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anyway to rescue this disaster?

Post new topic   Reply to topic    beekeeping forum -> Horizontal top bar hives
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New Bee

Joined: 25 May 2014
Posts: 1
Location: Columbia, Missouri, USA

PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2014 11:18 pm    Post subject: anyway to rescue this disaster? Reply with quote

I am new to beekeeping. I got a top bar hive last year, installed a package of bees, and they absconded within a week. This year, I installed a package of Italian bees, and they are rapidly building comb, and I have about 5 bars which contain capped brood, now on day 22 from installation. They are building comb on 10 bars. From the beginning, I have had problems with cross-comb, which I have tried very hard to fix, watching various videos on the internet, etc. Things seemed to be going better, although there are still places where they are building what I would call tongues of double comb--a small piece that sticks out parallel to the main comb. From the beginning, the first bar has been a problem. I started it with the queen cage, as straight as I could get it, and some wired-on comb leftover from last year, again as straight as I could get it. They keep building these tongues, and then putting little columns of comb on the divider board where the comb bends away from the board.

Today, I checked the hive for the first time in about a week, on a day when the temperature is about 84 degrees Farenheit--nothing compared to what we will have in a month or two, and had not one, but two comb collapses, where pretty much the whole comb ripped off about an inch or two below the bar. I did my best to splint what could be saved with ribbon, but one in particular, which is the very first bar from the feeder divider board, is a saggy mess. I was so sickened and frustrated by this time that I closed it all up and vowed to just leave them alone, never open the hive again, and consider that I am providing a home for honeybees--forget the rest.

Now, however, I am not sure that's really what I should do, but I don't know how to try to deal with the situation. So what I have, starting from the divider board that leads into the feeder (which they are not using much at all) is 1) comb collapse--tons of brood, all in a big sticky, saggy mess. 2)a small comb--I put a blank bar here a week ago trying to address the cross-combing (after trying to straighten the situation on bar 1--maybe the cause of today's collapse?) 3)large comb with capped brood ---this one has a "tongue" developed on it 4)large comb with capped brood--pretty much straight 5) straight smaller comb--again, I placed a blank bar here--it is bigger than #2 6)large straight comb with capped brood, or it was until it collapsed today, and I had to try to splint it. I think it looks fairly straight, but there's a pretty big gap for them to fill in. 7) straight comb with capped brood and larvae 8)comb with larvae 9)comb with a very little bit of larvae --mostly nectar and some pollen 10)small combs with a little nectar abd pollen 11)blank bar with festooning bees 12)blank bar 13)follower board.

Or should I just go with my initial instinct and close the darn thing up and never look at it again?
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J Smith
Foraging Bee

Joined: 13 Jan 2014
Posts: 169
Location: New Zealand, South Island, Southland, Riversdale.

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ellent, really hard to offer advice from afar, but most importantly- don't loose faith.
I had a newly established colony building fresh comb on 10 bars that blew over in 70 mile and hour winds. Smashed the heck out of everything. Honey, brood, busted combs and bees in a gooey mess on the grass, intermingled with strewn top bars.
That colony recovered- not really strong yet- but they started again and recovered. The comb was that damaged that not a lot could be saved- basically they had to start from what was left attached from the bars- which was not much and had to recover all they had gathered from the broken stuff. Then the wasps arrived......

What I am saying is, things look bad now- but there can be light at the end of a pretty dim looking long tunnel.

First off, as your colony and your comb is new, could it be that whilst inspecting and correcting cross combing you may have inadvertently damaged the comb connection at the bars? This may have lead to the comb collapse.
You say the collapsed comb on bar "1" was full of brood? I hope the queen survived and was not squished in there somewhere.
Not being sure how your hive is constructed it is hard to guess what might happen with higher temperatures, but I would be looking at adding some insulation over the top of the bars to help eliminate severe heat that may cause collapse.

My limited experience with hTBH's has meant I have not had to deal with a lot of cross combing issues, but think I have seen similar to the tongues you mention. Almost like they try to squeeze two combs onto one bar?
This can happen when your bars are perhaps too wide for their liking, they build slightly off centre of the first bar and therefore the middle of the next is not "bee space" and a comb apart, so they start building at the distance they like. This might lead to two combs on on bar- or a comb being built on the join of two bars. Often this will be a small section of "filler comb" and not the full depth of the box- then the next will cover a full bar- the first & third comb will have a bulge in opposite directions past the filler comb.
I managed this with a selection of skinny bars, ones narrower by up to a 1/4", and staggered their placement between the original wider bars.
It seemed to work for me, but others may have more practical advice.

You might want to try getting some foundation sheets and cutting it into strips. Attaching it to your top bars and make sure it is dead straight, place those bars where your two empty ones are now. It is not ideal, nor a "cure all" but it will give a good attachment point and a straight start to the comb.

At this stage, I would guess the two combs were perhaps damaged during an inspection. New comb is very fragile and the less you can handle it, the better.
However, unless your cross combing is sorted early- it will lead to problems further down the track.

Sorry I cannot be of more help, I hope others chime in with some positive information for you. There are plenty of brains to pick and advice to be had here, pour a coffee, pull up a chair and drink it in.
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Nurse Bee

Joined: 03 Apr 2013
Posts: 26
Location: UK, MIDDX

PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you read McCartney post and seen his vids on you tube named outofabluesky? He lives in Texas and suffers from heat induced comb collapse too. You will find useful tips and ideas from his vids on you tube. It's quite possible you will break comb during a inspection, I have done it. The bees generally sort it out. I get the tonge comb appearing if the gaps are too wide. You need to resolve this. I cut mine out when I see it sometimes you can remove that bar push the ones either side together and move that now empty bar next to a nice straight comb somewhere better, hopefully that will be ok. Sometimes it's good to let them sort things and have read and come back later when they cleaned up all breakages. They will fix things. You will have better days, don't give up just take a break.
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