June 25, 2008

Bee Space

At the rate they're working, the entrance will be shut in a couple of days.

They're leaving a "bee space" – just enough room for one bee to pass through. Bee Space is the room the bees have to work in-between combs hanging in the hive. The bees build multiple combs at a time, and they keep building until their backs touch. The top bars are 1 3/8" wide so, when the bees are back-to-back, the combs have been drawn to the proper depth for brood rearing.

They like to make honey combs a little deeper, by a couple millimeters, but all of our top bars are the same size for simplicity's sake. We can insert spacer bars to spread the bars apart, should the bees require them. If we don't insert spacers and just spread the bars apart, the bees will fill the space with propolis. We don't want that because, first it takes a lot of energy to fill a foot-long gap, and second we don't want the bars all glued together like that.

Inserting spacer bars between will enable the bees to use the central guide, too. If they build combs off-center, it might be difficult to lift the bars out for inspection (city code). One or two wouldn't be too bad, but the problem grows exponentially if you let it go. Whether it's off-center or crooked, each subsequent comb is built a teeny bit more more off-center or crooked until the bars become unmanageable.

That's one of the drawbacks of our hive's design. Eventually, someone will come up with the perfect design. Until then, understanding the bees' needs, observing what they're doing and managing the hive appropriately is the best we can do. It's really not that hard. Plus it's way more fun than a fish tank.

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