Top bar hive with slipping top bars

No Worries: If I Mess it up, I’ll also Fix it

Top bar hive with slipping top bars

I’m still paying the price for a choice I made in preparation for spring…I thought I’d found a terrific and inexpensive material from which to build this year’s top-bar hives.

I built about 10 hive bodies from rough-cut cedar fencing…the cedar fencing isn’t too expensive, and I love the way it looks and feels. I thought it was perfect for the bees.

Immediately, however, once we all installed our bees in the newly-built hive boxes, we discovered the first problem with the cedar fencing: It’s very light…which makes it good when it comes to handling the hive boxes, but bad when the wind picks up. So, when the winds blew and before the bees had built enough comb to give the hive weight, the hives toppled over. Toppled hives all over town. Not good for bees. Not good for the beekeeper’s psyche, either.

Later in the season, when the bees increased in number and after they’d built comb and stored brood and honey, another problem raised its ugly head: The top board of cedar siding began to bow under the weight of bee life. This creates two unwanted situations:

  1. It created a gap between the bottom and the top side boards…and the bees quickly begin using this gap as an entrance. And, for reasons I’ll explain in another post, we want the bees to use an entrance at the end of the hive bodies…not in the middle (this relates to the location of honey when the bees cluster over winter…see why I’m not going into it now?!).
  2. When the sides of the hive bow outward, the bars that rest on the top board slip into the hive.
  3. Which means the honeycomb rests and melts on the bottom of the hive box.
  4. Bees never intentionally attach comb at the bottom…they use that space for travel (and other things).
  5. And when the comb melts to the bottom of the hive, the beekeeper has to rip it apart to remove and inspect it. Not good

Therefore, this situation must be rectified.

I’ve figured out a solution to the problem, but it requires visiting each of the affected hives and, hive by hive, replacing the flimsier cedar siding with more substantial cedar. I’ve learned to perform this operation on the spot (though it does require moving the bees temporarily into another hive body).

At first, I was kicking myself for having to go around and repair all those hive bodies when I thought I had other, more-pressing business to do. But now I simply see it as the price to pay for becoming more aware. It’s also a terrific opportunity to see the bees with my customers and my friends.

And it’s good to do whatever is required to make something right…so people know that if I make a mistake, I’ll fix it.

Facing the Cross-Comb Music

I’m sort of dreading today’s work. I’ve neglected the two top-bar hives I keep at the Veteran’s Memorial Community Garden in the East End. I let them go it alone for too long, and they’ve built a hive of cross comb. It’s bad.

So, today I’m determined to take my rubber bands and my zip ties and my serrated knife and get things straightened out over there.

To make matters worse, one of the colonies creating severe cross comb is also living in one of the hive bodies that succumbed to a TBH design flaw. Some of the cedar fencing I use for the hive bodies is simply too thin to hold the weight of a hive full of bars loaded with bees and comb and honey. Under tremendous weight, the cedar siding begins to bow. When the siding bows out, the top bars, which usually rest on the edge of the siding, slip down so that the comb squishes onto the bottom of the hive. And in this recent heat, the wax melts on the floor of the hive. None of this is good.

I’m gonna face the music today (because our high temperatures should only reach 80 degrees…which means I can work with the comb without it disintegrating in my hands). I intend to spend hours doing right by the bees that I previously neglected.

Comb by comb, I’ll cut the cross comb from the bars. Then I’ll reattach the straightened comb to its bar using either rubber bands or zip ties. Or both. Then I’ll place the newly reattached comb into a new, improved TBH.

I will reward myself with lunch at Eli’s. :)

I’ll take pictures of it for you. If I remember.

I expect to run into Joe Cocoran there. Talk about a ball of fire.