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  1. #1
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    Smile

    I was intrigued by an idea I found on the web at
    http://www.rupertshoney.co.za/rh/jhh_advantage.htm

    The Jacksons, in So. Africa, use dowels to make sides and bottoms on their top bars, and call them Jackson Top Bars (JTBs). A 3/4" dowel runs down the sides, and a 1/4" dowel connects across the bottom. Obviously, this is harder if you have sloped sides on your hive, but I don't. For the most part, I haven't bothered with JTBs, but I built a few to try them out. So far the bees are attaching the comb nicely to the dowel on the side of the hive where they are building comb. The other side is still open because they were a package just installed the 1st week of May. I wondered if anybody has tried this variant? Assuming not too many have, here are my early thoughts:

    - dowels are expensive enough to significantly raise my cost for making frames.
    - It's easy to make full frames with dowels - just drill (best with a drill press) and glue.
    - I didn't bother with putting the dowels a beespace away from the side of the hive because I figured the dowel will lend strength to the comb even if there is comb between the sides and the dowel, and worse case is I'll have to cut away attachments from the sides which I'd have to do anyway.
    - I also made some with the small dowel bottom piece and some without, again figuring the sides will add strength even without the bottom piece.
    - I only used these in the brood area where I'll be moving combs and checking them over and over.

    Maybe I'll make more if I ever have trouble with comb falling, but...

    Next time I check the hive, I'll try to remember to take some photos.
    "Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
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    Once a hive is established, the comb gets stronger every day and the comb edges get pretty established too with limited attachment. You don't need frames like the Jackson hive uses, which is what those are, closed top frames.

    Do it if you want, but I think its too much work and an added expense and something else to fix when it breaks. Topbars are simple. Its a single piece of wood.
    Scot Mc Pherson<br />McPherson Family Honey Farms<br />Davenport, IA<br />BeeWiki: <a href=\"http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org\" target=\"_blank\">http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org</a> <br /><br />Pics:<br /> <a href=\"http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/\" target=\"_blank\">http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/</a>

  3. #3
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    I like the Jackson idea because the bars are simple to make, while giving similar strength and ease of removal as a Langstom hive frame. The woodworking is simpler by an order of magnitude! Yes, it is more complicated than using a plain top bar, but MUCH simpler than worrying about cutting complex joints in small pieces of wood. I have 2 TBHs, one with Jackson top bars (JTBs) and one with plain top bars. I have no trouble working either, but it is easier, faster, and less worry to work the JTB hive. Below is a link to a photo of the comb in my JTB. You can see it is attached all along the side and the bottom. The bees seem to be building additional comb under the bottom dowel, which I kind of expected because I made the box deeper than the JTB by about 4" (Plan changed mid-stream. Next time I'll pay attention to bee space at the bottom, although my screened bottom makes that difficult.) The dowels at the sides are a nice beespace from the side walls, so you simply lift the frame out without worrying about comb attachment. If you accidentally neglected spacing it when you put it back in, the most comb you could get would be a couple of cells wide and you can still lift the comb without worrying about that small amount dropping or causing catastrophic comb failure. And since the dowel only contacts the side at a single point (it's round, remember) any propolis attachment is easily overcome.

    JTB: JTB

    There are other photos of my bees at this web site, too, if you are interested.
    "Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra

  4. #4
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    Apr 2005
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    Alpine, TX
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    Cool pictures... I noticed were wearing only a T-shirt.. guess you aren't having too much trouble w/ the AHBs where you are yet. We're in Alpine (Big Bend) and it's very much a concern here. I'll check out the Jackson design in more detail for future reference.
    I smile like this because I have no idea what I\'m doing :-)

  5. #5
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    Actually, Jean, the shirt I had on is a 7-button, double-stitched, button-down collar dress shirt that just happens to have a camo pattern on the cloth. But, truly it is short-sleeved and no, I don't worry much about AHB as of yet. There are rumors that AHB have been found in Fannin County, but I am doubtful. I've had my face within a few inches of a hole in a tree where feral bees were bearding, and never a hint of defensiveness. The bees in the photo are from packages I installed early in May and I sometimes work them without a veil. I had one on that day because a storm had just moved over and I thought they might be nervous. They weren't.

    Do you keep your bees near Alpine, or down by the river?
    "Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra

  6. #6
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    I don't like wearing heavy clothes either. Shorts and t-shirt here. I used to go barefoot too sometimes until I stepped on enough bees to make sandles a bit more comfortable. They don't sting when they land on you, especially if you don't react. You just happen to be what they landed on when they were flying around checking things out. Bees regularly tapping your veil (or forehead if you go veil-less) ARE trying to tell you to go away. I still get stung very seldom.

