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Newbie tries to destroy hive, chaos ensues


Ok let’s recount my first few weeks with my first bees:

-drilled the holes on my syrup feeder a bit too big, didn’t drown them, but made the whole hive fairly sticky. as well as my gloves. and the bottom board.

-went to do my first inspection last weekend. they’ve been in there a good 2 weeks and had great weather the week prior. Not yet into a big flow, but should start soon. I was pretty excited to do an inspection. It went terrible. Apart from I did see the queen and she looked fine and was on 1 of the 2 frames that the comb was fairly straight on that didn’t fall off when I lifted it up. So I took only the briefest of looks and left her between 2 larger combs.

No combs were to the bottom of the frame and some fell off when I lifted them out to inspect. Some combs broke apart when I lifted, because they were hooked to an adjacent fram. I think I must have lost 3/4 of the drawn comb. These are foundationless frames.

I felt (feel) pretty bad. Kinda set them back I would think.

Couldn’t google it while I was out there ( I was a sticky mess by then, that comb was so soft) so i just left the comb on top of the top board along with the rest of the syrup bag. wanted them to be able to reclaim what they had stored. Wasn’t sure if they would eat the wax and reuse? Googling has since told me no. Looks like I should just remove the wasted comb. Make a candle or something.

Now that I’m done feeding, I should remove the top box and wait until the brood box is almost full and then a 2nd brood (per my beekeeping neighbor). Should there be something between the top board and the roof? there is a potential space there… should I cover the hole? ventilation? Also should I lower the bottom board for more ventilation, or not until the weather starts to be …what?

Thanks for the info and also for anything to make me feel better about wrecking their hive… :wink:


OK, I don’t have time to post a full response right now, but let me just say that you learned an incredibly valuable lesson, and I think you might see yourself in this article:

I will try to get back ASAP, but meanwhile, take a deep breath, don’t panic, and remember that bees have done fine without us for millions of years. :blush:


They won’t re-use the wax, but you did the best you could, and you thought about what you were doing, which is a very good thing for your bees.

OK, a bit of confusion here. Let’s clarify things before we start. On top of the uppermost box with frames in it, you need an inner cover (crown board in some parts of the world).

You can have a box on top of that inner cover, with food in it, then a roof, but the inner cover defines the top of the hive. So if inner cover = top board, you may not need to cover the hole. Some bees are well-behaved. If they aren’t well-behaved, the worst that can happen is that they will build comb above the inner cover and below the roof. If they do that, you have to decide whether you are in a warm climate, or a cold one - if warm, I would put insect screen over the hole, if a cold climate, stick a tile or flat stone over it or get a cover without a hole.

If that really is true, you might want to consider using wires, or wired foundation or even wax-coated plastic foundation. It is much more forgiving.


Did you flip the frames like you see in 90% of the YouTube videos? Until the comb is attached to the sides and the bottom but really for general purposes you should rotate the frames left to right in front of you, instead of flipping upside down to view the other side. This puts much less stress on the wax and you shouldn’t lose as much to breakage. My uncle told me, “Treat is like a baby. You wouldn’t flip a baby upside down would you?”.


Hmm, don’t you have an inner cover or some called it a crown board ? It should be a thing board that fits above the top box/hive but under the flat or peaked roof. They usually have a elongigated or round hole mid-center to help with ventilation.


. Here’s an example of an inner cover


I feel for you…I expect you felt bad about it but the bees will soon put it to rights. In the brood box…after several rounds of brood the wax gets much stronger with the pupal cases in it. So then it is easier to handle. If you have a bee buddy…get them to show you how to turn the frame. new wax is very soft and fragile…which is why I started with wired foundation until I learnt more about handling the soft wax. I wanted to change over to some foundationless frames though…but I realised quickly that they can be very tricky to inspect. So then I put some bamboo kebab sticks vertically in the frame. That worked really well. It made three smaller sections in each comb which the bees attached very easily. Initially I used some wire to hold the sticks but later I made a small hole in the top and bottom rails of the frame and inserted the sticks into them…they were fixed firmly.
Experimenting…seeing what the bees do…it’s all part of the pleasure of beekeeping.


I feel for you marcos - same thing just happened to me with the comb. It’s so soft when new! I had barely begun to lift the one frame - hardly an inch up, not even close to flipping & twirling! - when the comb just separated from the top bar & crashed. Felt like a jerk. Realized I should’ve moved empty frames to first check that the comb was attached on a side & also the bottom of the frame, then NOT lifted it & save egg-checking for another day :sweat:

By the way, here’s what people do when they have a situation worth repairing:

I did this but am bagging it on Dawn’s advice (and, ok I’m cool with waiting a little longer to go into the hive again & make my next mistake…)

Hang in there Newbees :fist:


Love your kebab stick idea, HHH! Saw a similar concept on the web using a thin strip of wood attached diagonally across the frame, but you’d have to buy lengths of this at the lumber yard & then custom cut it, nail/glue…too much.


Reasons combs might break:

Cause: They were across more than one frame so pulling a frame squashed the comb.
Solution: Flip the box upside down and pull the box off. Then you can pull a frame at a time off the end or cut the combs from the end. Rubber band into frames so they are straight.

Cause: You turned the combs out of line with gravity and they broke off at the top bar.
Solution: Like the guy who went to the doctor and said, “doctor it hurts when I do this” and the doctor says, “then don’t do that”. Don’t turn them. But now that they broke, rubber band them in frames. Yes, they are fragile. The ones full of nectar probably are too heavy and messy to do this, but ones full of eggs or brood will work if you are gentle enough.

Cause: Opening the hive on a hot day. Anytime the temperature is over 93 F (34 C) the bees are cooling the hive and when you open it the temperature goes up. This is not only hard on the brood which needs to stay cooler, but makes the wax softer and sometimes causes combs to collapse.
Solution: Wait for a cooler day or open them early in the morning when it’s still cool.

Of course you can put things in the frame to reinforce the comb. Wire, fishing line, coffee stirrers, bamboo skewers, etc. etc. etc. They always seem to be in my way so I don’t, but you can. One in the center vertically works pretty well. You still should handle the combs gently until they are attached at least on three sides.


Thanks for the replies and encouragement.

Ok so to update my (incorrect terminology) - what i was calling a top board, is the inner cover. It does have a hole in the middle. I live in Michigan in the states so I’m thinking I’ll probably cover it until it gets hot all the time.

Did I flip frames? Well…I tried not to, but I did lift them out and rotate them and for at least 1 or 2 that movement was enough to drop the comb. Lesson learned.

Adding rubber bands to my inspection box. Check.

Not gonna bug them for a while, at least a week I guess. Should I take that comb and rubber band it in? There were some decent chunks (say 4x6" for 1 or 2 of them).


Could someone please link to a video showing how to rotate the frames? I am SO a visual learner! :slight_smile:


I think you might find this quite helpful:


That’s really helpful! (Are you the Dawn he refers to in the video??)




He is referencing Don (The Fat Bee Man), but Starbucks always writes Don on my coffee cup even when they can see that I am female, so who knows? :smiling_imp: