Understanding Cross Comb
Definition and Formation
Cross comb occurs when bees build comb across the frames or top bars in the hive instead of in the same direction. This issue stems from improperly spaced frames, where the beekeeper’s mistake leads to bees building comb disorderly.
To comprehend cross-comb, you need to understand the concept of bee space. Bees naturally maintain regular spaces of between ¼ inch and ⅜ inch between combs to navigate throughout the hive.
In nature, bees don’t worry about removable frames, so they build comb in any way that suits them. However, when we as beekeepers fail to honor their rules for comb construction through inadequate frame spacing in managed hives, that leads to cross-comb formation, eventually creating problems for the beekeeper.
Impact on Beehive Management
Cross-comb can pose numerous challenges in the effective management of a beehive. For instance, it can make inspecting, monitoring, and extracting honey from the hive more difficult. This may lead to reduced productivity and increased risk of diseases due to improper hive maintenance.
Beekeepers must understand the occurrence and consequences of cross-comb and maintain proper frame spacing to prevent its formation.
Causes and Prevention of Cross Comb
This section highlights three primary factors contributing to cross comb formation: Spacing Issues, Irregular Foundation, and Bee Behavior.
Cause: Spacing Issues
One of the main causes of cross-comb is the improper spacing between frames within the hive. When frames are spaced too closely or too far apart, bees may seek to fill the extra space by building comb between them.
To avoid cross-comb caused by spacing issues, beekeepers should use well-built frames with spacers fixed to the frames or attached to the hive box to ensure they are evenly spaced within the hive. This will encourage the bees to build comb correctly aligned with the frames.
Cause: Irregular Foundation
Another factor contributing to cross-comb is the use of irregular or damaged foundations within the hive. Foundations provide a guide for bees to build their comb, and if these guides are not straight or have irregularities, bees may end up constructing comb in an unorganized manner.
Prevention: Quality Foundation
Beekeepers should use high-quality, undamaged foundations and ensure they are properly installed in the hive. Any damaged or irregular foundations should be replaced to maintain a well-organized and efficient hive environment.
Cause: Natural Bee Behavior
Bees are known for their innate desire to build comb, and if given the opportunity, they will construct it wherever there is sufficient space. Though rare, bee behavior sometimes causes the construction of cross comb, especially if the bee colony is not well managed with regular inspections.
Prevention: Regular Hive Inspections
Perform routine hive inspections to identify and correct cross-comb instances as early as possible. When detected early, cross-comb can be more easily corrected, preventing further disorganization within the hive.
How to deal with Cross Comb
When inspecting the beehive, look for comb connecting adjacent frames. Gently remove the comb connecting the frames, taking care not to harm the bees. Cut the comb where it is attached to the top of the frames with as few cuts as possible. Take each comb and fix it into a frame, using rubber bands to hold the straight comb pieces in place. This will help the bees to repair the comb and attach it to the frames stabilizing it.
Remember, preventing cross comb is much easier than dealing with it. Keep your frames appropriately spaced and regularly inspect your colonies, especially during the nectar flow when they draw comb.
In summary, bees building cross comb between frames is a common issue faced by many beekeepers.
Addressing cross-comb issues not only maintains an organized and healthy hive but also makes the beekeeper’s job easier when it comes to hive management and honey harvesting. By being proactive and paying close attention to hive conditions, beekeepers can minimize instances of cross comb and maintain a more productive and efficient bee colony.