July 07, 2008

Day 39. We robbed the bees this morning.

Honeybees like to draw honey comb slightly thicker than brood comb, but if all your top bars are the same width, they're "restricted" to that width. Except for one place in the hive.

The very first comb that was drawn (a whopping 5 1/2 weeks ago) was built adjacent to the false back. It's a thin sheet of wood, much thinner than a comb, so the bees had room to make a nice thick comb next to it, perfect for honey storage. The problem is, we moved that comb away from the false back. When the bees started new comb on the next bar over, the first comb was so fat they couldn't build use the center guide. There wouldn't have been adequate bee space, so they started the new comb where they wanted, off-center. Hives that are allowed to develop like this are are illegal because it's impossible to inspect "fixed" combs.

We pulled the off-center comb – over a pound of partially ripened nectar and some capped honey – and replaced it with a bar that had the tiniest bit of comb constructed on the spine. This should get the bees back on track, but to help prevent another misplaced comb, we also inserted a spacer bar. These girls seem intent on making fat honey comb, regardless of the width of the top bars. Luckily, the Linden trees are still providing huge amounts of nectar, so construction should pick up pace again.

Hopefully, the spacer will do the trick. Otherwise, we may find ourselves robbing the bees again next week. They were really upset that we took this comb. The happy hum of the hive was notably different as we worked this morning. It didn't help that I crushed a couple of bees with the hive tool, while cutting through the brace comb. The pitch of their collective voice was noticeably higher. We're going to give them time to settle down for before we work the hive again.


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