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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
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    61

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    As a new beekeeper with a TBH, I'm a little frustrated with the preponderance on books on Langstroth hive. I know that much of the information carries over, but I have a lot of little questions that I don't want to clog up this board with -- things like: When do you harvest the honey? How much do you leave? What are the various ways you can filter the honey? What kind of manipulations of the top bars need to be made? How do you split a hive or combine hives when using a tbh? How do you raise queens, and so on.

    Any favorite books out there? If I read one more book about hauling the honey supers off to the honey house I'm going to scream.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

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    >but I have a lot of little questions that I don't want to clog up this board with -- things like: When do you harvest the honey?

    That's why we have a TBH forum. You don't have to clog up the board.

    It takes finesse to keep bees. Just a little more to do a TBH. It varies by climate and by race but not by Langstroth or TBH. A hive of Italians needs about 100 to 120 pounds of honey to winter in my climate. Anytime they have more you can probably safely take it. With a Langstroth this is about two deeps mostly full of honey and bees.

    A hive of Carniolans probably only needs half that or about 50 pounds of honey to winter in my climate.

    >How much do you leave?

    I try never to go below what I think they need for the winter.

    >What are the various ways you can filter the honey?

    You can filter it anyway you like. I like simple screen wire. It gets the big things, like bee parts, out and large pieces of wax. The rest floats to the top and I use a piece of saran wrap to skim it off by sticking it to the top and lifting it off.

    > What kind of manipulations of the top bars need to be made?

    Check to make sure the comb is going straight and make adjustments. Put empty bars in the brood nest from time to time to keep them from swarming, and to get nice straight combs.

    > How do you split a hive or combine hives when using a tbh?

    A split is a split. You just need another box with the cross sectional dimensions. (takes the same size combs).

    > How do you raise queens, and so on.

    I think most of your answers are here:

    http://www2.gsu.edu/~biojdsx/main.htm

    If you make your top bar hive the same dimensions as a Langstroth you can use standard queen rearing equipment with frames etc.

    My TTBH is the same as my long medium hive.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    Posts
    61

    Post

    Thanks for your replies to my questions Michael. How does pounds of honey translate to number of combs? I have about 24 top bars on my hive. How many bars are likely to end up brood and how many honey? How many bars of honeycomb do you typically leave?

    I saw one site that recommended harvesting a comb at a time, and since the hive is just for our honey consumption, that seems to make sense. Of course, if we ran out of honey in the middle of the winter, we would have to wait for spring. [img]smile.gif[/img]

  4. #4

    Post

    the best book on TBH isn't available in print anymore but is here:
    http://www.beekeeping.com/articles/u...g/homepage.htm

    Dont' miss the 'next page' button at the bottom of the page, this is a 100+ page book I think.

    Dennis Murrell's (bwrangler) website is fantastic too, he should print it as a book:
    http://bwrangler.madpage.com/bee/index.html
    urban top bar hives in Oakland and Berkeley, CA...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    San Jose CA
    Posts
    164

    Post

    > When do you harvest the honey?

    Try to avoid harvesting in the first year unless you have spectacular results and the bees fill the TBH. I harvest fully capped combs 3-4 bars from the end by slicing them off about an inch below the bar. Move the end bars forward and put the reduced bars at the back.

    > How much do you leave?

    If you are going into winter in a severe climate when they will need stores I would suggest leaving all the honey unless the TBH has every bar filled with comb because there always needs to be a little open space.

    You never know how much honey will be needed by the bees until Spring arrives, so do your primary harvesting in spring before the flow starts. That's when you know they won't need stores but they will need room.

    This is the opposite of Lang management, but it will prevent your bees starving or needing to be fed.

    JP

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Post

    >How does pounds of honey translate to number of combs?

    I have never tried to figure it that way. But on my long medium with combs about 6" by 18" I'd say it's about five pounds of honey on one of them.

    > I have about 24 top bars on my hive. How many bars are likely to end up brood and how many honey?

    The brood nest expands and contracts through the year. I don't know how large your combs are, but a prolific queen and brood rearing workers will fill two deeps full of brood sometimes. That's about 5500 cubit inches of just brood.

    > How many bars of honeycomb do you typically leave?

    I try to have it mostly full going into winter. That said, it's easy to misjudge and end up light and need to feed.

    >I saw one site that recommended harvesting a comb at a time, and since the hive is just for our honey consumption, that seems to make sense.

    Yes, it makes sense if the hive is in your backyard.

    >Of course, if we ran out of honey in the middle of the winter, we would have to wait for spring.

