July 09, 2009

Wild Combs


Linden Honey is pale yellow and has a minty finish.

In the picture above, the combs toward the left are honey combs. You can tell, not just because you can see honey, but because the brace comb is white. The smaller bits of brace toward the right are golden because those are brood combs. So nice of the bees to color-code things for us, don't you think?

17th Comb: the last generation of the former Queen's daughters are producing wax now and comb construction is booming.
The top bar hive is a frameless system, so often the girls'll go wild with the comb shapes (and sometimes orientation). Luckily, we haven't had any combs built perpendicular to the bars, but we do have a few that are off-center, bulgy at the top, with a slight wave here and there... Wild combs are difficult to manage, and when a comb goes wild, subsequent combs conform to that shape and most often are progressively worse. It's best to nip it in the bud and make corrections as soon as possible.
The 14th comb is so fat – much fatter than honeycomb is "supposed" to be – that it's causing alignment problems all the way to the newest comb. We've been inserting spacer bars to accommodate the extra width of honey comb and to mitigate misalignment issues with some success. The 17th comb is only slightly off-center; it's in good enough shape to leave alone. Unfortunately we're out of room for more spacers.

We have to use what's already in the hive to make sure the last few combs are manageable. The comb hanging off the Hardison bar (labeled 15) is really nice and straight. The comb just after it (#16) is off-center and bulgy on one side. But the space between is plumb, so we're taking advantage of it. We took a blank top bar – there are only 4 left – from the back and put it in that space.

The 13th comb was a brood comb, but it's been converted and is being backfilled with honey.

The new comb the girls build to fill the gap will be restricted to that space. Even though it won't be as fat a comb as they'd prefer, they're sure to fill it with honey. The plan is to leapfrog the few remaining blank bars into that plumb space, as each new comb becomes stable enough to push back. The bulgy/off-centered combs will get pushed toward the back and eventually out of the hive altogether. At the rate they are working, we'll be able to pull honeycombs out in just a couple of weeks!

Update on 7/14: the new comb is almost complete already! It'll probably be braced to the window tomorrow. There's also a small new comb on the 20th bar, right on center – so far.

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