Just wondering if there was any body using top-bar hives,and maybe their experiences with them?I have two of them and three lang-style hives.Thanks JOHN
John, Noticed you are from Ala. I'm in P'cola and just finishing a top bar hive for swarm introduction this spring. Have you seen the hive in use by Peter Springhall, at www.kentbee.com/bromley ? I am in the process of completing a hive similar to his and plan to introduce the bees onto 4.9mm foundation. Will cut full sheets to fit the hive body.
Made my hive with slight modifications: put in a screened botton with a slide in winter wind blocker; have had good reports on the use of screened bottom board for mite control. The topbar hive will be a new experience for me. Have had bees in the past in standard hives; in fact, I have just completed four hive bodies, screened bottom boards and one shallow super. Will most likely not need even a second hive body since I will have the hives in town.
Read that there are bee keepers in N.Y. City and if they can produce honey thought that I might also
Trying to figure out a simple way to make 4.9mm foundation. Thinking along the lines of two fiberglass pads laid up from each side of a sheet of foundation. Would require some type of spacer and then simple clamping to impress the foundation form onto a sheet of wax. May begin on that project soon. R.M.M.
> Trying to figure out a simple way to make 4.9mm foundation. Thinking along the
> lines of two fiberglass pads laid up from each side of a sheet of foundation.
I have tried them in the past. I usually make the top bars an even 1 1/2 because I can rip up scrap 2 bys for top bars. My first experiments were in about 1976. I used sloped sides because of references I found to baskets used by the Greeks. This worked well. You have to be more gentle with the combs. You can't go flipping them around like you do frames and you can't extract them.
The tricky part is getting the bees to build on the bars. I've done several things that worked. One is a starter strip. You just cut a groove and put a narrow strip of foundation in the groove. I use a "wax tube" from Walter T. Kelly to wax it in. Another method is to cut the bar so it angles to the middle. This is only about 3 degrees or so, but it makes a ridge in the middle. The tricky part of this is the woodworking is more complex. you have to cut the slope and you have to come back and cut a notch in the slope for the ends to be flat again. I rub the ridge with bees wax. This seems to work. I have heard of people dipping string in wax and laying it on the bars in a straight line down the middle. I have NOT tried this, but it might work. I don't run the wax to the edge because you want them to stop before they get there.
I have just built a trough hive of Langstroth width, so I can use frames and top bars. I'm not sure if they will connect the sides. It is a pain working with solid top bars (as in no gap between the tops) because if they cross comb anything you can't tell until you broken it all up. Mostly you have to be more gentle, but that's a step in a good direction anyway.
I have kept bees in a sloped sided top bar hive. I tried several things for the bars (which I think it the hard step). I tried making them sloped to the middle (which isn't too bad if you have a plane, but is a little difficult) and rubbing the peak with beeswas, I tried grooving them and putting in a starter strip of foundation. Both of these worked well. If you don't do something to get the bees to build in the middle it won't work too well. I made my bars 1 1/2" wide beacuse it was easy to make them from scrap 2 bys. As long as you have something down the middle for the bees to start on this spacing works fine, although most people reccomend 1 3/8". I'm sure 1 3/8" works fine too.
I'm going to try them in a straight sided trough hive built to Lanstroth diminsions so I can mix the top bars with regular frames. I'm hoping I can do my brood and extracted honey in frames and my comb honey on top bars. I've read from people who are using them that the straight sided ones work as well as the sloped ones.
Here are some sties on top bar hives:
http://nanaimo.ark.com/~cberube/ktbh.htm http://outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/kenya.htm http://nanaimo.ark.com/~cberube/images/ktbhplan.gif http://www.gsu.edu/~biojdsx/main.htm http://www.kentbee.com/bromley/teaching.htm http://nanaimo.ark.com/~cberube/5.htm
I like not having to buy foundation and it's intersting to watch what the bees build without much of my intervention.