    Of course. [img]smile.gif[/img] "Don't muzzle the ox that treads the grain."
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7

    Post

    It seems to me that a tbh is a hive for tropical areas, not well suited for colder climates.
    I have checked today my tbh and it has a lot of bees ,lot of comb but not even one comb with capped honey.It seems to me like a really strong colony,and I think it will swarm soon.
    The advice of taking honey in spring is not really a good one I think,because the bees need the most energy in spring ,not in winter.So if you take honey in the spring you are playing with catastrophy,at least it was my experience this spring.
    "Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste." Buddha

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Post

    >It seems to me that a tbh is a hive for tropical areas, not well suited for colder climates.

    Why?

    >I have checked today my tbh and it has a lot of bees ,lot of comb but not even one comb with capped honey.

    It's spring. They are busy rearing brood.

    >It seems to me like a really strong colony,and I think it will swarm soon.

    That is their plan, I'm quite certain. I would put some empty bars in the brood nest soon.

    >The advice of taking honey in spring is not really a good one I think,because the bees need the most energy in spring ,not in winter.So if you take honey in the spring you are playing with catastrophy,at least it was my experience this spring.

    I agree. There IS no surplus to take in the spring, but there will be in a month or so.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9

    Post

    >It seems to me that a tbh is a hive for tropical areas, not well suited for colder climates.

    Why?

    **Because of well known reasons.Bees tend to put stores vertical,not horizontal.It of course does not mean that they wouldnt put stores horizontal,but I have a feeling it is just a smaler amount of honey we are talking about.Second,thb was developed for tropical areas historically,right?Then we have problems with comb falling when using deeper hives,which is what we need to do where we have cold winters,not like a Scott on Florida who can use shallow hives with no problem.Also in tropics there is all the year some kind of honey yield,so you can always take a honey filled comb,here and there without the fear of hive dying without honey.
    ...................
    I have checked today my tbh and it has a lot of bees ,lot of comb but not even one comb with capped honey.

    It's spring. They are busy rearing brood.

    **
    Yes I know but we had a really good weather here with fruit trees blooming and they should be some honey for me there [img]smile.gif[/img]

    ......................
    >It seems to me like a really strong colony,and I think it will swarm soon.

    That is their plan, I'm quite certain. I would put some empty bars in the brood nest soon.

    I have put two or three bars inside but I am not certain will that stop them from swarming.
    "Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste." Buddha

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    46,384

    Post

    >**Because of well known reasons.Bees tend to put stores vertical,not horizontal.

    I don't find that to be true. I have a lot of horizontal hives. I'm a long way's from the tropics. We get -30 F on occasion and usually get a couple of weeks of -20 F in the winter here.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beeshorizontalhives.htm

    >It of course does not mean that they wouldnt put stores horizontal,but I have a feeling it is just a smaler amount of honey we are talking about.

    I don't see it.

    >Second,thb was developed for tropical areas historically,right?

    The top bar hive was invented in Greece many thousands of years ago. But horizontal hives are used most everywhere in the world. Here's long hive from Sweden that is a Danish hive:

    http://www.swienty.com/?pid=5&ref=1112&root=1001

    Denmark is hardly the tropics.

    >Then we have problems with comb falling when using deeper hives,which is what we need to do where we have cold winters

    I think comb falling is a bigger problem when it's hot.

    >not like a Scott on Florida who can use shallow hives with no problem.

    Mine are mostly mediums with top bars in them. So the comb is only 6" or so (the box is 7 1/4" to the bottom)

    >Also in tropics there is all the year some kind of honey yield,so you can always take a honey filled comb,here and there without the fear of hive dying without honey.

    Well, you do have to think about what time of year it is anytime you rob any hive.

    >Yes I know but we had a really good weather here with fruit trees blooming and they should be some honey for me there

    I wouldn't expect any yet.

    >I have put two or three bars inside but I am not certain will that stop them from swarming.

    It usually does.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Honduras
    Posts
    229

    Post

    >Also in tropics there is all the year some kind of honey yield,so you can always take a honey filled comb,here and there without the fear of hive dying without honey.

    Here in Honduras there is a definite honey season. The honey season is now basically over in my part of the country. Although there are still some trees blooming down in the valley where I live, it won't give a beekeeper any surplus honey. I may get a bit more from my hives up in the mountain because the coffee is now flowering.

    Once the rains start at the end of May the honey season is basically over. I won't see surplus honey again until January or Febuary up in the mountains.

    In the valley I can usually get by without feeding the bees, even though I may harvest most of the honey. There always seems to be a bit of something to help them get by. But basically you are talking about six months of no surplus honey being produced.

    Up in the mountains it's a bit worse because the rains are heavier. Any flowers there may be get waterlogged. If you don't leave any stores you definitly have to feed them, otherwise you lose your hives because they'll starve and abscond.

