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Thread: Top bar hives

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mellifera Crofter's Avatar
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    Default Top bar hives

    Quote Originally Posted by madasafish View Post
    Top Bar hives are fine:
    IF
    1. You ignore the rubbish posted by the Natural Beekeepers of this world: mostly they live in places where any fool can overwinter bees in a hive that has holes in it and expect them to survive. I did my research and amended the designs. and insulated.
    2. You don't want much honey.
    3. You like lots of hard work to get a little honey.

    I am converting to Langstroth
    I've moved your quote here to 'altnerantive beekeeping', Madasafish, away form Maud bees.

    I've often heard those last two criticisms about TBHs, but I don't understand why they should either produce less honey or be more labour-intensive. Can you, or somebody else, please explain (before I turn a stack of wood I have waiting into two TBHs).

    Kitta

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mellifera Crofter View Post
    I've moved your quote here to 'altnerantive beekeeping', Madasafish, away form Maud bees.

    I've often heard those last two criticisms about TBHs, but I don't understand why they should either produce less honey or be more labour-intensive. Can you, or somebody else, please explain (before I turn a stack of wood I have waiting into two TBHs).

    Kitta
    I have seen plans where the top bars had a wire coathanger loop to encourage the bees to build a comb supported all the way round
    The rest of the hive seemed to just be the usual Abbe Warre style
    Perhaps the idea is to stop the boxes being joined together?

    I have the plans for a Long Deep Hive somewhere but never got round to attempting one because the cutting needs to be pretty accurate and the ply sheets are pretty big and heavy so the hive would be the same
    I could dig them out for you if thats the type of thing you have in mind

    I haven't been exactly sold on ply as a hive material certainly the DIY stuff usually warps and doesn't last

    What kind of wood have you been stacking Kitta ?
    Last edited by The Drone Ranger; 30-10-2013 at 05:27 PM.

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    Senior Member Mellifera Crofter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top bar hives

    Quote Originally Posted by The Drone Ranger View Post
    ...I have the plans for a Long Deep Hive ...
    I could dig them out for you if thats the type of thing you have in mind
    ...
    What kind of wood have you been stacking Kitta ?
    No, DR, I was thinking of the usual trough-like hive with sloping sides.

    I bought a lot of sawn Scottish larch off-cuts from a timber merchant. If I'm not making a trough-like TBH, then maybe a Warrè - of both.
    Kitta

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    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
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    I think a warré is a better shape for the bees than the KTBH.
    Bees seem to prefer working up or down rather than horizontally, thus the great attraction of chimneys.

    That post hoc explanation about bees living naturally in hollow logs; it would be interesting to hear from everyone who has ever come across a colony in the UK living in a fallen horizontal log.

    According to Seeley, bees prefer to choose a natural nest site about 15 to 20 feet off the ground.
    Did I just allude to chimneys again!

    The lack of honey is possibly more to do with management style as opposed to hive shape.
    ie, a colony which swarms several times will be unlikely to produce honey, and leaving the bees to swarm seems to go with the TBH warre philosopy for a lot of beekeepers.
    A colony riddled with mites, if it survives at all, will not be producing a honey surplus.
    Again, lack of effective treatment for varroa is a management issue rather than a fault of the hive itself.

    It is quite clear from reading biobees that it is a real struggle for many just to keep the bees alive in a TBH due to the baggage associated with management.
    Honey is pretty much a sideshow in this sense as the colony rarely gets to the strength where it can store much of a surplus.

    The US top bar beekeepers are probably the ones to listen to as they seem to run them like beehives without as much of an anti everything else agenda.

    They probably work a lot better in Devon than they do in Scotland and better still in Kenya.

    Be interesting to hear from madasafish why his produce little honey as I think he looks after his TBHs in a sensible fashion.

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    Senior Member Mellifera Crofter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon View Post
    ... The lack of honey is possibly more to do with management style as opposed to hive shape. ...

    They probably work a lot better in Devon than they do in Scotland and better still in Kenya.

    Be interesting to hear from madasafish why his produce little honey as I think he looks after his TBHs in a sensible fashion.
    Thanks Jon - I definitely intend to manage my (still-to-be-made) TBH: check for queen cells, treat against varroa - all of that. So, the only reason I can think of for reduced honey production might be because you cannot return drawn combs to the hive. As for extra labour: I can't think of a reason.

