Crazy comb in ClarissaAfter tidying the fallen comb in Dorcas, we lost the next few weeks to cold, both as weather and as illness. Finally last Sunday we were both healthy and the day warm enough to deal with the fallen comb we had spied through Clarissa’s window. We could see that three, large, consecutive combs had broken off entirely. Perhaps there had been some domino effect at work as the first, heavy comb struck bottom then leaned into and broke its fragile neighbor. Repeat.

One dropped comb was still mostly vertical as it sat on the floor. The rest had unfortunately come to rest lying on the floor in partially fused layers, somehow joining as well with the bottoms of other unfallen combs. Or perhaps more combs had partially broken but the bees had been able to build new comb all the way down, as opposed to the first three, whose top bars showed just a few short beginnings of new comb construction. That might explain one patch we saw of old, dark comb surrounded by fresher wax. However it happened, it was a much worse mess than in Dorcas.

The cleaning was a tedious affair. To provide working room we removed the follower and any empty bars, placing them on a nearby bench or on the ground leaning against the hive. Any bars with comb we placed in a home-made frame holder capable of holding several combs. We then carefully cut and lifted the comb from the floor onto a sheet tray, scraping the floor as clean as we could while trying not to shake the hive. We proceeded in this wise until we saw no more comb on the floor and straight comb hanging from the bars. Coincidentally this was the start of the brood area. Or did tougher brood comb better resist breaking and falling? We do not really know what started the catastrophe.

Throughout all this the bees were surprisingly calm, too preoccupied with reclaiming honey from the combs being removed to bother stinging the vandals removing them. Once or twice they seemed to buzz a little impatiently and swirl up as if reconsidering the stinging option but a puff of smoke proved effective counterargument. Still it was a relief when at last we replaced the bars and closed Clarissa. Since what comb was on the bars was straight and true, we did not need to remove any as we did in Dorcas.

And now to process the stolen comb for a little more honey and a little more wax as we wonder why this season has had so much fallen comb.

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