Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strange Combs

A while back I read an email on a beekeeping blog.  The beekeeper reported that his bees had built combs above the foundation that he had given them.

He figured that the bees didn't like the plastic.

I think he may have been right.

Here's an example that I was shown of a frame of combs.  It's just like the other beekeeper described.
Can you see the gap underneath the comb?  There's just a "bee space".
Now exactly why the bees chose to build this way is a mystery.  They did it to most of the frames in the hive.

It created a real problem when it came to extraction because the combs weren't supported by the foundation.  So they could not be put through an extractor because they'd fall apart.

These combs would need to be extracted by crush and strain.  Or just sell it as honeycombs and eat the whole thing.

I had this happen in one hive last year.  The bees built the comb coming down from the wood at the top and the comb didn't touch the foundation.  They had even sealed the comb on both sides.  It looked like a wild comb.
It created a real problem when looking for the queen in this hive. I thought she wasn't there but later I got suspicious that she was hiding on the underside of the comb in that bee space between the comb and the frame.
We did make sure to cut that all out when we harvested the frames.
Hopefully the bees will get it right this year. 


Julie said...

Have you ever considered just going frameless and just hanging top bars in your super?

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Hi Julie. I have thought of it. There is strong support from many beekeepers for "top bar" hives. For this method they'd have to crush and strain the combs and the bees would have to rebuild them which does take a lot of energy. But it does mean the bees are working in clean new combs. The advantage with foundation is that it gives the strength to the combs so they can be spun in an extractor without falling apart. It preserves the combs too so they can be given back to the bees to refill. There are benefits to both methods. I may try it down the road.

I have put in just the frame when I wanted honeycombs to eat :)

HB said...

How interesting. Is the foundation just plastic, or is it coated with beeswax? It looks so clean and new. Maybe now that it has been in the hive it has a good smell, and the bees will be more receptive to it when you give it back. I hope they cooperate!

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Hi HB. The foundation is plastic but it's coated with beeswax to make it more attractive to the bees. In my case it was only one frame in the hive that was drawn this way. In the other case it was every frame in the hive. So his bees had an aversion to it. Not sure why.