Wayacoyote has asked me to talk about my results. I have a couple of pictures of combs (and pictures of my TBHs) on my site:
He asked about brace comb ect.
The KTBH did well. It did swarm once long before it was full and I think I should have managed it a bit more to keep the brood chamber opened up. Brace was not a problem. I already had two different sized bars, 1 1/4" and 1 1/2" wide. I started with the 1 1/2" wide when the bees started making thicker honey storage comb. No combs collapsed. This one is in partial (mostly) shade.
The long Medium hive is standard Lanstroth width and medium depth (7 1/2" deep from the top to the Screen on the bottom which is ropughly the same as a 6 5/8" box on a 3/4" bottom board). It is in full sun, except for whatever shade the hive to the south of it gives. One comb collapsed but did not take any other combs with it. I worked it quite a bit. Brace comb was almost non existant. Certainly not a problem. I had 1 1/4" bars, 1 3/8" bars and 1 1/2" bars. I also put in a 1/2" wide piece once where the comb was wide and I wanted to get back in the center of the next bar.
Both the KTBH and the TTBH did well and I'll probably start another of the long medium depth (TTBH) ones next spring.
I'm still trying to work out how best to manage them to prevent swarming and maximize their use of the whole hive.
This season, I tried several different methods to 'manage' more broodnest comb in my top bar hives. In one top bar hive, I inserted a few empty bars between combs inside the broodnest. In another hive I slowly rotated empty top bar from the rear of the hive to the front, essentially moving the broodnest toward the rear of the hive. I also cut off the 'drone' side of some broodnest combs and rotated them 180 degrees, placing the cut out portion on the worker brood side of the hive.
All of these methods produced mixed results. Although the bees have a strong sense of broodnest organization, they don't have much of a mechanism for dealing with combs that move, rotate or change. Any change to the broodnest must be minor and performed gradually. Rotation confused the bees the most. Insertion next and displacement the least.
In one tbh, I insert an empty top bar between every three broodnest combs and left them that way. That hive developed PMS and would have died by Christmas. I left the broodnest intact and treated it with oxalic.
I had a second tbh with empty top bars inserted like the preceding hive. At the first sign of mite damage, I re-arranged the broodnest so that it resembled an undisturbed one. The mite damage disappeared and didn't increase to the PMS levels like it's neighbor.
I've learned a few lessons about honey harvesting and straining honey. Don't harvest the honey, let it set as chunk honey in a bucket and wait too long before straining it.
My honey will stay liquid, all winter, as chunk honey. But there's something about straining it, that causes it to granulate in about 1 week. If I wait too long, it will granulate in the strainer before it will drain.:> )
I changed the end entrances on my first hive to side entrances. These work alot better and can be opened to provide a lot more ventilation when needed. The added flexibility will allow me to rear a replacement queen on one end of the hive. When my tbh wants to swarm next season, I will move some broodnest comb, with the queen, behind a follower board at the other end of the hive and open the side entrance.
There were no comb failures in my hives this year, even with their larger combs resulting from shallower slopes at 19 degrees and 8 degrees versus the 22.5 degrees in my first hive. I raised the cover with a couple of wooden blocks which is probably the major factor.
Also, that change in slope didn't affect the amount of comb attachments at all. I think a square tbh would work as good as a trough tbh.
I am about ready to standardize my operation. I like my latest hive the best. The sides, ends and bottom are all constructed out of the same width material. The flat top allows stacking. And the sloped sides, with side entrances, permit the hives to be moved without blocking ventilation or crushing bees. I plan on building a few more of these and turning one of the other designs into a observation hive, with plex inserts, so I can watch them like I've done with my Langs.
My tbhs are in great shape for the winter and I'm looking forward to seeing how they overwinter and develop this next season.
So if brace comb wasn't a problem for you, does that mean that it didn't occur, or, if it did, to what extent and how did you deal with it?
I ask because it seems that brace is the one common complaint among people trying to build the better TBH.
I've had very little brace comb in my hives. I did get some when inserting one empty top bar between two drawn combs inside the broodnest. Increasing the spacing to one empty between three drawn combs stopped that problem.
Comb attachments are another matter. The bees will attach a comb to the sidewall when becomes heavy enough and needs the reinforcement. Sidewall slope is not a factor. They are an advantage, as I move my hives twice a year.
But every comb must be inspected for attachments and all of them cut before removing a comb. I use a serated knife and it's not a problem cutting them. To a standard hive beekeeper, it may seem to be an inconvience, but the time it takes is offset by the tear down/set up time required in a vertical hive and not required in a tbh.
