While going through the hives today, I realized that I had changed over the two seasons I've been working these hives. I'm more careful now to close the space up between bars that I have inspected before I take out the next one. It occurred to me how much easier this is than leaving them spaced. So I thought I would share this for those of you who are new enough not to have figured this out for yourselves already.
When one inspects a tbh, you usually begin at one end, removing a follower or empty bars to make a space, then lifts a comb, inspects it and moves it out of the way to reveal the next one.
On a hot, humid day, one can quickly grow tired of trying to get the bees down between bars as you push them together, and you might be tempted to just leave a little space so the bees don't get squished, and to keep going with the inspection by moving on to the next bar.
In my experience, this is a mistake. It is much wiser to close the spaces behind you as you move through the hive.
Let's say you remove your follower and/or empty bars at the beginning to make a space and that space is 10 inches wide. If we're moving from left to right in the hive, we take a bar from the right side of our space, inspect it, and move it over to the left side of our space. If you take the time to close the space up between the inspected bars as go, and inspect every bar, you will finish with that same 10 inch space open at the other end of the hive. And all the bars will be touching each other. This means that you will have very few bees crawling around on top of the bars, and you can replace them - or move them all back to their starting positions - often moving 2 to four bars at a time. This makes closing up pretty quick and painless, right when you're getting so sweaty you can't stand it anymore.
On the other hand, if you don't close up space as you go, the bees tend to crawl up between the bars in the space you leave. The hive temperature drops and the bees get more and more upset. It also means that your working space becomes smaller as you go. So if you start with 10 inches, and leave bars apart here and there as you go, you might end up with 3 or 4 inches of open space to work with at the other end - restricting more as the inspection progresses. Worse, you run out of space entirely before you finished, and you are forced to shuffle bars to get space again - meaning you end up moving them three times. Brutal.
So by the time you get through the hive, you're dripping with sweat and running out of patience, you've got less room to move things and you've got angry bees all over the place. Right when you're running lowest on zen, you have to exercise even more patience in order to get bars back together, as there are way more bees up on and between the top bars, and they're running out of patience with you. This situation is no fun.
So close up space behind you, and you'll find the inspection of a top bar hive easier on you, and easier on the bees.
Take it or leave it.