03 November 2013

hive management + virgin comb

lemongrass is known as fevergrass in Jamaica

ready to feed

After mixing, pouring, twisting and tying enough bags of sugar water to fill three large buckets, we fed ten hives and inspected half. Hive management during the build-up is crucial to prepare the bees for the upcoming nectar flow. To quickly expand a colony to its maximum population, it's important to leave plenty of space in the brood-nest. When going through the hives, we noticed some of the brood-nests were a bit crowded so we moved the empty, unused combs from the back of the hive closer to the brood-nest. This manipulation also helps control swarming, which is usually triggered when the bees start to feel over-crowded with brood / honey in their brood-nest. (Swarming is the natural way honey bee colonies reproduce. With a large enough population and abundant resources, the old queen will leave with half the hive in search for a new nest, leaving behind the rest of the hive with virgin queens. Swarming reduces the amount surplus honey for beekeepers, which is why its commonly discouraged.)

empty comb
Honey bees are extraordinary architects but for easy management on the beekeeper's part, the combs need to be straight or burr comb will manifest. A little burr comb will lead to a big headache down the road. Putting blank top-bars in-between two straight combs serves as a wonderful comb guide. In this case, the comb was so crooked that the bees started to build a new piece of comb on the same top-bar. The burr comb was removed and pressed onto a blank top-bar and the original comb was straightened out with a little thumb power.
burr comb




a new comb guide
thumb power

Here is another bar we found, a bit more extreme case of burr comb. We ended up just tearing the crooked part out, to later be melted down.

extreme burr comb

straightened comb

Brace comb is another form of burr comb that also needs to be kept in check.
brace comb

I absolutely adore freshly drawn virgin combs, so white and pure! According to Oxford Dictionary, virgin comb is 'a honeycomb that has only been used once for storing honey and never used for storing eggs'.

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