Top Bar Hive Collapsed Comb Freak Out

Earlier in the week I opened up my top bar bee hive to see how things were going; I’d given the bees more space in June, and I guess I anticipated seeing my colony growing in size, making comb with brood and honey.

Instead, I was horrified to see half of the comb on the bottom of the hive!! Last time I’d checked my hive, a small bit of comb had fallen; but I thought then it was just a small problem. Apparently not.

Here you can see the sad sight, with fresh white comb being built where some of the honey-filled comb was once suspended:

I closed things up and emailed Jaime DeZubeldia, who taught the top bar beehive workshop I attended in April, before taking any action: I felt very depressed at the sight, and figured it was best not to do anything until I had some good information. Jaime was really nice and emailed me back right away with some tips helpful in regard to the unique beekeeping conditions in the sonoran desert.

The point of top bar beekeeping is not to spend lots of money on beekeeping stuff. So, today I scraped out the heap of fallen comb with a kitchen spatula, being very careful not to squash any bees. I then put the comb on some cake racks, so that I could easily tip the rack into the hive and brush the bees inside with a big soft paintbrush (never used for paint); you can see my bread knife in the lower left corner, which also was useful:

I have a small colony; and a docile genetic strain: so, there weren’t enough bees to give me a hard time.  I think this is why I feel a lot more comfortable working with my bees now: there aren’t many of them! I’ve also learned that you just have to go slow, occasionally step back, and it helps to avoid breathing on them. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone leering over me and breathing on me. It would make me irritated.

Still, I’d hate to try and pull this stunt will ill-tempered bees.

Above is the saddest sight of the day: earlier in the week, when I opened the hive, I checked the brood-comb area and when I lifted up one of the bars I dislodged this bit of brood comb. So, today, I had to pull it out. I examined it carefully because I was worried the queen might be on it laying eggs. All the flat capped cells were bees-to-be; and in the lower left you can see 6 cells with white blob in them, these are bees in the larval stage, cut short by my meddling.

This is the middle-part of the hive, where the follower board separates the active hive from the inactive part. I moved the follower board closer to the hive entrance, to give the bees less space so they could hopefully keep it cooler more effectively; so whereas I optimistically expanded my hive 6 weeks ago, today I consolidated it. I put paper towels up against the sides, per a suggestion from Jaime, to reduce any warm air cross currents between the hive entrance and gaps in the follower board.  I scrubbed out some of the nectar from the collapsed comb that spilled into this empty chamber to avoid attracting ants. I put some bricks between the top bars and the hive cover when I finally closed up the hive, to give the hive more ventilation.

Here’s the results of my careful comb removal; I was surprised how easy it was to get the bees off of it.

I hope when I come back from my Newfoundland trip I’ll see things in better shape.

I’ll also no doubt post about making beeswax candles, or something of the sort, with the heap of comb above.

Author: Clareannette

I love working and making art in the Sonoran Desert!

3 thoughts on “Top Bar Hive Collapsed Comb Freak Out”

  1. Claire It is too bad that you ate not getting in to St. John’s until Thursday because the George Street Festival is on this week but it finishes on Tuesday night. It is without doubt the best Irish Festival of the year, Our oldest son Barry and I arrived in St. John’s 12 days ago and we will be going to the Festival on Tuesday night. We are in Port Kirwan today. The weather today is overcast with rain expected tonight but clearing tomorrow evening. The weather has been good since we arrived here with only 2 days of rain(which is good for Newfoundland)Today was the coldest with the temp. only reaching 20degrees celsius It has been around 24 t0 28 degrees every other day but it sure cools of at night especially if the fog rolls in.
    Bye for now.I hope you have a safe and wonderful flight. Looking forward to meeting you and your Aunt Mary and hearing you play the fiddle and the squeeze box.

    1. Denis, that’s too bad I’ll miss the festival. Hopefully some of the enthusiasm will spill out into the pubs the next few weeks, it would be nice to catch a good pub session while I’m in St. John’s. I leave Tucson in about 7 hours….and I’ll arrive very early in the morning Wednesday. So I’ll be in town Wednesday…there’s that regatta, isn’t there, that day, so maybe I’ll check that out. I’m staying at the Downtown Hostel at 25 Young St.; you’re welcome to stop by to see if I’m there, otherwise see you Thursday!!

      I’m bringing my raincoat, not my winter coat. 🙂

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