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Cleaning a top bar & removal of comb?

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House Bee

Joined: 14 Apr 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Bath, Somerset

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:08 am    Post subject: Cleaning a top bar & removal of comb? Reply with quote

I had bees that swarmed last year and the remaining colony did not survive. I need to start again and my question is how to clean my top bar hive ready for the new season. What should I use and also, do I remove the old comb to let the bees start again, or leave it to give them a head start? Many thanks.
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Site Admin

Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1063
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Assuming they didn't die from foul brood and the comb is clean and straight, there is no reason not to re-use it. It is the best bait for a swarm!
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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you know why the colony didn't survive?

If you can be sure of it not being foul brood I would retain the best 2 or 3 brood combs and cut the rest back to about an inch, keeping whatever honey comb there is for later use (ie putting it behind the follower until they are ready to store honey).
I have had swarms inhabit hives that I hadn't got around to cleaning out and some of the comb was badly covered in mould. The bees cleaned it up and thrived. In the wild a swarm will move into a dead out hollow tree hive and clean it up themselves and rebuild whatever is damaged, so in some respects it could be considered an aspect of natural beekeeping to allow the same to happen in your hive. Most swarms are keen to build comb though, especially prime swarms, so if you are leaving some old comb it may also be important to leave space for them to build new comb in the brood nest too.

Many people feel it is important to remove all comb and scorch the hive with a blow torch before allowing it to be re inhabited.

It is of course up to you to decide which route you take.

Are you planning on catching/attracting a swarm or buying bees? If buying bees, I would probably be more inclined to clean the hive out. If you are hoping for a swarm, they will find it more attractive with some old comb.
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Che Guebuddha
Golden Bee

Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1551
Location: Hårlev, Stevns Kommune, Denmark

PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

biobee wrote:
Assuming they didn't die from foul brood and the comb is clean and straight, there is no reason not to re-use it. It is the best bait for a swarm!

What about Nosema? I have 3 colonies who died and by the signs of poo all over the combs and inside of the hive (especially inner walls) Im guessing nosema. I thought one is to get rid of all the combs and torch the inside to stop nosema spores from spreading???
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Guard Bee

Joined: 27 Mar 2015
Posts: 54
Location: chester, england, uk

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:16 am    Post subject: leaving old comb as bait in hive ! jaja ! Reply with quote

oh i like this idea ! now just into building my first top bar hives i also bought a used national hive from chap getting rid of his hives on allotment due to neighbours getting stung and allergic and it has much combs in it and although about to wire brush it a bit i was reading how to clean it is made of cedar wood and in good condition i think...thought what a waste t throw the old combs ! he spoke about them to me and no mention of diseases the reason for stopping being just due to allergy reaction of allotment member...seemed a nice chap and would have mentioned diseases i ! maybe i have my ready made bait for my bait hives ! bees being GOLD DUST SCARCITY in uk from looking for them ! eek ja !
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Site Admin

Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1857
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Obcarskas and welcome...

Firstly can I ask you to update your profile to include your country, not just town. I'm guessing you are in the UK but this is an international forum and I'm pretty sure there will be at least one Chester in the USA and maybe in Australia/New Zealand too. Bee keeping is affected by local conditions/climate/seasons which is why we need to know where you are in the world and hence it being a RULE of membership that you post country, state or county and nearest town/city. It also helps for people to develop local self help groups if they can identify other people in their area.

As regards your national hive. Did the man you got them from say what happened to the bees that had been in that hive. I appreciate why he is getting out of beekeeping but he only sold you a hive and it's not like you can just take the bees out of the box and give/sell them to someone else.

As regards using your national hive as a bait hive, you also need to be aware of the difficulties in transferring bees from a national hive to a top bar hive. It's not an impossible task but bees are not like other creatures. Their hive and comb becomes almost part of their "being" so you need to be aware of how they function and devise a plan to transfer them. With frames from a national hive, this usually means a chop and crop procedure. You might be better removing the comb from some of the frames and attaching it to some of your top bars and placing it in your top bar hive as it is a lot easier trimming comb to the shape of the hive when there are no bees on it. I find making slings with masking tape to attach comb to top bars works very well. The bees (when they move in) reattach the comb to the bars and then eat through and remove the masking tape from the hive.

