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Thread: Time to start this one off!

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    Senior Member POPZ's Avatar
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    Default Time to start this one off!

    Well I do have a TBH (Top Bar Hive - explanation for those like me who had no idea what all these acronyms (is that right?) mean.)

    Yes I have a TBH, unused yet, but really looking forward to the day I have sufficient ladies established that I can start it off. I like the theoretical simplicity and natural way of husbandry. Surely there must be someone else out there doing something outwith the mainstream of beekeeping - isn't there??

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    I've been very tempted to try a TBH, but my only apiary until this year has been on an allotment and the thought of trying to cart it away in the event of problems has been enough to dissaude me. I'm experimenting with, at this point, a single Super frame with no foundation, I left a starter rim of a couple of cells worth of comb around the edges and I'm interested to see how the bees deal with it, I'm intending to stick it between two pre-drawn combs and see what happens. What might be more useful/interesting is how they deal with a 14x12 frame with no foundation in it.

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    Banned Stromnessbees's Avatar
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    I am used to calling them KTBs (Kenyan Top-Bar Hives) from working with Bees Abroad in Ghana (http://www.beesabroad.org.uk). I decided that I should really gain experience with this type of hive here in Orkney, too, and have built one last summer. Unfortunately the swarm it was intended for had vanished by the time I tried to collect it and it's still without occupants. I will use it as a bait hive in the coming season and I assume it might come handy if I ever have to transfer an already established swarm on wild comb.

    Another hive type I am tempted to try is the Warree, but with our shortage of bees here I can't afford too many experiments yet.

    Anybody else with experience of alternative hives?

    Doris
    Last edited by Stromnessbees; 17-03-2010 at 09:20 PM. Reason: added website

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    Senior Member POPZ's Avatar
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    That must have been very rewarding working with Bees Abroad. I have heard of their work, and believe they do great things? I guess myTBH is Kenyan type with a Cornwall-like twist to it. You probably know what I mean! And I think your idea of using it as a bait hive is great. I tried that myself last season but with no success. I think it could have been because all I used were those artificial swarm lures you can buy. Whereas I should have put some drawn foundation in as well, or even just foundation.

    My neighbour uses the Warre system, and is well pleased with it. We must keep in touch on this one ?
    POPZ

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    Banned Stromnessbees's Avatar
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    POPZ, I'll let you know when I get bees in my KTB, it might be a while though.

    I have attached a picture that shows one of the things that can go wrong in a KTB: The comb has been built across the top bars. We lifted the whole colony out in one piece and turned it upside down. To put it right you have to cut the combs off one by one and tie them to individual top bars.
    Very interesting work, but it gets incredibly hot inside a beesuit in a tropical forest...

    Doris
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Stromnessbees; 18-03-2010 at 12:37 AM. Reason: typo

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    Senior Member Jon's Avatar
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    I also have plans to build a TBH this year although I remember I said the same thing this time last year.
    Doris.
    That first picture is interesting as don't the Warre people say that bees naturally don't like to build more than 8 parallel combs and you have about a dozen there. I have a similar picture from underneath an Open Mesh Floor where the queen went under by mistake and build about a dozen combs.

    OMF from below..jpg OMF from above..jpg OMF from below3..jpg OMF from below2..jpg
    Last edited by Jon; 18-03-2010 at 10:52 AM.

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    Banned Stromnessbees's Avatar
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    Hi Jon

    I think the bees are very good at utilising whatever space they happen to be in. In any cavity they start several combs at the top and go downwards. If they can't go any further down they'll have to go sideways instead. I have heard the argument that in a horizontal hive they have to swarm as they can't keep expanding the nest sideways. Apparently the comb nearer the edges is designed for storage rather than for brood.

    My pictures are of A. m. adansonii, so could be different from European types. In Ghana there is talk of hives where the bees use more than 27 top bars.

    For great pictures of free hanging colonies go to this Museum of Bees in Spain:

    http://www.valletietar.com/casa1862/...SEO%20VIVO.pdf

    Doris

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    Senior Member POPZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stromnessbees View Post
    Hi Jon I think the bees are very good at utilising whatever space they happen to be in. In any cavity they start several combs at the top and go downwards. If they can't go any further down they'll have to go sideways instead. I have heard the argument that in a horizontal hive they have to swarm as they can't keep expanding the nest sideways. Apparently the comb nearer the edges is designed for storage rather than for brood. Doris
    Doris, surely that is the advantage of aTBH. Easy to slip another top bar in?. The main challenge as far as I am concerned will be converting a normal frame of brood to TBH shape and fixing to the top bar. If that is what I have to end up doing on failure any swarms wanting to visit! I do have a really good video clip of that actually being done, but have the feeling that it will not be quite as easy as they make out!!

    Whatever, I must get the hive working this season. - POPZ

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    Banned Stromnessbees's Avatar
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    Hi POPZ

    It should not be too difficult to get bees into the TBH. If you use the artificial swarming method you only need to convert one comb and you increase the number of your colonies at the same time.
    This month's Scottish Beekeeper has got the 'Heddon Method' in it (p75), which is a variation that increases your chances to get a honey-crop, too.
    Another description is on Dave Cushman's site: http://website.lineone.net/~dave.cushman/artswarm.html

    Best of luck, Doris

  10. #10

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    A couple of years back I built a couple of TBHs per Phil Chandler's plans. I acquired a couple of colonies which were in Langstroth hives and shook swarmed them into the TBHs. I was full of optimism about their prospects.

    They did ok for the rest of the season. But I had terrible problems with cross combing between the top bars. Which meant that every time I needed to inspect the colony I literally had to destroy it to get into it. Very disheartening.

    Fed them and treated them in the Autumn as usual. One of them made it through the winter but in a very weakened state and didn't survive beyond the spring. If it had been a normal box hive I could have rescued it with a frame or two of brood from another colony. But when you have natural combs the bees construct them so as to depend on the combs either side for the nest to fit together. They are not interchangeable in the way that frames are. So there was no way for me to rescue that colony. Again very disheartening.

    Plus the length of the thing makes it awkward, I feel, in our cold Scottish winters for the cluster to find their stores. Both of the TBHs had ample stores for the winter but couldn't/didn't get to them.

    Maybe it was just my experience of TBHs but I don't think I'd be too keen to put any more bees into them. In an era where we have to intervene in the bees' lives frequently to keep them alive TBHs just aren't suited to it. For what I can tell they benefit fom minimal intervention and if that's what your looking for then you're likely to have some very dead bees.

    Don't mean to put anybody off using TBHs but just describing my experience with them.

    Gerry

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