Marty's been keeping bees in top bar hives since the mid-70s, so before he took off, I asked for his advice on something that's been bothering me. What to do about the combs in our hive, between the honey stores and the brood nest. Combs 14 through 10 should've been backfilled with honey as the brood nest shrunk but, for whatever reasons, the bees neither filled them nor moved the cluster onto them.
Now, Marty doesn't know our hive is in a greenhouse, allowing the bees to break cluster occasionally, but he said we should take the empty combs out and move the food stores forward, up against the cluster. Problem is, I don't want to pull the empty combs out because 1) there are older ones in the hive that should come out first. Unfortunately, the bees are actively on those combs. 2) We'd have to do a major manipulation, breaking the propolis seal and cutting all the honey combs loose from the hive walls to move them forward. We're asking for advice on the biobees forum. What's your advice?
UPDATE: LESSON LEARNED
Everybody else was right. The bees would not abandon a small patch of brood. Actually it was two small patches. The divided cluster died from isolation starvation. Always remove empty combs and move the honey stores right next to the brood nest. And never be afraid to break the propolis seal or do any manipulation. The seal is a much smaller concern than the bees needing help. If they need it, give it without delay.