The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Comb collapse

Collapsed combAfter extracting four and a half gallons of honey from our hives, I proceeded to ignore them for over a month.  We had more pressing matters on our plate (like killing all of our broilers), and I figured, what could go wrong now that we've taken out a lot of honey and the hives are all built up to summer levels?  I should have known that I had more beginner mistakes ahead of me.

When I opened up the east hive on Tuesday, everything looked fine in the top super.  But the next level down was a disaster.  Every frame (most of them at least half full of honey) Feeding the bees honey from collapsed combshad collapsed under this summer's extreme heat, turning horizontal so that they blocked the flow of air out of the hive.  Small surprise that the next level down was completely collapsed as well.  Only the lowest brood box (thank goodness!) still had vertical frames of wax.

The honey was mostly uncapped, so I couldn't extract it.  Instead, I yanked out all of the trouble frames and carted them over to an out of the way spot in the forest garden, figuring the bees would clean out the honey and pack it away in the remaining, uncollapsed frames.  Granted, the strongest hive quickly found this bounty and joined in the feast, so I will probably have to equalize honey between the hives at a later date, adding a super of honey from elsewhere onto the east hive to make up for the collapsed frames I removed.

This is the traffic jam that arises when the strongest hive sends out every one of its workers to snag the free honey.What did I learn from this beginner mistake?  First of all, I should have propped the hive lids up with small sticks to accelerate air flow as soon as I saw bees "bearding" (sitting on the side of the box and fanning their wings.)  I think I also should have left the supers at ten frames per box for a week or so after harvesting the honey so that the bees could firm back up the wax damaged by the extraction process before filling it up with so much honey.

Finally, I definitely should have checked on the hive a week or two after extraction.  I've read that collapses domino through the hive if left in place, since the horizontal frames from the first collapse make the hive heat up further.  If I'd caught the collapse in its early stages, chances are I could have prevented the large scale catastrophe.

Don't make a beginner mistake and let your hens die of heat exhaustion when their water spills on a hot summer day.  Our homemade chicken waterer never spills even on uneven terrain.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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