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Author Topic: Your advice on fixing crooked comb  (Read 291 times)
gdoten
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« on: June 27, 2013, 01:46:50 PM »

I am muddling along with my second year of keeping bees. It can be thought of as my first year because last year's bees left the hive around the end of Sept. and haven't seen them since. I hived two packages into 8-frame medium boxes back in April. I've already written here how I screwed up and hung the queen cage instead of just letting the queen out, and since then I've been fighting crooked comb in the hives. Well, one hive is coming along slowly, they've built out maybe a third of the box. I'm not sure why this one is so slow.

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to look at the hives since June 4th. Tons of rain here (+ work, + vacation). Finally looked in on them today. The second box is jam-packed, and it stills has crooked comb. I think I straightened it out pretty well back on the 4th and a few attempts prior to that. But I now have frames that (at least from the looking down from the top) are full. I started to pull one out but I think everything in the frame will let go if I take it all the way out. Tried to spread the comb with the hive tool and that just started to do a lot of damage. I threw a second box on in order to give them some more room. I think I should move a couple of brood frames from the bottom to the empty box too.

How would you handle this? Should I just “force” the frames apart, take out whatever large amounts of damage are inevitable, and go from there? Is it OK to leave some of what falls on the screened bottom board (will they clean it up)? After having done that maybe I'll have the two brood frames left to move to the empty box. I'm feeling frustrated at my own stupidity for having hung the queen cages at the get-go, but then this will be one learning experience I'm not soon to forget! Thanks for any advice!
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-glenn-
Michael Bush
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2013, 02:41:25 PM »

The most important thing is that the last comb (from which the next will be parallel) is straight.  Is there one straight comb?

One bad comb leads to another. One good comb leads to another. If you have bad comb, wishful thinking will not fix the next comb. It will be messed up unless you make the last comb a straight one by whatever means is necessary. Having a frame you can tie a comb into is good to have. Then you can always create a straight comb. Another solution is to find a straight comb and put it at the point they are building comb and put the messed up comb at the front (assuming you don’t tie it into frames or remove it). Empty bars between drawn brood combs will keep them busy building straight combs. Just don’t spread them too thin. They need to be able to fill that gap with festooning bees quickly.
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
dfizer
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2013, 10:34:54 PM »

Once you have bulging comb should you scrape it off or what?  I have some that is protruding out so far that I could never get another frame with drawn comb near it.  I have some frame with straight comb however they would not fit next to the wonky comb as the wonky comb is built so far out. 
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Bee Curious
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« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2013, 11:20:46 PM »

I'm a first year beek, and started my bees on foundationless frames.  We have had a heck of a lot of rain and cold and I didn't look in on my bees too often the first few weeks, and they built some wonky comb.  I did a lot of studying on YouTube University and in Blogland and learned a few techniques for fixing comb that have helped a lot. 

If a comb was seriously bowed out from the frame, I cut it off at the top (a nice serrated bread knife worked well) from the top bar, straightened it out, then clipped the comb with a  hair clip like this from the Dollar Store:




Make sure you get hair clips that have openings on the top so you can use tie wraps to connect it to the top bar.  The bees will build wax around it.


There's a transparent and a brown hair clip on this frame.

When I found double layers of comb or comb I couldn't get back into place, I cut it out and used rubber bands vertically and horizontally to make a cage for it.  The bees attached those pieces to the frame and built it out pretty well.  It feels drastic to do this 'surgery', but after they start building straight comb, they seem to keep it up.  And while this comb won't win any beauty contest, the ones built next to it were straight and neat, and that's what's important.
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Joe D
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2013, 12:25:50 AM »

Yeap, I would agree with the others.  What you want is straight comb.  Cut, bend or what ever it takes, tie it in with string, plactic ties, or rubber bands.  You will have some pieces, that may have to be discarded.  After you get it straight maybe they will keep it and the rest that way.  Good luck




Joe
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2013, 08:47:51 AM »

The best way to get straight comb is to put empty bars between perfect brood combs.  If you feed them in fast enough you can keep them from expanding in other places where the combs will vary more...
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Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen
Bee Curious
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2013, 04:26:50 PM »

In my case, the bees started the very first frames of foundationless with a "wavy gravy" theme.  As this is my first hive, I had nothing straight to put in there to inspire them except empty frames with starter strips.  I now think it's important to get in there fast and correct it at the beginning.
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D Coates
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2013, 04:37:46 PM »

Once you have bulging comb should you scrape it off or what?  I have some that is protruding out so far that I could never get another frame with drawn comb near it.  I have some frame with straight comb however they would not fit next to the wonky comb as the wonky comb is built so far out. 

Cappings scratcher, slide it vertically into the horizontally laid cells where you want them to stop drawing comb.  Pull the cappings scratcher perpendicular so the cells tear easily and don't mash.  Keep doing this until they get the message and draw out the other side.
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