I'm a novice beekeeper and just have two hives (until next year). One of them is a Lang, the other is a top bar hive that I converted from an old Lang body (I cut top bars to go across the narrower width so the entrance would be aligned parallel with the bars). The more interesting hive to observe is the top bar, imo, eventhough the frame hive is supposed to be more productive. I won't really know until next year because I won't start harvesting any honey until then. I used 1x2's to make the top bars, and secured a one inch strip of foundation along the top of each which seems to work very well.
Michael- have you been able to find any good info on building a honey press? Did you build yours? The only info I have found is not descriptive enough for me to use in construction, and the photos were too poor to really see how it works. Thanks for any info.
I already raise a lot of comb honey and I have frame hives, so I was just going to use the top bars for comb and the frames for extracted honey. But, if it was me, I'd just buy an uncapping tank (the small hobbiest ones) or make one out of wood. Put a layer of wire screen door screen on top of the queen excluder (that is usually used for these) and just mash the combs with your hands. Squeeze them into a ball in your fist. I did this for years before I bought an extractor. You put the squished combs (squeeze as much honey out as you can first) on the screen and let them drain. The comercial uncapping rigs like this have a honey gate on them for bottling, so you just run it out into the bottles. You may think it's messy, but you get honey all over your hands no matter what anyway.
I've never used a press, but they might be better, and they might not.
Instead of running the bars width ways, I would have run the bars the length of the lang and built a bottom board going the other way. That way you could use frames anytime you feel like it. All of my lang bottom boards already go long ways.
The main reason I built the bars to go across the shorter width was (actually a couple of reasons)... anyway, I wanted the entrance to be across the shorter distance for ease of handling the combs. I am under the impression that they build the brood area near the entrance with honey storage at the back, and this gives them more depth. I also didn't want to close the entrance I already have and cut out a new one or build a new bottom board. Primary reason- I got the bees late in the season and wanted to give them a minimal space to fill, hoping they will be able to winter over adequately until I can place them in a larger hive with standard size bars next spring. Made sense to me, but then I am new at this. LOL
[This message has been edited by dragonfly (edited August 09, 2002).]
I do like the bars running paralell to the entrance, which is why I build and buy bottom boards that way. (yes you can buy them from www.beeworks.com with the ventilation kit for a langstroth). I'm sure it will work fine for you. I've just found that sticking with standardization keep so many more options open.
Hi Michael and Everyone,
Any new thoughts on topbar hive design since building one earlier this year?
Are the frames truely interchangeable or do the bees prefer to put different types of comb/cells in different locations?
I think the only way for me to see what the bees do naturally is to build a top bar hive. Besides I have been interested in them since the mid 70's and love building neat bee stuff.
I am really interested in the overwintering aspects. Talking with others with some experience with top bar hives, they indicated the bees may have some problem relocating the winter cluster horizontally.
Dennis- Here in Texas, I will be surprised if over-wintering in TBH's will be a problem, but since I'm new to this, I could very well be wrong. In your area, it would be a much different story. You could probably come up with an insulating system that would really help them out. As far as the frames being interchangeable in the hive I recently built, it will be interchangeable, but requires a small modification in construction because of the 3/4 inch thickness of the front and back hive body boards, so there ends up being a small gap if you want to use a standard hive body as compared to one you measure and cut to your needs. To be frank, speaking from an amature viewpoint, I am much more impressed with the TBH in the speed with which the bees build their own comb from scratch as compared to drawing out foundation. Maybe I just have an exceptionally industrious group of workers on my hands, but they have far surpassed my expectations in the short time I have had them.
>Any new thoughts on topbar hive design since building one earlier this year?
I'm going with a mixture of top bars and frames. They are pretty interchangable. Mostly I'm using frames. I'm trying to get the bees regressed and I want to be able to extract any 4.9mm or eve 5.1mm frames of honey and use them for brood.
>Are the frames truely interchangeable or do the bees prefer to put different types of comb/cells in different locations?
