I alway pull a few drawn frames up from a lower box, replacing them with empty combs. The combs in the bottom box have straight wax adjacent to them to act as a guide. The empty frames in the top box have some comb to act as a guide as well. At your next inspection in around a week, make any minor changes that need to be made. Remove comb being built in the wrong direction. Bend or twist what you can into place, while it is young and pliable. This avoids the vast majority of problems you describe.  All of these issues disappear once you have been at it for a year or two and have a stockpile of good drawn comb.

And lastly, just remember that all of the above is for the convenience of the beekeeper. The bees don't care if the comb is wonky.
 
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Should I call this hive quits for honey production and just let them grow like crazy?  



I would be inclined to just leave the messy box (the brood) alone for a while & add a super on top for honey. Then fix it immediately after honey harvest. Or possibly right before winter when their numbers are low ... IF that's not the main box they were using at that time.



Wrong to consider this my swarm creator hive??  



I have several exactly for that reason. I WANT them to swarm & populate the woods with bees.







 
steward
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Hey elle if you need someone close by to come and take a look you might try and get a hold of Michael Jordan of A Bee Friendly Company in Cheyenne. Have you met him?
 
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Elle, I love bees too, they inspire me. I would share a bit of information you may find at least as an alternative that may be less stressful for both you and your hives...
Last year my partner and I were turned onto a hive that allows the harvest of honey without disturbing the bees. Less die offs, reusable, seemingly less work and less waste. Flow Hives. The official site for them is a www site called honeyflow, the official web address is www.honeyflow.com

We have heard good things about them and we have so wanted a couple of these hive boxes, but are in the middle of a move at the moment, and maybe moving again to follow the solar projects we are planning on working with. When we get more settled these hives will be the ones we start harvesting from. It just seems right for us. Time will tell. I would be interested to know if this information is helpful for you and your readers. I like Honey, and bee pollen and I talk to the bees and care for the ones that drink from our water plant containers. They always seem to be more or less partial to the papyrus plants, water cress, kang kong, and the water lettuce so we have to place a stick or rock in the water near the edge for them to climb out so they do not drown when they drink to much and cant fly for a moment. Bees are so cool.
Your post brought many happy memories to mind. Thank you for posting,
Larry
 
Michael Cox
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Please steer well clear of the flow hives. They get a lot of promotional hype, which sounds very impressive to non-beekeepers, or those who have little experience of working with them. However, the reality is that they need just as much management as conventional hives - you still need to go in and inspect the colony, add boxes when needed, control swarming etc... they are a solution to just one part of the beekeepers work load (the honey harvest), and that is one that is actually pretty quick and straightforward anyway.

Claims that bees are more likely to survive in flow hives are simply unjustified - and they were created in Australia, where they don't have to deal with the varroa mite, so have high survival rates anyway.
 
Mike Barkley
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Once again Michael Cox is giving excellent advice. Seems like the flow hives are designed for people who want honey but don't particularly care about the bees. Cool idea & perhaps appropriate for some situations (disabled people, etc) but in general a bad plan.

Bees are easy enough once you learn a few things (like don't give them large empty spaces) & get the hang of it. If you want natural comb frames try alternating those bare frames with traditional foundation frames. That works well. I'd suggest finding a local bee club to learn & meet other helpful bee folks nearby.

Another point. It's best not to harvest much honey in a colony's first year. Leave them plenty for summer dearth & winter.
 
elle sagenev
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Hey elle if you need someone close by to come and take a look you might try and get a hold of Michael Jordan of A Bee Friendly Company in Cheyenne. Have you met him?



I've been to his house. He sold me my first bees. :P I'll call him if it gets too bad!
 
steward
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Elle: Why are you opening your hives? What are your goals? I ask, because I don't fuss around in the brood boxes at all... I don't care if they build burr comb, or bridge comb, because I'm not in a habit of disturbing the brood boxes. I take the honey supers off, once a year, and scrape off whatever burr comb gets in my  way, but other than that, I allow them to build comb how they will, and don't try to correct the bees. I figure that less disturbance is easier on me, and easier on the bees.
 
elle sagenev
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Elle: Why are you opening your hives? What are your goals? I ask, because I don't fuss around in the brood boxes at all... I don't care if they build burr comb, or bridge comb, because I'm not in a habit of disturbing the brood boxes. I take the honey supers off, once a year, and scrape off whatever burr comb gets in my  way, but other than that, I allow them to build comb how they will, and don't try to correct the bees. I figure that less disturbance is easier on me, and easier on the bees.



Because everything says you need to look ever 9-11 days to make sure everything is in order. Even the local bee group says that. And since nothing has been in order as it "should" with mine I end up bothering a lot of comb.
 
