Re: Productivity of top bar hives
Very old thread indeed :) but same questions remain it seems.
I have clearly seen from first hand experience that horizontal Top Bar Hives cant make as much honey as commercial vertical hives (Full Stop). Comb honey or extracted the difference is huge.
Even though I did split my 2 colonies into 6 I had only 8 kg of honey this year. I did do spacing to encourage them but nope they decided they had enough. You see there is no much forcing bees in a top bar hive. It is very natural indeed. There is no irritating to the bees empty space above their head to fill it. Bees hate empty space above their heads. We all agree I feel.
My good friend has split his 2 vertical hive colonies into 6 colonies this year as I did and he harvested 50 kg from each colony. Do the math. His bees felt forced to fill the space above their heads and they did (full stop) And we had the same weather all season which was very good. Those beeks in the area which suppressed swarming and did not do splits made more than 75 kg per colony.
As Seeley discovered A. mellifera swarms seem to prefer cavities of 40 litres. For a good reason Im guessing, since bees are very resourceful creatures and have no plans in spending time filling empty boxes over their heads when they can do better stuff like swarming and grooming each other, and else ...
So all that said, I'm rebuilding my 10 top bar nucleus TBHs so they can take supers. I will not super more than 1 box which can hold 20 kg of honey. That is enough for my homesteading needs. I will "force" my ladies to do so much extra effort for me and the rest of their time they can do as they please.
Im very much into "as natural as possible beekeeping" but 8 kg from 2 colonies and no extra from the other 4 is just way too little for such a fine summer we had this year. I fed them for the winter and they took in 88 kg of sugar. Do the math. Its a total non-sense for me.
I see Keffus, Webster, Bush, Stiglitz, etc ... having treatment free bees which survive well and make extra honey even if in a conventional hive.
I love the top bar hive design for the brood space and the fact that there are no frames there, so that is sure going to stay but supers will be integrated for extra production.
This is how my Super TBH looks like;
short shim to close the side hole so no wasps or other bees can enter and as a spacer between two bars.
Lets see next year how this goes.