    A veil has made beekeeping more comfortable for me I must admit. The bees themselves even seem calmer because I can while being careful reach right in and pickup a handful of bees or brush them out of the way with my hand. I don't mean like a bee brush, I mean slowly and carefully.
    Scot Mc Pherson<br />McPherson Family Honey Farms<br />Davenport, IA<br />BeeWiki: <a href=\"http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org\" target=\"_blank\">http://beewiki.linuxfromscratch.org</a> <br /><br />Pics:<br /> <a href=\"http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/\" target=\"_blank\">http://linuxfromscratch.org/~scot/pics/bees/</a>

  7. #7
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    Apr 2005
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    Alpine, TX
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    I have the colonies here on our property 10 miles south of Alpine. I have been stung 4 times now (even once by the Italians) and have decided to always wear my white dud when I go to the hives. I don't like being stung. My gloves are a little too long for my fingers so I'm considering cutting the tips off and hope it helps. I have re-queened 2 of the feral colonies now and it will be intersting to see how it goes.
    I have gone w/ an 80yr old man who's kept bees for 65 yrs down to his yards at Casa Piedras (just acros the river) and those bees are significantly AHB...It was quite an initiation for me. But this is off the subject and so...
    I smile like this because I have no idea what I\'m doing :-)

  8. #8
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    Jan 2004
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    Berkey, OH, USA
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    Tex Ash
    thanks for sharing those pics. I have looked at the dowel frames before. I see you have some frames without a bottom dowel. Shouldn't really matter, they will probably go right to the bottom of the hive and then stop, leaving bee space. I have not had comb attachment to the hive bottom. The bottom dowel will give some added strength, but should not interfere. I would not remove comb below the dowel.

  9. #9
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    Jun 2005
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    This type of hive is something that I've been thinking about building for several months now. I work with africanized bees down here in Honduras. All of my 30 hives are trapezoid-shaped TBHs, mainly because I can control the bees a lot better. I like the fact that the hive doesn't stay opened up so much when I'm working it.

    I have had a lot of nasty experiences with Langstroth hives where the africanized bees got too out of control. Since they open up so much, especially when you go down into the bottom boxes, it was harder to keep them calm. There were several times where I had to close up the hives and stop working them because they were stinging so much.

    The other advantages with the TBHs is the amount of wax I can harvest (which is expensive and sometimes scarce down here) and the ability to sell the honey in comb (for which there is a good demand down here; people have less doubts about it being pure. There's a problem with adultered honey here.).

    But...I miss being able to use an extractor to harvest the honey. My harvests are lower with the TBHs than with the Langstroths. The JTB seems to combine the best of both hives for me--control of the africanized bee and use of an extractor to get higher honey harvests. From the JTB website mentioned at the beginning this seems to be one of the advantages of this hive ("cropping honey in a sustainable yeild on a commercial basis") I hope I'm interpreting this right. Nevertheless, this is my idea--a type of hybrid hive.

    I'm not sure if I would use a round dowel though. My plan is to make a simple frame using rectangular strips of wood attached to a normal top bar. I'm also going to wire it and use foundation sheets. I'll probably keep the frame the same size as the others that are used down here. Instead of one long trapeziod box I'll make one long rectangular box, probably big enough to hold thirty to thirty five frames. I'm thinking of giving it a removable bottom, (I'm not certain about this part. Maybe someone can give me their opinion).

    My plans are to put maybe twenty to thirty of these hives into production next year. I'll transfer some of my TBHs into these boxes (cutting and tying the combs into frames) and the other part I'll fill with new swarms. I'll also increase the number of normal TBHs I have. I don't want to eliminate them.

    I more than welcome any opinions about my idea.

  10. #10
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    May 2005
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    As for a removable bottom, the reason for that is to help control Varroa mites, and I have heard that AHBs are able to control them anyway. As for me, I have a groove cut into the sides of my hive where I can slide a piece of hardboard in just above the screened bottom. The screen keeps out larger insects and animals, but lets the mites drop out. I use the fiberboard when I want to put in syrup, grease patties, etc.
    I guess an open bottom might also help with ventilation, but I don't know. Here in Texas, it rarely gets over 100 degrees Farenheit - it might get hotter than that in Honduras, depending on altitude? If it gets too hot, an open bottom might be a handicap as the wax gets close to melting temperature.

    Your idea of putting full frames in a long hive sounds very good to me. It should give you the advantages of the closed hive for working with AHB while also making harvest more like a commercial venture. You will need to figure out a way to prevent robbing of the frames when you harvest. Do you have a central extracting house, or do you have mobile equipment?
    "Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the reply TX. I appreciate it.