They tend to put the brood toward the front and the honey fills out toward the back, but you can move things where you think you want them. You do have to watch them connecting the sides. They won't fill them in solid (if your starter doesn't run all the way to the edge) but they will connect them here and there and they combs are more fragile so you have to cut the brace comb on the sides loose before doing to much. You just have to pay more attention to what you're doing.
>I think the only way for me to see what the bees do naturally is to build a top bar hive. Besides I have been interested in them since the mid 70's and love building neat bee stuff.
You can also put starter strips in frames and see what they build. If you really want to just see what they do naturally, build a box the size of a langstroth deep with one wall made of plexiglass. I use 2x2's to build a frame to hold the plexiglass on. Now take a scrap of plywood and cut it to fit over the frame or in the hole where the plexiglass is so you can shut the "shutters" on the window. Put a bunch of 2x2's or 1x2's on the top like a top bar hive, but don't put in any starter strips. That way they can build anywhere they want. You can watch through the window. You can set the box up on it's side to cut out comb honey. If you cut carefully you can get where you can take a 1x2 off the top to get access there. It's a fun experiment. It's a mess, but not as bad as you might think.
>I am really interested in the overwintering aspects. Talking with others with some experience with top bar hives, they indicated the bees may have some problem relocating the winter cluster horizontally.
I haven't overwintered a horizontal hive yet. The top bar boxes I've built in the past I used as a super or I moved the bees to a regular hive. I'm not sure I'll have a hive built up enough to overwinter in a horizontal box this winter. I may have to move the bars/frames into a regular langstroth deep and stack them on top of a healthy hive with a double screen wire. Hopefully I'll have a good strong one next winter to see. I am worried a bit about how they will do. But wild bees seem to survive in worse situations all the time.
Hello Dragonfly and Michael
Thanks for the ideas and insight. I often run an observation hive and a hive with a plexiglass inner cover at my home. The modified super will be easy to build and a usefull addition. Must also build that TBH next year too. Now, I'm really going to have some fun. :> )
My small cell experience shows how important the comb is and cell size is only one aspect. You TBH guys are in a great position to contribute much to the understanding of its effects on bee behavior. Maybe I've been running on plastic foundation and lots of assumption much to the detriment of the bees.
As the bees put most of the brood toward the front of the hive, is most of the smaller cell comb found there with larger cell comb toward the rear? Or do the bees construct each comb similiar with a central area of smaller cells surrounded by drone and larger cells?
If combs toward the rear of the hive are primary larger cell,what happens when the hive expands in size? Is the comb toward the rear of the hive reworked to provide more worker size cells?
I have also read elsewhere that the bees seem to draw out the comb faster in TBHs than in regular hives. I wonder what is frustrating them in the standard hive?
[This message has been edited by Admin (edited August 24, 2002).]
In process of building our first tbh, making it with straight sides,large enough to hold 30 tb's and using standard hive dimensions so that regular frames will work in tbh. Just purchased a book by Roger A. Morse titled ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture. It states that top bar bee hives are "a bad idea in hive construction that appears repeatedly in the beekeeping press". Any tbh users agree with this statement?
There are advantages and disadvantages. One big plus is the cost. You can build top bars easily. Frames are much more difficult to make. If you use scrap lumber to build the hives and bars you could have a hive for just the labor. if you use a sheet of masonite soaked in water, dipped in wax to make blank wax starter strips you don't have to buy foundation. In a top bar hive you still have the advantages of comb manipulation as opposed to just having bees in a box and combs every which way. If you want cut comb honey or you want a lot of wax, then top bars work pretty well.
Cheap. If you put it in a trough hive at waist level (which most TBH's are but you could do with frames also) then you don't have to bend over or lift so high.
Easy to build.
More natural. The whole 4.9mm vs 5.4mm cell size is more of a Lanstroth frame hive issue. Most TBH users only do starter strips and the bees build what they want.
The frames are easier to break loose if they are burred or cross combed. If you are not careful with a TBH you'll beake the comb loose from the top.
