11 August 2012
Today, being sunny, I decided I would do my first solo inspection of my hive – I haven’t done one since Paul came to help me on July 17, nearly 4 weeks ago. I’ve been feeding daily since then (as it was such a small swarm) and the bees have seemed very happy and busy.
Today, then, I managed to take out the first two bars OK, but there was a little cross-combing on the next gap, and after that they seem to have built across the gap and I tried to slice them apart but it really got a bit complicated. I added an extra shim and closed it up that end and tried going from the other end, but soon encountered the same problem. The bees were calm, but didn’t like this disturbance, especially as I got nearer the centre of the cluster. I gave up and didn’t see the middle four bars at all – they were all glued together.
On spacing: Gareth had kindly shaved all my bars for me to the width he recommends (I think 34mm) and also my shims, to 5mm x 10mm, so I thought I was perfectly spaced! I thought that cross-combing (is that building bridges across?) happened when the space is too big, but my bees seem to be simply building on to the next bar along, rather than making bridges. Maybe there’s a geological fault somewhere and I should turn the hive a bit?
I don’t know, but I would appreciate some help – this was my email to Paul, who then suggested I post it on the website to see if anyone else can help. (But see below.)
12 August 2012
Ugh! Having had a reply from Paul I realised I would have to tackle this problem sometime and this afternoon seemed as good a time as any. So off I went, taking a sponge for washing off my knife, a container for any wax or comb, as well as all the stuff I took yesterday – camera, tripod, top bar stand, hive tool, bee suit and I also lit my smoker for the first time (with mixed success!!)
And bravely I went through the hive again. When I got to the problem bars, I found that although they had started well, by the time they got right across the hive they had diverged onto the shims and sometimes further, necessitating a bit of slicing, which was nasty because the combs were covered in bees, and it was honeycomb so a bit drippy. Quick work with the container and not too much got spilt – the puddles on top of the top bars (ugh) soon got lapped up by happy workers (hopefully all from this hive). Have you ever gone to lick a sticky finger and got a dab of honey on your veil?
Two of the top bars had distinct separate pieces of comb right outside the desirable line, and these I turned upside down and sliced off completely, hoping that they would build more helpfully when repairing the damage.
Since they clearly want more space, I put in more shims, or turned one on its side. This is going to be a process of trial and error on my part – I have to learn what they want. I guess I have to look in a bit more often to avoid this whole process again.
It was very difficult to close it all up again. Oh – mid-way through the operation it began to rain! The camera was whisked away, then the lid put on the hive (never mind closing up) and other things stowed; fortunately it stopped pretty quickly so everything except the camera came out again. At the end I managed to get them all inside, although I think they thought it was more fun on top where there were still some puddles of honey.
After some calming weed-removal on the allotment, things seemed a bit calmer in the hive as well, so I swapped the empty feeding jar for the container of wrecked comb, so that they could clean it up and keep the stores. They need all they can get, I reckon. (I kept a square inch for tea. Yum.)
Well, I have worked through nine top bars, for over an hour, and didn’t get stung. I must have really nice bees.
Sorry this is such a long post. I would really like any advice or input from anybody who has experienced this kind of thing, or who just has some ideas. I’m so hoping not to have to do it all again.
Helen in Oxford