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Fixing cross combing after a couple weeks?


I opened my hive after a week and a half away from town. The girls had managed to fill almost all of the top bars with at least some comb. Unfortunately the comb has gotten progressively cross combed towards the end of the hive. In the middle there was just one or two small pieces of cross comb but at the end its pretty much all done at a diagonal, bees were busy while I was gone! I saw some brood and tons of capped honey. Unfortunately I also saw a swarm cell at the bottom of one of the cells. I added two new bars and moved one of the almost empty frames into the middle of the hive where the cross combing was almost none existent but decided to close up the hive to plan my next foray as the bees were starting to get a bit annoyed at me bothering them.

So a couple questions before I go back in today or tomorrow depending on the weather. The first is what should I do about the swarm cell, is there anything that will keep the bees from swarming once they build the cell?

The probably more important question is what to do with the cross comb. There are some pieces that would be easy to either straighten or just break off but towards the end of the hive the combs cover multiple top bars and doing anything breaks the comb. If only I’d caught the swarm a couple weeks earlier or not had a business trip I could have managed those first weeks a bit better.


I did my best to try and fix the cross combing this afternoon. Unfortunately it seemed like all the cross combing was in the brood nest. Basically floor to ceiling comb with each comb over about 2-3 top bars. We did our best try and tie what we could to the top bars and cut off the small pieces or push them straight. We got about 4 frames ‘fixed’ before it started to seem like we were causing too much commotion in the hive and called it quits. I feel like we made a bit of a mess, a good bit of comb ended up in front of the hive to be cleaned and there was a fair bit in the bottom too. I guess we’re just going to see what the bees do to fix our mess in the mean time.

I’m starting to realize why people like foundation!


Cross combing isn’t a big issue if it’s caught early. It’s easy to fix or remove. If left unchecked, however, it becomes a major issue if you want an inspectable hive! I’ve got around 50 hives right now. I think 4-5 of them aren’t inspectable, mostly because I left them untouched for a month or two starting last year. They are doing great, and they create strong swarms for me to populate other hives with. I just don’t bother them.

If you’ve only got a couple hives, and especially if you live in a state where inspectable hives are the law, it is far more critical for you to keep combs straight. This is also the time of year to do it, since the bees will have plenty of time to fix it before winter. If you wait longer it will always get worse.

I highly recommend checking out Les Crowder’s book, Top-bar Beekeeping. He brings up a lot of methods for fixing combs, and for ensuring they remain straight (http://www.beethinking.com/top-bar-beekeeping).