    The africanized bees here do have mites, I've seen them in my hives and plan to treat them in the next week or so. I don't have a lot of recent experience with bees. I'm just starting up again after a several year absence in beekeeping. I never treated the hives I had before. But, I do think the mites can cause problems with the africanized hives if you don't treat them (but maybe the serious effects come about a bit slower??) We recently had the second Central American Bee Congress here in Honduras and the experts at it talked about the treatment of mites quite a bit. The screened bottom might be a good idea.

    I have a couple questions about your hives. Do you use a removable bottom board? Is your screen attached directly to the bottom of the box (as in not removable)? And if the bottom of the box remains opened (if I'm understanding correctly), does all of this extra light cause problems with the bees and their honey production or the raising of brood?

    I don't think an opened bottom would adversely affect the hives' temperature. They're located up in the mountains on a coffee farm. It's usually real pleasant weather, never too hot. I tend to think the extra ventilation would actually keep the hive a bit cooler. Down here in the valley it's another story. Here it gets real hot and I've had problems where some comb getting too soft and falling.

    Right now we're in the rainy season. It's nice in the morning but it's been raining every afternoon. Come November and December it more of a constant drizzle all day long with lower temperatures. Do you think this extra humidity would cause more problems with the screened bottom (especially if it remains opened) than the heat?

    I'm not too worried about robbing during harvesting. I haven't had a problem with this in the past. It's more of a problem of the bees getting too ornery. But...the hives I have right now have been real calm, considering they're africanized. Some are full of bees (25 to thiry combs) but they've never gotten out of control. I always use a veil and gloves but I don't worry about the use of a full suit--just an extra heavy shirt. I really think this is because I'm using a closed hive. I'm almost certain the TBH makes a big difference in this respect.

    Extracting will be done in my house down in the valley. With this robbing could be a problem and things aren't set up right to extract the honey up on the farm. It will be easier to do it down in my house.

    Tom

  12. #12
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    Tomas, please tell us about working your africanized hives and what techniques and experiances are different than Europeans.
    Thanks

  13. #13
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    May 2005
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    Tomas, I have the screen (1/8") stapled directly to the bottom of my hives on both sides and along the front. It is bent up around the rear of the hive. Then I have a groove about 3/8" above the screen where I can slide in a bottom board when I need to. I have to bend the screen down at the rear to insert the bottom board. I'm not saying this is a great design - it's just what I did.

    My bees don't seem to be bothered by the light. It's not really very light in there, anyway. I sometimes kneel down and try to look up into the hive without opening it and it's pretty hard to see anything past the screen. I think it's not too different from being inside a hollow tree where there are openings above and below their comb.

    You might consider not putting full foundation in your frames - just putting a small strip of it at the top to get them started. One of the things that seems to help with dealing with mites is to let the bees build natural comb in the size they want to. Foundation is a single cell size and bees naturally build comb with a variation in comb size ranging from very large in honey storage areas to very small at the bottom of the brood area.

    I don't think the open bottom is a problem with humidity inside the hive. It's important to have a top to shed rain, but the bees seem to manage humidity in the comb area. We've had a very humid spring and summer so far, and I haven't had any problem with it. The honey I took from the hive hasn't had a problem with fermenting, so I think that's a good test. Where it's raining continually, maybe it would be a good idea to insert a bottom board, but I think if it were me I'd try it without and see how it goes. Or maybe to be safe I'd try it with some of my hives and compare.
    "Before I speak, I have something I'd like to say. . . . I will try to keep this short as long as I can." Yogi Berra

  14. #14
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    Jun 2005
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    Joel, this is in response to your question about africanized bees and my experience with them.

    I've been living down here in Honduras for 14 years and for just about all this time I've been working with bees to one degree or another. Although I'm from the States, I never did beekeeping back there. My only experience with bees back home was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich after school as a snack. All my experience has been with africanized bees. I have quite a few years of experience now but I still don't consider myself an expert. For example, I still don't have their behavior figured out.

    As I said in my previous post, the behavior of the africanized bee can be real varible, and sometimes I don't know why. One day I go to the apiary and the bees could be real defensive. A couple days later I go back and they are calm and I can work with them just fine.

    I started up my present apiary in November and I've never had a day yet where the bees have gotten real ornery (and several of the boxes a full of comb and bees). Several years ago I had another apiary nearby (about 5 to 8 kilometers) at the same elevation and the same type of vegetation. There the days were rare that I had calm bees. All of those were in Langstroth boxes. I beleive that managing the africanized bees in a closed hive system with top bars definitly helps to keep them under control. I'm a firm beleiver in top bars.

    Because of their defensive behavior, the beekeeper down here have to put up with a lot. Lots of time you can only do low management beekeeping. To really get into the brood area of the hive and check things out is only going to cause problems many times. Trying to find the queen to change her can be almost impossible. You do as much as you can and then cross your fingers you will get a good harvest.