As regards bees being like gold dust, it's really about making the right contacts and also making your bait hive as attractive as possible (you can use your finished TBH as a bait hive, so don't feel it has to be a separate smaller box. Just section off one end of it, or even both ends of it and put some comb in each. Make sure you rub or paint the inside with needs to be quite warm to do this. I know of several new beekeepers that built a hive and a swarm just moved in. One lady built two hives and had 3 swarms turn up within a couple of weeks and she had never seen a swarm before! There is no better way to get them than bees deciding to come and live in a hive you have made.
As regards buying bees, they are usually sold well in advance of the new season, so that is why they appear hard to get. Better to get them for free as a swarm in my opinion..... but there are no guarantees of course. Then again, beekeeping is not for the impatient! Build your hive, make it as attractive as possible and then make as many contacts as you can for swarm collection. You can bet that the day you get a call about a swarm, another one will move into your hive.... they are very much like buses in that respect!


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Guard Bee

Joined: 27 Mar 2015
Posts: 54
Location: chester, england, uk

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2015 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi thx barbara and in response to points raised...

man who sold hives didnt say what he did with the bees. i today sent email asking if he knew of any diseases in them not that i would blame him for it if so but having thought at first to burn off things on the hive then thought again hey why not use the propolis and comb as bait ? i changed mind

AHA EDIT UPDATE 17.12 TODAY ! he replied and SOLD the bees before the hives. jaja. didnt think any diseases in hives. now that is what i thought. safe ! he wrote also good luck with catching wandering bees or whatever the techie term he used is for that ! jaja ! like gold dust they are hey ! but ! you never know ! I CAN ATTRACT THEM with his used cmb and some lemon balm or lemon grass oils ! dont know what the difference is of grass or balm but it uses the word lemon the same.

now i agree using bits of the comb as bait in empty tbh is best idea cant see point in moving things with bees on them from one hive to another

i even wondered about not having frames with wires and foundation in the national i bought just top bars for bees to build on ok ok i see with straight sides the bees might build on the walls but hey anything is better than nothing i think ! do i care ? not really ! so long as the bees are happy ! and my interest in robbing them of anything so to speak is more the propolis lol

ah updated as you will see additional profile info

didnt have a dropdown menu to select countries etc so after entering chester just left it at that at the time...well anyway no option to put 2 locations for me which would be more correct since i am only in the uk for 6 months of the year i am off to Lithuania again in a few weeks where i have land and hives of course

but i dont speak LT and the bee forums and associations there wont speak to me on email or otherwise so we just ignore each other i dont speak the language of course except enough to order coffee and food etc


chester england uk it is then for this forum

my intention is to build masses meaning over a hundred tbh in LT this spring

no probs with finding access to possible swarms ! from my and relatives and other hives ! lol ! not like here in uk !

but ! you never know ! and i am patient ! this is long term ! to get the bees repopulating our lands !

who cares whose lands ? not me ! i am a mongrel anyway ! read somewhere mongrel bees are good for novices ! well dunno about that finding ANY bees seems a prob in the uk

even the local chemist selling local welsh honey last year hasnt got any anymore !

and no i am not paying 400 GBP for a nuc ! robbery ! i paid 100GBP for full hive of honey frames and bees in LT ! 50 GBP for a nuc and bees ! if bees are such GOLD DUST to command such prices in uk and then be more high risk due to pollution even on our local golf course our dogs cant walk on or us without cancer risks of what they put there dont think i am paying 800GBP for 2 nucs TEST CASES around here hey hey ! non non non ! i will take risks for sure that is life but not that high risk with pollution likely to kill off my bees here due to pesticides !

no pesticides on my land or 8 miles around it since 100 years in LT of course ! or the bees there for years would be dead


such a shame such destruction of honey bees ! disgraceful ! such a valuable resource ! no wonder i see nothing but foreign honeys in supermarkets here ! even france imports over 50 percent of their consumed honey nowadays ! massive pollution probs there ! big whines from the beekeepers but still the farmers plaster the land with pesticides ! my dog even got stomach ulcers there last year ! and me skin burns ! just from lying in some grass on the land !

ps that is why my hives are intended for farm in wales ! jaja ! ten miles from here but away from these pesticides ! jaja !

oh here is my little page showing my land and some of my dadant hives out there

the pics of the square tbh first on page are not mine but some in canada i now know straight sides are not so good for tbh but all the same that is what got me looking for the chandler found course and site

why am i listed as a house bee ? mind you ! going to put some bees in my attic here ! test the pollution hey ! then write to councillors with proof ! save my dogs from pesticides and me from cancer ! that is what dogwalker told me they sprayed there some days ago !

yep must bait them in ! i agree !
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