Crooked Combs A Disadvantage

These few irregular cells have been considered a great disadvantage. It

is thought, or pretended, that there is a vast difference between the

prosperity of a stock with straight combs and one with crooked ones. To

avoid them, or cause the bees to make them all straight, has given rise

to much contrivance, as if a few such cells could effect much. Suppose

there were a dozen sheets of comb in a hive, and each one had a row or

more of such irregular cells from top to bottom, what proportion would

they hold to those that were perfect? Perhaps not one in a thousand.

Hence we infer that in a hive of the proper size, the difference in

amount of brood never could be perceived. This is the only difference

it can make, because such cells can be used for storing honey as well

as others. But sometimes there will be corners and spaces not wide

enough for two combs, and too wide for one of the proper thickness for

breeding. As bees use all their room economically, and generally at the

best advantage, a thick comb will be the result. It is said they never

use such thick combs for breeding. How are the facts? I have just such

a space in a glass hive; one comb two inches thick. How is it managed?

Towards fall this sheet is filled with honey; the cells outside are

lengthened until there is just room for a bee to pass between them and

the glass, when they are sealed over. In spring these long cells are

all cut down (except at the top and upper corners) to the proper length

for breeding, and used for this purpose. This has been done for five

years in succession.

I will grant that there is a little waste room in such spaces, for part

of the year. It amounts to but little, as it is only outside. They are

necessitated to make such combs, because the inside combs, if built in

a breeding apartment, however crooked one may be, the next one will

generally match it, the right distance from it. But when they are built

expressly for storing honey, in such as are made in boxes, the right

distance is not so well preserved; hence it is not recommended to

compel bees to use such storing apartment for breeding. But suppose we

should compel a swarm to labor under these disadvantages, I should not

apprehend such disastrous results, (providing they have a proper

proportion of worker cells,) as no swarms, or even no surplus honey, as

has been represented. Imagine a hive filled with combs that are all too

thick, and room wasted when cut down, to the amount of one-fourth of

all that is in the hive. Now here are combs enough left to mature

three-fourths as many bees as in an ordinary hive, where all are right.

We can now suppose a good swarm will bring home the same amount of

honey as though it belonged to other hives; only three-fourths as much

can be fed to the brood, and stored in the hive; and the result ought

to be, that we get a quarter more surplus honey in boxes. Even if we

get no swarm, I cannot see how our surplus honey can be less, as in

this case there would be more bees at all times than in a hive that had

been reduced by swarming.

Does experience substantiate the theory that stocks with crooked combs

are as profitable as when they are straight? When combs are built

expressly for breeding, I could never discover any difference. Any

person can easily test it by a little observation; not by taking a

solitary instance of only one hive, because some other cause might

produce the result. Take a half-dozen at least with straight combs, and

as many with them crooked; have them all alike in other respects, and

carefully watch the result. I think you will have but little interest

which way the combs are made, providing _they are made_, as far as

profit is concerned. It is true, it would gratify order to have them

all straight, and if it was not attended with more trouble than the

result would pay for, it would be well to have them so.

In ordinary circumstances, when a swarm is first hived, they set about

comb-making immediately; yet sometimes they will remain two days, and

not make a particle. I have known them to swarm out and cluster in the

usual way, and when rehived, commence at once. This seems to prove that

they can retain the wax, or prevent secreting it, till wanted. This

seldom occurs.

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