05-04-2003, 06:10 PM
Yep, I agree about not distrubing them too
much; I've been reluctant to get into my TBH
for the same reason. I'd rather let them get
"well settled" before I start making regular
visits to 'check on them'. About the biggest
pest I make of myself, is to quickly swap out an empty sugar syrup jar for a full one
on an entrance feeder once every three or
The next real check I do probably won't be
for a couple of weeks when I'm hoping to
see evidence of the queen having started
laying eggs. (I can see some good signs like
the field bees bringing in pollen - so hopefully
they're here to stay). As the temperatures
warm up, I will also remove my 'false' bottom
board to expose the screened bottom of the
hive. At that time, I'm planning on taking
a few more photos from inside the hive (from the back that's hinged and can be opened) - should make for some interesting
05-09-2003, 07:27 PM
I checked my top bar hive today. I reported the comb positioning under Cell Calls. The bees seem to be doing well. I really am enjoying using the blank starter strips so they can do their thing and I can watch.
05-12-2003, 06:51 PM
Also checked on my TBH this past weekend and everything seems to be going great. The combs had been drawn out deeper and about the top third (closest to the bar) had capped honey with brood in the bottom two-thirds of the comb. The bees are drawing it straight across the bar (in alignment with the starter strips). They show no signs of trying to attach it to the sides of the hive (at least, so far). I saw the queen on about the sixth bar back from the entrance.
The two bars I had rotated from the back of the hive to the front, in hopes of getting them to draw out comb a little faster, were not being worked as much as the comb toward the back of the hive. Thus, the suggestion to not rotate the top bars toward the front seems to be the correct suggestion. So far, the bees have begun to pull wax on nine top bars (I have the follower board set at fifteen top bars at present). I have not removed the false bottom board yet so I'm still not operating with a screened bottom board. Once the temps get hot, I will remove the "bottom board" and see how the bees react to the open screend bottom of the hive. So far, so good.
05-13-2003, 10:18 AM
>The two bars I had rotated from the back of the hive to the front, in hopes of getting them to draw out comb a little faster, were not being worked as much as the comb toward the back of the hive. Thus, the suggestion to not rotate the top bars toward the front seems to be the correct suggestion.
I figure the bees know what they are doing. I'll just let them.
05-15-2003, 09:16 AM
I've now got bees in my tbh. For some pics of my finished hive see:
Blank starter strips about 1 inch wide were dipped and fastened in a kerf on the topbars. I think that's too wide as several were broken off by the weight of the clustering bees.
It appears that they put most of their hanging weight on the wax strip and not very much on the topbar.
Maybe a shorter strip would work better. Say one with about 1/4" of hang.
I will also try an approach used by W. Mangum? A couple strips of wood are placed beside the kerf forming a small mold. Molten wax is poured in and a small ridge is left when the wood strips are removed.
Am I still trying to make a simple problem complex? Maybe just fill the kerf with beeswax would be enough.
Any thoughts? Experience?
The bees have started to drawn out topbar #3 from the front of the hive and are working on the others to a lesser extent.
[This message has been edited by BWrangler (edited May 15, 2003).]
[This message has been edited by BWrangler (edited May 15, 2003).]
05-15-2003, 09:44 AM
My strips were about 1/2" wide and I waxed them into the grooves with a wax tube fastener. I waxed both sides of the strip so it is anchored in the kerf with molten wax. None fell out from the weight of the bees. I made the strips pretty thick by multiple dipping the boards when making the sheets of foundation. Most were just a hair under 1/8" thick.
05-15-2003, 10:03 AM
This is the first time I have posted to this TBH forum. I am in my third year with a TBH and have recently expanded to two hives. My experience is not as deep as some on this forum.
