I have a little Top Bar bee hive (TBH) out back. It has been there for just over a year now. I have not been into it since mid summer for two reasons. Partly because it has a window on the side for viewing and, this is the important part, I only had a hood to wear and not a full bee suit. Too many bee stings made me gun-shy.
That has all changed. If you own bees you have to get into the hive and check them out during the warmer weather. So, I spent the money and got the bee suit.
Amazing! It gave me the confidence to do what was needed.
I learned how to get my smoker to smoke too!
Once inside however, I found that although my bees were very healthy they were over crowded with honey. Further, the little bur comb that I had found earlier last summer and removed… well, they had built it back. But worse than that, they had replicated it onto about 8 bars. This essentially attached and locked them into place!!!
Notice the cut at the top? This is where the comb was built with a spur connector over to the next bar. This was replicated for eight bars through the center of the hive. It was a mess to say the least.
Trying to loosen the bars worked, but I had to cut into the comb to separate it. This weakened its structure at the top of the mass and the weight caused a couple of them to break off and fall into the hive. One of the broken combs was a perfect pattern brood comb and I could not locate the queen. (Can you feel me panicking?)
After I cleaned out the carnage and finished separating the rest of the connected bars, and I inserted some new bars into the Top Bar Hive placing them in between the remaining brood comb. It is my hope that the bees will appreciate the new real estate and begin building new comb that the queen will find lovely for egg laying… This assumes of course that she is still there after all the bungling on my part.
What I did with the broken brood comb
Trying to salvage the mess I had made, I then took the broken comb and tied it into a foundationless Langstroth frame with cotton kitchen twine. Next, I took two of the removed bars of honey, taken from the TBH, and inserted them into the Lang hive with the brood comb. The Lang hive now has brood and honey with room to grow…
IF the bees will make a queen in time! But here is the problem. I was never able to locate the queen! So, I have either one or none of my hives with a queen inside. If they are quick, and make some queen cells they may be OK. Or not. Only time will tell.
Amazingly, the very next day the bees I moved to the Lang hive were defending the entrance fiercely from the bees from the TBH! This I did not expect! Seeing that, I turned the reducer to allow the smallest entrance in hopes that in their weakened state, it would help them to more easily defend their new home. I have observed no further fighting over the past two days.
So now I wait. It seems a bit of all or nothing at this point.
I noticed as I worked, that even with the problems I’d had, I was much calmer. Towards the end I observed that this seemed to keep the bees happier than using the smoke… The slower and calmer I became the slower and calmer the bees became. Next time I try the new approach, working without the smoker, and it goes without saying I will be wearing my suit.
If you keep bees then please feel free to comment on what I did, or give your opinions about what went wrong. I could use some good coaching for the future. Thanks!