I usually get a few top bars with cross combs in the honey storage area. I haven't found any way to avoid these as the bees are just as likely to replace any cutout comb with more crooked comb. So I just rotate the worst to the back of the hive and then harvest them .
I have not had problems with attachments to the side or brace comb. There are a few. If the comb is new and soft, you have to be careful. If it's old and full of cocoons, it's tough enough you can be much more caviler.
My first TBH had vertical sides and a plexiglass inspection window. The bees made beautifully vertical, perfectly-spaced comb, well glued to the sides.
Clearly, this meant that I could only get at the brood area by working from the back towards the front of the hive, carefully cutting down the sides of each comb and moving it towards the back. Needless to say, I broke some along the way and ended up with a sticky mess.
Sloping sides may not obviate the side attachment problem, but they would at least mean that the main weight - centre of gravity, if you like - of the comb is nearer the top bar, making breakages less likely.
My latest TBH has 30 degree (from vertical) sides, but no bees yet. I have also incorporated vertical wooden rods drilled through the TB to help support the comb. I have noticed someone else (I forget who) has posted some pics on his site of a similar arrangement.
Do any of you experienced TBHers have any comments on this aspect of sloping sides?
>My first TBH had vertical sides and a plexiglass inspection window. The bees made beautifully vertical, perfectly-spaced comb, well glued to the sides.
I have not had this experience. I have had two straight sided ones and two slope sided ones and neither kind had very much attachments.
>Clearly, this meant that I could only get at the brood area by working from the back towards the front of the hive, carefully cutting down the sides of each comb and moving it towards the back.
That's the only way I've ever tried to work a TBH.
>Needless to say, I broke some along the way and ended up with a sticky mess.
I have had them all collapse before and it was a total disaster.
>Sloping sides may not obviate the side attachment problem, but they would at least mean that the main weight - centre of gravity, if you like - of the comb is nearer the top bar, making breakages less likely.
I agree. I think you need to either limit the depth of the comb or have sloped sides. I have done some of both with good success.
>My latest TBH has 30 degree (from vertical) sides, but no bees yet.
I haven't tried one that steep but 22.5 degrees seemed to work pretty well.
>I have also incorporated vertical wooden rods drilled through the TB to help support the comb. I have noticed someone else (I forget who) has posted some pics on his site of a similar arrangement.
Dennis Murrel has one like that. http://wind.prohosting.com/tbhguy/bee/topbar.htm
>Do any of you experienced TBHers have any comments on this aspect of sloping sides?
I agree with your observations. I think a deeper comb needs the sloped sides, at least when it's new comb, to keep from having collapses. I didn't see much difference in attachments with sloped sides. I would add that shallower comb also seems to work fine to give the comb more support too.
Thanks for the pointer, Michael. I don't think that was the page I saw, but it's interesting to see the development of an idea almost identical to the form in which it also came to my mind. I will try my vertical rods next season to see if I get similar results.
I take your point about shallower combs - my first TBH was 12" deep - I also notice that Dennis' is 16" deep. He doesn't say much about handling the combs, but he must be pretty skilful to manipulate unsupported comb of that size!
I just noticed that Dennis does in fact say quite a lot about handling combs at http://wind.prohosting.com/tbhguy/bee/working.htm
Dennis had a total collapse once. So did I and several other people. The combs went down like a row of dominoes.
Two things I'm considering experimenting with:
A KTBH that is the same as the one I have except four inches wider at both the top and bottom. In other words change the one by six on the bottom to a one by ten and make the ends 19" long. That way I could get larger comb and I can take the combs out and put in the TTBH that are standard Lanstroth size.
A TBH that is like my long medium depth except with an angled portion added to the bottom to make it go down at 90 degrees for the first 7 inches or so and then angle the rest of the way to the bottom. Then maybe I could get more depth in the center and still keep the comb from collapsing by leaving off the bottom corners. Unfortunately this is more complicated to build.
Another experiment might be to take the stronger aged top bar combs from my long medium depth Langstroth hive and move them to a deep Langstroth and let the bees build the new soft comb on the bottom of the strong aged comb. Maybe I could get more depth in the combs by simply letting the bees draw it in two steps. The first step 3" shorter until the comb is strong and then the rest of the way. Then if I leave 3" at the top when I harvest it still won't be more than 6" or so of new soft comb at one time.
That sounds like a good plan - all the comb failures I have had were at the point where the comb meets the bar, so getting them to build down from older, stronger comb makes a lot of sense.
I look forward to your results!