But when it come to starter strips and such I now let the bees take care of it. My first year I did start some strips (3 if I remember )after the bees started drawing it I would add a new bar between two bars that were being drawn. This method worked until I had 4 or 5 bars started. I then stopped inserting blank bars - I just let the bees take their own measurements for the bars that followed and I have had no problems with cross comb or such. The problem I did have though was I made my original hive too deep and as the bees filled the comb with honey and brood on really HOT days here in the Ms Delta I would sometimes lose a comb to the weight. I have straight sided boxes and not sloped sides that may have contributed to my weight problem (1 gallon of harvested honey per bar). With my second hive I just started them on a couple of bars I had harvested from my first hive (a quarter inch of wax remained on the bar after harvest). That is how I now get them started without strips.
For those of you who have been doing this for awhile how much Drone comb is drawn by your hives? I have plenty of honey to harvest and a ton of worker brood but I also have a large amount of drawn Drone comb.
Mr. Bush how do I post pics and PDF files to this forum. I have made a tool that assists when I am inspecting that I want to share with you all. The tool is used to cut brace comb on the side of the hive during inspection.
05-15-2003, 10:37 AM
I used the exact same technique as Michael Bush: starter strips that hang down below the bar by about 1/2-inch in a groove and held there by pouring melted wax on the strip and in the groove (both sides). The groove was about 1/8-inch deep. The swarm hung from these starter strips without any problem and almost immediately started drawing them out.
Steve, I for one, would like to see the pic of your tool used for cutting/breaking the brace comb. (Pictures of my TBH are on my Yahoo profile).
05-15-2003, 10:47 AM
>For those of you who have been doing this for awhile how much Drone comb is drawn by your hives? I have plenty of honey to harvest and a ton of worker brood but I also have a large amount of drawn Drone comb.
I figure the natural percent of drone is about 10%. That means one in 10 cells is drone. It's higher than most people using worker foundation keep, but it's what the bees seem to like. Unfortunatlely, it does seem to increase over time, so I would cull frames that have more than 10% drone. You can either move them to the back of the hive and wait for them to hatch, or wait until they hatch and they get filled with honey and then press them. Of course the wax isn't so easy to clean with the cocoons in it.
>Mr. Bush how do I post pics and PDF files to this forum. I have made a tool that assists when I am inspecting that I want to share with you all. The tool is used to cut brace comb on the side of the hive during inspection.
If you want them actually on this site, you can email them to Barry, the board's owner and see if he will post them. If you have somewhere to put them that is available to the internet, you can just post a link to there in your message. I have some that Barry posted and now I have a few that are on my web site that I just put in a link to. You can start a breifcase in Yahoo. I think it's free and you can post pictures there. Someone has posted other places that allow you to post pictures for free also. I don't know what they are, but you might find them if you search for "post" and "pictures" on these forums.
05-15-2003, 11:32 AM
> Maybe just fill the kerf with beeswax would be enough.
I have no doubt that the bees would do just fine with a wax filled kerf. I have some top bars that have no kerf in them and will see what the bees do, but I'll guess they will do well, just as they do in the feral.
05-15-2003, 06:09 PM
I dipped my blank starter strips about six times and they are about 1/16" thick and 1" wide. Maybe a little flimsy.
Would an insulated cover prevent the sagging comb caused by heat? I have lots to learn.
I bought a couple of those old woooden screen door type fastener to hold down the cover without the bricks. They are a couple of eye screws, one with a hook linked into it that slips into the other eyescrew. They are called hooks and eyes on the package.
I know Barry is swamped right now for time. Maybe I could setup a group on yahoo as a temporary area to post pictures for beesource members.
05-16-2003, 05:13 AM
I think ventilation is the best solution to sagging. I can't think of a really simple system, but I can think of several. For one, a screened bottom board adds a lot of ventilation.
05-16-2003, 07:40 PM
Steve, I also would love to see the tool for cutting away brace comb. I have wondered if one of those really old flexible bread knives would work well, but haven't tried it yet. I haven't had any problems with the weight of the comb causing sagging or breaking of the comb, but I do use ventilated bottoms and tops also. I have the hives where they get afternoon shade which really seems to help too.
