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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Ok after having the opportunity to experince starting 4 top bar hives side by side I have some suggestions.

    Get them building comb right, right away.

    My initially weakest hive which built the least amount of comb and had the smalled brood nest built comb right, right away. They slowly built up, but they did continue to build.

    My strongest hives which needed comb trimming are floundering because of the heavy training needed. If I had gotten in their really early stunting there first week or 2 of growth, but helped them get their combs striaght immediately I think they would be at least on par with what was my weakest, but now is my best hive. My other hive would have been stronger yet, but they got lesser wax moth and lost 3 combs for a brood cycle while tearing it down to the midrib to battle with moth larvae. Its doing well, but not nearly as well as my "weakest yet best" hive.

    ------------------
    Scot Mc Pherson
    Foundationless Small Cell Top Bar Hives
    BeeWiki: http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/beewiki/

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    42

    Post

    Heyas,

    how often do you check on them initially?

    cheers,

    Cinnamon

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
    Posts
    278

    Post

    Hi Scot,

    Shakedowns are very tough on the bees. It takes the bees a better part of the week to get somewhat organized. And it often takes the queen almost another week after the first comb is drawn to start laying. This delay has caused me wonder if the queen survived the shakedown in every one of my tbhs.

    Toss in a little bad weather and almost a complete brood cycle can be lost. Those first few brood cycles are very critical in a tbh, especially in my locale.

    I have been wondering if it wouldn't be better in areas with a cold, short season to just let them go for a few cycles. Then make adjustments when the season is warmer and the bee populations are larger.

    In warmer areas with longer seasons for brood rearing, making the adjustments faster might be better.

    Regards
    Dennis
    Filing this stuff away as I will be changing a cold climate for a tropical one.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,386

    Post

    >Filing this stuff away as I will be changing a cold climate for a tropical one.

    A Wyomingite moving to a tropical climate? Talk about culture shock! Where? Why? When?


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Dennis,
    Well that's pretty much what I thought, but the hives that I have let be and build a large disorganized brood nest are now in the worst condition. Better to get them building right, right away so they can get to work the right way and not get stunted later on. Now of course I am in a tropical climate, but still if you get your packages/shakedowns/swarms started right within the first week, I think the harm is minimized. Even if you wait a whole year and start NEXT season on the comb management, I think you are in for a worse shock. Since you have already given the bees a hard time by shaking them into a new empty box, might as well take advantage of the fact that they are already shocked. Most of my hives have 3-5 combs nearly completely built within the first week anyway, if you keep them fed and get their combs straight I think they'll pick up much quicker.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,386

    Post

    I just moved my Lanstroth medium top bars into a 3 box long hive today. I started them in a 5 frame nuc with one bar with a starter strip on it and the rest with no groove, starter strip or any other guide to alignment. The bees were a large cell package. The bars were 1 3/8" wide. They build every comb right down the middle straight. I move this into a ten frame hive with still no starter strips or any other guide on the bars and they continued to build them right down the cetnter except the very ends of the last bars they curved them in.

    Obviosly part of getting them to build them right is getting them started off right. Maybe part of getting them started off right is a limited size so they are clustered with a starter strip in the center and not a lot of room to mess it up.

    A follower or a nuc would both give you this ability.

    Of course the other bars with the 45 degree bevel have all been perfect too.

    But limiting the nest at the begining may free you up to use simpler bars and still get them started off right.

    I also tried a slatted rack when I put this hive in the 10 frame box and they attached every comb to the rack. I don't recommend slatted racks for top bars.

    The three box long box I put them in today has a screened bottom board. We'll see if that causes them to go deeper there too.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
    Posts
    278

    Post

    Hi Michael and Everyone,

    >A Wyomingite moving to a tropical climate?

    My wife and I thought it was time for a change. She's from Jamaica and I've never lived in the tropics. So my wife bought some land in Florida close to her relativies and friends.

    It's going to take awhile to get cut loose from Wyoming but I will end up in Florida in a couple of years.

    I honestly don't have a clue about how to keep bees in Florida and couldn't recognize a single honey plant there. Never seen a hive beetle. But I'm paying real close attention to Scot and others from the area.

    Regards
    Dennis
    Thinking it might be nice to be done with spring inspections by the end of December!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
    Posts
    278

    Post

    Hi Scot,

    I've watched lots of standard hives draw comb using foundation when keeping bees commercially. Occassionally, a hive would be found that just wouldn't draw out the foundation. I recall about one hive in two hundred would have this problem.

    About every two inches the bees would build brace comb between the frames. The frames would be impossible to remove without extensive damage to both brood and comb.

    Trying to straighten things out by cutting or giving new foundation didn't seem to correct the situation. So I would pull the foundation and give them drawn combs which they lived on without building the brace comb.

    With these kind of bees in a tbh, a beekeeper would have to work them daily and keep them straightened out if possible.