    You're right: I am a bit worried that a TBH might not be so suitable for Scotland. Another question for Madasafish: how did he insulate the sloping walls?

    I'm drawn to a TBH for my own convenience: not having to lift boxes; and for the bees' sake: I hope, fewer squashed bees. I don't know if it works like that.

    Kitta

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    Senior Member Mellifera Crofter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Drone Ranger View Post
    ... I haven't been exactly sold on ply as a hive material certainly the DIY stuff usually warps and doesn't last ...
    I meant to reply to that, DR. I agree. I'm not keen on plywood and don't intend to use it for an all-year hive. I have however made three nucleus boxes using ply and I've already cut some ply for three more - and that despite Grizzly having told me not to waste my time with inferior material. Maybe I'll have some of that larch left over to make a nucleus box to be proud of.
    Kitta

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    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
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    I'm drawn to a TBH for my own convenience: not having to lift boxes; and for the bees' sake: I hope, fewer squashed bees. I don't know if it works like that.
    Squashing or not squashing bees is little to do with hive type and mainly to do with dexterity and handling skills.
    If you are clumsy you will squash bees pushing two bars together in a TBH same as you would squash them in a framed hive.
    There are some truly awful handlers in TBH videos on youtube, same as you get awful bee handlers with any hive type.
    Leather gloves are the single worst culprit in winding up bees and ending up with squashed bees.

    I have only worked at a TBH a handful of times and I don't see any difference at all re. squashing bees.
    The combs in the TBH are just as easy to handle as framed combs as long as you do not try and hold a freshly drawn comb horizontally.
    Once they have darkened they are pretty tough.

    The main advantage is low cost if you build it yourself from scrap wood. The other stuff about bees being 'happier' etc is not backed up by any evidence. There are an awful lot of posts about swarms and packages absconding from TBHs on biobees which seems odd if they are the preferred choice of the bee.

    I am still tempted to build one myself but I have been saying that for years and have never got around to it.

    You don't have to lift supers off a TBH (especially if there is no honey!) but if you have to move it quickly for some reason, unacceptable aggression perhaps, it will be far harder to move than a national or a smith hive. Likely a job for a trailer.

  8. #8

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    When you do a bit of laminate flooring there are plastic wedges which are spacers
    They are very handy if you put one at each corner and lift the top box back onto them you get a a chance to get all the bees out of the way as you gradually lower the box by withdrawing the wedges (they are fairly cheap)

    I wonder if I could make a couple of sloping polystyrene inserts for a standard broodbox to give it a try
    The lovely smell of new cedar brood boxes irresistible really
    Last edited by The Drone Ranger; 30-10-2013 at 10:25 PM.

  9. #9

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    Kitta - one thing to be aware of in my opinion -the long design of a TBH isn't so good for the avoidance of isolation starvation. I guess you could incorporate design elements to allow for an eke and fondant feeding in midwinter but the standard design is a killer of bees in our climate in my opinion.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Mellifera Crofter's Avatar
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    Thanks Jon, DR and Drumgerry.

    I'm a very careful handler of bees, Jon. The problem is usually when putting the boxes together - particularly the poly ones with their wider side walls. I like your idea of using wedges, DR. I'll try that.

    Yes Jon, I agree - moving a TBH will be difficult, but I don't have any near neighbours so angry bees might not be such a problem. Moving them because they're robbed will be difficult.

    Your post reminds me, Drumgerry, that there are quite a few design problems with a TBH that I still need to think about. I usually overwinter my bees with transparent crown boards with five feeding holes (four covered, and one used for candy) so that I can see where my bees are and move the candy to a new feeding hole if necessary. With TBHs the bars are wide and pushed together, so there are no feeding holes above the bees. I think I'll use the usual widths (28mm) and use transparent 7mm spacers or just a transparent crown board as in box hives with space for an eke above.

    Another problem that's kept me thinking is the side wall insulation. But is that really a problem if I use an eke with insulation? Bees overwinter in single wooden brood boxes with insulation above their heads - so why not a wooden TBH?

    Kitta

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