05-16-2003, 07:43 PM
Steve, forgot to add something else. I do find that in the top bar hive, there seems to be lots of drone brood comb. Not sure why. Maybe bees in the wild have more drones than our domestic Langs???
05-17-2003, 12:01 AM
I am working on a webpage and I will post plans and pics of the cutting tool I mentioned. I sent a couple of pics of it to txbeeguy - he might post it to his page or make comment on his impression of what I sent him.
I think the tool is very simple - a thin metal shaft (I used an old car radio antenna-the solid rod type)18" to 20" in length. I bent the lower 5" to a 90 degree angle. I then moved 1 1/2" and bent it another 90 degree angle. The shaft now looks like a metal "J". Next I took my hacksaw and cut a notch around the tip of the short turned up end. I then cut a notch in the long shaft on a slight slant from the first notch. I then took florist wire and connected it to the first notch with a couple of tight wraps. The wire was then pulled tight to the second notch wrapped and clipped for a close fit. The wire is on slight pitch if you view it from the side (I thought this pitch might help as it sliced through comb). Make the 90 degree bends so the tool lays flat on a table. I have been pleased with the results so far. I will be glad to attach a picture to an e-mail and send it your way (just drop me a note my e-mail is in my profile).
Several folks have mentioned sagging combs - since I resized my hives I have had no problems (my first hive was a bit oversized - in my first hive I had comb that measured 18"Lx23"D).
05-18-2003, 02:30 PM
It's been six days since I shook some small cell bees into my TBH and have a few observations.
My bee brush is more important than my hive tool. It's pretty easy to scrunch a few bees between the top bars when pushing them together, especially if you an experienced standard type hive beekeeper like me.
In a standard hive many are also probably scrunched when setting the supers together but the evidence isn't so obvious when the hives are opened later.
Have you ever waited for a bee to zig before moving a topbar only to discover that at the last millisecond it zagged instead.:> )
The bees are definately less disturbed or annoyed when the tbh is worked compared to a standard hive. I found very little smoke was needed, a very positive factor for my breathing.
The bees begin drawing out comb from the bottom edge of blank starter strip. After some comb is drawn, they work upwards on the starter strip toward the topbar. If you are using blank starter strips make them short and stout so they won't fail.
Starter strips might not be needed at all, at least blank ones. A saw kerf filled with beeswax probably would work better.
Once the bees become oriented and some comb is drawn, they can be shaken or brushed off at the rear of the hive and they quietly march right back toward the darken area of the hive. Nice!
New comb is very beautiful and working the tbh is a joy! I am hooked.
Contrary to what some in the bee mags say tbhs are the ideal hive to start with.
I'v taken some pics and will send them to Barry shortly.
I'm also posting some of my observations concerning comb construct and orientation in "Making Cell Call"
05-18-2003, 07:42 PM
>My bee brush is more important than my hive tool. It's pretty easy to scrunch a few bees between the top bars when pushing them together...
I have had this problem also. I've been just smoking them back down to push it together.
>Have you ever waited for a bee to zig before moving a topbar only to discover that at the last millisecond it zagged instead.:> )
Yes. It seems like this is a bigger problem than ever with top bars.
>The bees are definately less disturbed or annoyed when the tbh is worked compared to a standard hive.
Definitely. It's because less bees are exposed.
>The bees begin drawing out comb from the bottom edge of blank starter strip. After some comb is drawn, they work upwards on the starter strip toward the topbar. If you are using blank starter strips make them short and stout so they won't fail.
They did do that. I made mine thick thinking they might be inclined to pull some of the excess wax out and it would give them a bit of a start, but also for strength.
>Starter strips might not be needed at all, at least blank ones. A saw kerf filled with beeswax probably would work better.