Larry Jackson
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To Mike Barkley and Michael Cox... I will share your input with my partner, and I believe we will both steer clear of the flow hive for now and not recommend it as an option to others.
Thank you to both for the more experienced guidance,
Larry
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It seems to me, that using foundation, is a part of the definition of a Langstroth hive. I highly recommend it. With no foundation, the bees are likely to build whatever they want wherever they want... In this case they went "sideways".  

What to do about the current sideways comb with brood in it? Ugh!!! What a mess, eh?  Are there some frames along the edges that don't have brood in them yet? Can you replace some of the combs/frames with frames containing foundation? Can you move the queen into the lower box, and put a queen excluder on to keep her there long enough for the brood to hatch, and then swap out the out-of-kilter frames?










 
Michael Cox
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I use langstroth hives without foundation. It is definitely different from using foundation - you can't simply throw on a box of frames with no foundation and expect to come back to perfectly straight drawn comb in a month. You need to monitor and adjust regularly over the first week or so while they are drawing it out. For me that extra work load is fine - and cheaper overall than buying foundation.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Michael Cox wrote:I use langstroth hives without foundation.



Do you give them some sort of starter strip?
 
Michael Cox
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No. But when I introduce new frames, I usually do it between drawn frames of brood, for a nice straight guide.
 
pollinator
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Just so we're clear, what are the reasons to go into a hive? I mean, they do their own climate control. Is it important for the purpose of keeping control of the hive as a beekeeper, to make sure it meets human requirements?

I was largely on board with the anti-flow hive sentiment, for the reason that it feels to me like there would be a lot of people out there who would treat it like a dispenser unit. If the hive dies, buy another nuc. If you take too much honey and the hive starves, just buy another nuc.

One thought I had on the matter is, though, could a flow hive unit be used with an excluder, such that the flow hive is only used for food storage, keeping the majority of the hive free of human interference, except in terms of necessary maintenance (again, what amount of hive intervention is necessary? Feral hives do just fine, and manage to swarm and make more hives)?

-CK
 
Michael Cox
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Yes, inspecting is a human requirement. But it is an important one. Bees are livestock, and like other livestock we need to monitor them and be able to inspect them for a whole variety of reasons. The main reason I like to be able to inspect my own hives is so that I can split colonies, and split them at exactly the right time of year. Making splits ensures that I have an endless supply of colonies to replace losses from disease. Without that you rely on the luck associated with catching swarms.
 
Mike Barkley
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One thought I had on the matter is, though, could a flow hive unit be used with an excluder, such that the flow hive is only used for food storage, keeping the majority of the hive free of human interference, except in terms of necessary maintenance (again, what amount of hive intervention is necessary? Feral hives do just fine, and manage to swarm and make more hives)?



I investigated flow hives further last week. It can be used with a traditional queen excluder. The "extraction" seems less likely to squish/injure/maim/kill bees than I previously thought BUT I still wouldn't recommend their use except by a very experienced (or disabled) beekeeper or someone who has access to lots of free bees. Bees mostly do quite well being left alone. However, when things go bad they usually go bad fast. My method is to observe carefully as often as possible from outside the hive & pop the hood to check on them only occasionally. A couple key times of year & when starting a new colony with too few resources or unknown queen status.  Immediately if something just doesn't seem right from the outside. I fail to see how replacing them (even if free) when they die due to lack of basic attention or understanding is best for the bees. I have several million bees in several apiaries (or do they have me?) and I prefer they all survive with minimum intervention. Most do. For some of them in the Sasquatch Wilderness apiary it is almost mandatory. But still there are times to pay close attention to them & give them a helpful nudge. Or they might die needlessly.

Crooked wax & burr comb is not really something I worry much about during inspections. I'll clean it up only if it won't kill brood or disrupt the colony in a major way. Good brood patterns, good pollen supply, & good honey supply is much more important. Look for excessive pests such as varroa mites & small hive beetles. Look for small holes poked into the brood cells. Look for discolored brood. Look for deformed brood. Check for swarm or supercedure cells. Check individual bees for a normal appearance ... no psychotic behavior, no missing wings or deformities, etc. One can usually do most of that without removing any frames. If something looks suspicious, then pull every frame & inspect more closely. Check outside the hive for too many dead bees on the ground or too much bee poo on the hive. It's more about observing closely than disturbing anything.

Michael Palmer is all about sustainable beekeeping. Easy enough to find his speeches & demos online. What it boils down to is make nucs. Lots of them. OR ... maybe I'll just start selling bees. All I wanted was one strong colony. It snowballed!!!

 
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Chris Kott wrote:Just so we're clear, what are the reasons to go into a hive? I mean, they do their own climate control. Is it important for the purpose of keeping control of the hive as a beekeeper, to make sure it meets human requirements?

-CK



They can build queen bee cells and where they build them can indicate the purpose. Such as swarming, or the colony replacing the queen. If it is a swarm cell, the cell can be removed.
 
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