The frames are easier to manipulate than TBH's. You can't flip a TBH comb sidways or it will break off from the top. You have to be more careful.
You can't extract easily. The combs are, as already mentioned, much more fragile because they are not reinforced with wire, they are not reinforced by a frame around them and therfore they break easily. You can't spin them in an extractor. It is a big advantage to have some drawn comb around when a brood nest gets honey bound or you're trying to start a new hive.
The old timers who write ABC XYZ of bee culture and the other old books, were trying to get people to stop using what they percieved as "old fashioned" practices. They believed that beekeeping should progress into the 20th century. Extraction, frames, standardization, modularization were the future. This is their perception.
My opinion is that frames are easier to work with. Frames are more advanced technology. You have to be more careful with a comb on a top bar, but I like the self sufficiency of being able to make my own. If you like simplicity and self sufficiency top bar hives make sense.
There is nothing wrong with a top bar hive. I assume you've seen Satterfields web site. http://www.gsu.edu/~biojdsx/main.htm
There are a lot of good links here also.
I have done something similar to what you are doing. I built a long box of Lanstroth dimensions so I can put frames or top bars in it. Mine is as long as two Lanstroth boxes (21 frames or bars) and put it on a table that acts as a bottom board and I use deep boxes behind it as supers. The bottom board is 19 7/8" wide so the boxes go sideways from what a Lanstroth usually is.
I have also built one long hive the size of four Lanstroths, but haven't put any bees in it yet.
Roger Morse besided being a professor was also a small commercial beekeeper dealing with extracted honey and his priorities such as maximum flexibility and resale value reflect that focus.
Hobbiest like myself have a whole different set of priorities.
If you like to build stuff and want to learn about the bees then a long hive or tbh is a good choice. I will build a couple of them this winter myself.
Another thought, build it at least 26 frames long. That way the standard deep frame could be oriented either perpendicular or paralled to the narrow end of the hive. Is it important? I don't know.
Acutally I forgot one other disadvantage. It's difficult to move a top bar hive. If you get enough people to lift it (it's usually long and heavy) then you have the problem of the fragile combs breaking as you drive down bumpy roads.
I want to build a tbh myself. I think it is just another aspect to explore. After removing the swarms from odd places, like walls, comb construction fascinates me. I think it really shows the housel positioning as well. Much can be learned. I do know one thing though, the drone cells were alot larger in the "wild" than what I am used too. Think it will be interesting to see.
Yeah, I was surprised at how large the drone cells are too. At one point, I was convinced that I had a laying worker because the drone comb section was larger than I am used to, but it all turned out okay. The queen was doing just fine. The top bar hives are infinitely more interesting to me, but they are a little more difficult to work because you have to be meticulous when removing the top bars and make sure they are not connected heavily to the sides of the hive. My favorite size of the ones I have built is the size of two deep supers with the bars parallel to the entrance. Next spring, I will add another same size hive on top of this one for harvesting. I have seen photos of top bars with a curved board basically turning it into a frame of sorts that would make manipulation simpler. It looks like an archer's bow, but I need to find thin strips of wood that I can soften and curve the size I need. Any ideas?
>I have seen photos of top bars with a curved board basically turning it into a frame of sorts that would make manipulation simpler. It looks like an archer's bow, but I need to find thin strips of wood that I can soften and curve the size I need. Any ideas?
If it was me the two things I'd try are to just take a sapling or small tree branch and leave it round and bend it for the bow. Or take one a little bigger around and split it down the middle with a pocket knife. It takes a bit of practice to do, but if you work the knife with the handle at right angles you can go one way or the other and make the split follow the center of the branch. If you leave them round you can just drill a round hole at both ends of the bar to insert the bow in. I'd use something about 1/4" to 3/8" in diameter. If you do this, it's tempting to also make the hive with sloping sides or a half round bottom. Although it's not necessary. If the bees build some on the bottom of the bow it won't lessen it's reinforcement properties.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited October 14, 2002).]