I didn't do 1 3/8" spacing like I should have (for a package of 5.4mm bees) I was lazy and did 1 1/2". And even with the starter strips they build a couple of small combs between the bars instead of on the strips. I think the strips helped, though, because the rest were build using the strips. Maybe if you spacing was better the strips would be less necessary, but if I cut a groove, it's not that hard to add a blank strip instead of just waxing the groove.
>Once the bees become oriented and some comb is drawn, they can be shaken or brushed off at the rear of the hive and they quietly march right back toward the darken area of the hive. Nice!
I hadn't thought of that technique. I usually end up brushing them off on the entrance and they half of them decide to fly.
>New comb is very beautiful and working the tbh is a joy!
I love to see what the bees build by themselves. It seems so different from them drawing out sheets of foundation on frames.
>Contrary to what some in the bee mags say tbhs are the ideal hive to start with.
I agree. They are cheap. You have less invested, the bees are easier to handle in them. You just have to be more careful, which is something a beekeeper should learn anyway.
05-18-2003, 08:51 PM
The pics of my small cell bees starting to work in my tbh can be seen at:
Just click on a picture if you want a larger view and some text.
Some of the shots clearly show how the bees work the longer, blank starter strips.
I have the top bars spaced at 1 1/4". That's the measure I have observed the bees prefer in my small cell colonies in standard equipment. And also what has been observed for brood comb by others in truely feral European bees in NZ.
[This message has been edited by BWrangler (edited May 18, 2003).]
05-18-2003, 10:52 PM
Your pics looked great. Please comment on your top bar center supports and how they are working out (what you expected and so forth. Also, how are you venting your hives? A number of tbh's I have seen pics of have vent notchs cut in each top bar.
05-19-2003, 08:06 AM
The vertical support was designed to reinforce the comb against breakage. The comb is weakest in it's attachment to the topbar. If forces were applied to the comb which would rotate it perpendicular to its attachment at the topbar it would easily break off. The vertical support allows another point of attachment for the comb to prevent it from swaying and breaking.
I move my hives twice a year and can easly see those kinds of forces being generated during the move. I think new comb would be expecially vulnerable. Maybe when it's old, dark and tough as shoe leather it wouldn/t matter but I plan on rotating the comb out on about a three year basis.
The vertical support is glued and nailed to the top bar. It's 1/4" thick, 3/4" wide and long enough to just leave a bee space at the bottom of the hive. I think I would make them a little shorter now. Maybe an inch or two from the bottom of the hive.
I had also planned to cut a communication hole in the comb on either side of the vertical support near the top bar. It appears I won't have to cut them as the bees are leaving them at that spot.
I haven't cut any additional vent holes into my tbh. Our climate is cool and windy, it's snowing outside again today. But will be near 80 degrees by the end of the week. That's Wyoming!
We normally have about a 35-40 degree daily differential in temps. When it's 95 degrees during the day, that night temps will be near 60 degrees. More ventilation may be required in a hotter climate.
Research done at Cornell indicates a swarm will reject a cavity with light at its top and prefers one with a bottom entrance of about 1 1/4". Another study indicates 15 square centimeters is the preferred entrance area.
Last winter Barry Birkey in Chicago and I both kept a plex cover on a standard hive to monitor moisture levels. In our climates winter moisture was not a problem. In my climate it was an advantage. So for now,I've just got the 3/4" holes at the front of the hive
But I've got my drill ready just in case. I would probably drill some vertical holes in the topbar part of my follower board and vent out through the rear of the cover. The follower could simply be rotated to vent or not vent the hive.
I like the idea of a narrow slot that runs the length of the tbh that others have incorporated into their tbhs. It can function as an entrance, cleanout, mite screen, and ventilator. Very flexible. Nice.
My tbh was designed to be simple to build and cheap and as fast as possible. One that would be stable with livestock, transportable and stackable(although I did build a sloped rather than a flat lid for this one).
It is the prototype for a potential sideline operation based on tbhs rather langs.
I hope to build a really neat one like those built by others in this forum in the future