    You always need lots of smoke to work these bees. We use big smokers down here that hold lots of sawdust.

    I myself tolerate the aggressiveness of the bees. I find them fascinating and the economical benefits are worth the stings. Usually I'm more worried about the person or cow or mule that is wandering close by that shouldn't be when I'm working with the bees. The last thing I need is to have a serious stinging incident.

    In general I believe in low budget, sustainable beekeeping (I've worked with development down here in the areas of beekeeping and agriculture). This means keeping things simple and inexpensive down here in Honduras. Buying a hive will cost a normal farm laborer just about a months wages. You almost have to build all your own equipment because buying it is way too expensive for the majority of people. It can eat up too much of your earnings, especially if you want to expand. And most of the money from honey sales needs to go to household expenses anyways for the majority of small beekeepers (tough economical situation down here--never enough money and its only getting worse). The TBH is perfect for the majority of people.

    This is where swarming of the africanized bee is helpful. You actually don't have to invest money in buying hives. I make trap hives that contain 8 to 10 top bars (the volume is about the same as a normal Langstroth box but in the trapezoidal shape.) Last year I made 20 traps and caught about 33 swarms (of which only three didn't stay around). I sprinkle wax inside the box, seal the top by stapling a piece of plastic over the bars, cover the outside with a real strong lemon grass tea and hang them in the trees. Just in my backyard in town I caught nine swarms. You just need to keep taking the boxes down, moving the bees into their permanent TBH boxes and hang the traps back up in a tree. there is no reason I would buy a hive. Too many free ones.

    I should also mention that there is also beekeepìng on a large scale down here with africanized bees. Some of the melon growers manage 3000 hives for polination purposes and there are some honey producers that are managing 600 hives.

    This getting kind of long but at least it'll give a bit of an idea of what africanized beekeeping is like.

    --Tom

  15. #15
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    Tomas, thanks for the information. Although we are told africanized bees will not survive in our northern location I fully expect (as I do with every bee related problem) to be dealing with this eventually. We continue to grow every year and there are days I wonder if that will be thwarted by AHB. It sounds like the answer is no which is good to hear, just different management. I'd love to come to Honduras and visit sometime and see your apiary and lifestyle!

  16. #16
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    Thanks Tomas, verrrry interesting. I could read more. In fact it reads kind of like a book. Hmmm. And when you got into swarming, I was hooked. Hated to let it end. well.

    Good info. And it's encouraging to hear that they can bee worked.

    Thanks,

    Hawk
    KC0YXI

  17. #17
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    Hawk, just an added thought about swarming (This is kind of getting off the original topic, no? Is this ok? I'm kind of new to these forums yet.) Usually africanized bees swarms are not defensive as when they are permanently hived. For example, I'm lying in my hammock in just a pair of shorts for the afternoon siesta and I hear a swarm moving into one of the trap hives in my backyard. I'll rush out there and get right into the middle of them inorder to watch them go into the box (really great experience). I don't worry about a veil, much less my shirt. They have no reason to sting because they have to hive to protect yet. They just want to move into the hive and set up shop. I've even made bee beards using africanized bees (making an artificial swarm first that is).

    Lots of times neighbors will come looking for me to remove swarms that have landed in their trees or bushes. Here I will usually put on a veil just because when I shake them into the box bees land all over me because they're usually above my head. As far as all the onlookers, I tell them to stand back a bit but to not worry (just enjoy the show).

    People down here are always nervous about swarms though, just because of the defensive reputation of most permanently hived bees. A lot of time during a soccer game the players will thrown themselves to the ground if a swarm passes over kind of low. It's very rare that swarms cause any problems and then it might be only a couple of stings, nothing else.

  18. #18
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    May 2005
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    So they are only really aggressive when protecting their permant homes? Sounds like the Africanized experiement wasn't quite as bad as was first seemed. I've herd their somewhat bred down from their original viciousness, but I'm not sure if thats accurate.

    On a side note, really off topic, I had an art teacher whom developed this exhibit about afticanized honey bees, only it wasn't really about the bees. He didn't know much about beekeeping, and it showed. But it was moderately interesting. The whole exhibit was about how the word "AFRICANIZED" prompted fear and hysteria in people due to its African roots. He was looking at the whole hysteria side of AHB in terms of racism. I admit it was quite a stretch, but the hysteria was stretched here in the states back then too, when AHB was first spreading. This was when he did the exhibit. Just rambelling.

    I think I'll try a Top Bar/Langstroth hybrid myself next spring. Using standard frames without foundation. Not as cheap as a TB but not as complex as a traditional Lang.

    I like what I'm reading here!

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