    Regards
    Dennis

    [This message has been edited by topbarguy (edited May 30, 2004).]

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,386

    Post

    I think if you live in FL you need to haul about 10 truckloads of that red Georgia clay down there so you can keep the SHB out.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Dennis,
    Once you have two staight combs, you have all you need to get them going right. Just take the two best combs you have even if crooked and place an empty bar between them in the middle of the cluster or brood nest. This new comb will be straighter than the others. Repeat this again with the two current best combs (and they don't have to be finished, just drawn 70% complete across the topbar). Once this is done, you have for the most part trained the combs. I try to return combs back to their original positions by numbering combs. The comb farthest back should be the best comb at this point, and you can throw and empty top bar (or two even) between the last and 2nd to last combs for the bees to fill in.

    If your brood nest gets honey bound and you want more, or at least give the bees the option to have more if they want it, place an empty bar between the 2nd and 3rd to last brood nest comb. So far when I have done this a new comb is built within 3 days.

    The secret I think is to stay ahead of the bees, and don't let them over-run you. When the bees are getting ready to build a new comb, they will cluster on the 2 next empty top bars at the back. When you see this, stick in 2 bars in front of the last comb. They are still drawing out the combs that are already in use, and with the new bars insterted ahead of the last comb, they probably won't need more room again until next week's inspection. Unless of course you have bees packing away more than 1/2 of a medium super's worth of honey a week. In my hives, 2 empty bars plus all the room left from 'unfinished-but-in-use' combs is about 5 medium frame's worth of combs.


    Michael,
    Two things so far I have learned about SHB. If the hive in stronger than weaker then you won't have a SHB problem, but you will see SHB from time to time. Each week I see one or 2 total in my 3 strong hives and they get squashed. In the weak hive I see far more, and they get swuashed regularly too. One of the disadvantages of teh TBH is the empty rear space that the beetles can hang out in away from the mass of bees at the front. Except for the weak hive, the back is where I find the beetles always. I think they were able to punch through the bees, but once punched through the bees keep em in the back. Even in the weak hive, most of the beetles were corraled (how do you spell that?), into specialized highly propolized mushroom shaped cells made directly on the floor of the hive.

    ------------------
    Scot Mc Pherson
    Foundationless Small Cell Top Bar Hives
    BeeWiki: http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/beewiki/

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boynton Beach, Florida, USA
    Posts
    278

    Post

    Hi Scot,

    I worked my tbhs yesterday and again I am impressed by the effortless way they draw out comb. Once the temps are warm enough and there are enough bees to rapidly draw out comb, cutting comb to make corrections is no big deal.

    So far, I've been rather conservative in cutting comb to make corrections. Maybe it's a hold over from my frame/foundation days.:> )

    I have a Russian hive that constructs very straight broodnest comb but doesn't seem to care what happens in the honey storage area. The conservative approach has not worked with this hive. It has resulted in more cutting than I would like. With this hive, I think more drastic cutting at the beginning would have worked better. Staying ahead of a hive like this is important.

    Regards
    Dennis

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM, USA
    Posts
    54

    Post

    I just had a hard lesson in this. For several weeks, my new colonies (started from packages) have been building up steadily, and checking them once every 2 weeks has been adequate.

    But, a big nectar flow occurred over the last week or two, and meanwhile I hadn't been in the hives for a while. Being new to this particular area, I didn't know how strong the honey flow could be. Now that I think about it, I should have known--we've got white sweet clover, yellow sweet clover, silverlace, and alfalfa all blooming now, and I'd been seeing these flowers but hadn't thought it through.

    The result was cross-combing in two of the hives. The bees got way ahead of me, and made some interlinked combs, heavy and not very strong. In my efforts to sort them out, I of course had several big chunks of comb slump into the hive, and entombed a lot of bees in honey along the way. (I ended up picking the dead bees out of this comb and extracting the honey from it.)

    The lessons for me: always have a bucket or pan handy, if you're dealing with new combs which could slump (I was covered wth honey and shouting to the house for someone to bring me a pan), and be aware of impending honey flows, because the comb building can accelerate unexpectedly, and then you may have a complicated situation to sort out.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    Also beware of shouting. It can upset the bees. I ain't kidding.

    Yes in a TBH its key to not let the bees get ahead of you. After the 1st year with nice comb "maps" on the bottoms of each bar I think the issue is lessened, but still don't let them get ahead of you.

    Michael was talking about using broader top bars for the honey stores. It migth be a good idea since I seem to have to uncap honey all the time because of the double thick bulges of honey comb, but again if you place the empty bar between two already drawn combs, you shouldn't have the problem if you can keep a perfect comb farthest back and used to train the 1 or 2 new combs to be built just in front.

    ------------------
    Scot Mc Pherson
    Foundationless Small Cell Top Bar Hives
    BeeWiki: http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/beewiki/

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