This past weekend we finally got a chance to do another inspection on our hives. We were surprised at how built up the comb had gotten in the 2 weeks since we had done a full inspection. It was so built up that it became a problem in some parts as the bees had developed comb that went off sideways and into comb from neighboring top bars! This is a pretty common problem with top bar hives but we thought we were ok since our last several inspections showed them staying in line on the top bars, but over the last two weeks or so they went crazy building comb and some got a bit out of alignment. The result was as we lifted up one top bar the crooked comb would break off from the next top bar.
We decided to go ahead and cut off all the comb that was developing at a bad angle. Most of it was honey comb so we saved it to eat later. The rest had a lot of brood and larva, as well as pockets of honey and lots of nectar and pollen. So we laid the rest out on top of the hives so the bees could salvage as much as they could. After a few days it had all been picked dry so we brought in the wax to melt down for use later. We did not really know what to do to address the crooked comb development so we gave our beekeeping friend/mentor a call to see what he had to say.
Our friend assured us this was a common problem with top bar hives and can be resolved by putting in some top bars that are slightly wider as the bees like to make the honey comb thicker than brood comb. He also suggested we take the bars with crooked comb and place them between bars that have straight established comb. To our surprise after helping us out with these ideas our friend also made us a set of wider top bars to use for the bees’ honey comb.
We prepared these new wider top bars by using string we coated in our bees’ wax as a guide stapled to the wood. We then placed about 4 of these wider top bars in each of our hives in between established comb so the bees would have straight guides. Hopefully between the wider top bars for honey comb and placing the crooked comb in between fully developed bars of comb our problems with crooked comb should be fixed! We’ll check back in a week or two and let you know how it worked!
Check out more photos from this inspection on our Facebook page!