Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Possible Way to Encourage Building Straight Comb???

Most people I've read about/corresponded with who keep top bar hives start with a package or swarm. Frequently, it seems that getting the bees to build nice straight comb presents a challenge because the bees want to build all kinds of wonky comb.

Lots of people recommend various tricks like adding a comb guide such as a line of wax, kerf, or wedge shaped bars or adding an existing bar of comb (if you have one). Others advise open releasing the queen so that the bees don't build around the queen cage.

Because this is my first year keeping bees, I don't feel qualified to offer advice. I was lucky enough to start with a nuc that had 8 bars of nice straight comb. I've had to make some minor adjustments to additional bars of comb, but I've never had crazy cross comb or anything.

However, as I did my inspection today, I noticed some vertical wires in one of the bars from the nuc. I suppose I'd never noticed this before because the bars have always been completely packed with brood until today, but that's another story.

One (and only one) bar in the original nuc was comprised of three separate pieces of wood. two thin pieces were placed side by side. Several wires ran vertically between the pieces. Another piece of wood was fastened to the top of them to hold everything together. The entire bar was exactly the same dimensions as a regular bar. I've tried to make a diagram to illustrate this, but I'm no artist, so don't judge me. ;-)

Purple lines represent the wires hanging from
between the two bottom sections of the bar. I only drew 3, but there
may have been more wires on the bar. I didn't count.
Here are some pics so that you can see the actual bar.
See the wires?

I'm holding the bar upside down here so you can see the
various sections of the bar.

Don't know if you can see the staple here. Looks like the components
 of this bar are stapled together. Maybe glued, too.
Once the bees start building straight comb, the rest is easy. Just keep putting empty bars between nice combs. But this seems like it might be a good way to get them started.


  1. Hi Julie

    It looks like they used the cleats to attach wired foundation to the top bar. I'm just getting started with TBH. I bought some deep plastic foundation. My plan is to cut them in two inch strips and glue them on a groove cut in the top bar. I believe the short straight starter strips will encourage straight foundation.

    Right now I have one Lang hive and hope to start a topbar hive next spring.

    1. Hi, Leslie!

      Thanks so much for the comment! You know, Michael Bush suggested the same thing you did. Great minds must think alike. :-) I don't know why I hadn't figured that out. I guess it just never dawned on me to use foundation starter strips. Just color me silly. :-)

      Although, I think if one does use starter strips, your method of just glueing them into a groove sounds a lot easier than making a tri-part bar, and the one that came with my nuc is definitely made of three pieces.

      BTW -- I took a look at your blog. Love the concept!

  2. Hi Julie, its Matt from Western Mass...I was playing with the idea of cutting popsicle sticks in half and placing them perpendicular to the top bars. One in the middle and one close to each end...I would have to trim around them when culling the comb, but maybe the added length of guide and rigidity may help in the long run. None would be longer than say 3"...What do you think?

    1. Hi, Matt! I think that your idea is a really good one. I have wedge-shaped bars (which is something I'm rethinking, btw), so I haven't tried it. However, I've seen a lot of people do exactly what you're describing. Sounds like it should work!


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!