    >Then we have problems with comb falling when using deeper hives,which is what we need to do where we have cold winters

    I agree with Micheal that hot weather is the main cause of comb breakage, and then it is usually just with the honey combs. My combs are 12 inches deep and I usually don't have any problems, especially with the brood comb. It is only on hot days I need to be more careful. If the honey combs are stuck a bit to the side or the bottom and I don't see it I may very well break the comb trying to remove it.

    In my opinion, the main advantages of the TBH in the tropics is because it's a closed system which helps control the AHB better when going into a hive. And then there is the low costs to build one. Many people down here just cannot afford to buy the Langstroth boxes or don't have the carpentry skills to make their own. TBHs are much easier to make.

    I don't see the horizontal versus verticle box making that much of a difference in production yields here (or at least I didn't take that into consideration when deciding to go with just TBHs.)

    The only big advantage here to the Langstoth system is probably the frames, especially if you are doing migratory beekeeping or renting for pollination. Moving hives on bumpy rural roads can definitly break combs. But then there's always the option of making a rectangular TBH that uses frames.

    ----------
    Tom

  12. #12

    Post

    I think the best thing with TBH is their simplicity and easy, low cost building.But what you achieve in that area you lose when checking the hive.You have to be more carefull and slower because of comb falling,crushing the bees between bars etc.Also I think a tbh will yield lower amount of honey.But,I will compare my TBH with a lang and see for myself.
    But there is also one thing,very important IMHO ,the natural cell size and colony design which is in a tbh a bee designed system.So I will experiment with a tbh and see how things develop.
    Thanks for all the answers
    "Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste." Buddha

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    Tomas: saludos de Guatemala! You are a very enthusiastic beekeeper and an extraordinary comunicator. Thanks for sharing so much. Hearing about TBHs in tropical Central America is not commonplace.

    Let me think outloud: you and Michael Bush could write a price winning book on TBH beekeeping.

    I would like to hear some figures from your operation, specially honey / pollen yields.

    I am personally very curious about promoting TBH beekeeping in rural Guatemala. Since I work for the mninistry of agriculture as a bee specialist, I am sure I can find the needed support. BUT, there is a general feeling that TBH is like going backwards!! The extraction procedure, if it be crush and strain, does seem to invite for not so hygienic conditions.

    Here is a tough question: if beekeepers received financial aid (loan), would you still choose TBH over Langstroth?

    Are there any pictures of your operation?

    We are planning a technical seminar for June or July, focused on innovative, sound management practices practices. Would you be interested in sharing your experiences and results as a guest speaker?? Let me know in advance.
    We might also arrange for a field trip to visit you.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Bradenton, FL, and Davenport, IA, USA
    Posts
    930

    Post

    True, in the tropics and subtropics there are definately seasons and distinct flows. However, there is always work for the bees all year round. Sometimes the only thing they can find is pollen, and that's usually in the winter months (There really is no such thing as winter and summer in the true tropics which is inbetween 20deg N and 20deg S latitudes). The beginning of winter usually is when the citrus starts blooming, and the beginning of spring is when the legume flows (clover alfalfa etc) start. After legumes is palms, after palms is mangroves, then dearth for summer (too hot for any blooms). In fall is goldenrod for those areas that have it, and yes golden rod exists throughout north and south america, just different varieties in the tropics. After goldenrods is general wildflowers because there is no distinct flows, but plenty to work. Then pollen gathering only until citrus starts again. That's the general tropical honey season in the tropical americas.

    Coming from 5 years experience in tropical beekeeping:
    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>

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Honduras
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    229

    Post

    Howdy Guatebee. Good to hear from you.

    You ask a lot of things that I would like to comment on. Let’s see if I can keep this a bit short (probably not).

    I think an extractor could be just as unhygienic as a crush and strain system. If the beekeeper is aware of the need to keep every thing spic and span there shouldn’t be any problem—with either system. A simple five-gallon bucket strainer could be much easier to keep clean than an extractor which has a lot of nooks and crannies to scrub.

    Is it backwards? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Considering the economic problems here in Central America it might very well be just what the people need. In some ways you might actually see more success. What is considered to be more “advanced” is not what the average farmer always needs.

    I think that I would definitely choose to start out a beekeeper, especially in Central America, with a TBH—for several reasons.

    1. The TBH is a great learning tool. It is a great way for the new beekeeper to get his or her feet wet without a big inversion. You can do just about all the basics of beekeeping with the TBH. Once the beekeeper has mastered the basics by using a TBH, he or she can decide whether they want to continue with it or switch over to the Langstroth.

    2. I think the lower inversion is better for most of the small farmers down here in Central America. Some people might want to eventually go at it big time and use just Langstroth equipment. But if the farmer just wants to have five to ten hives for a bit of extra income the TBH might be better. I don’t see many farmers doing beekeeping as their primary work. It is just about always second or even third to something else (like coffee or corn or cattle or another full time job or a small business). The Langstroth needs more management, especially if you consider your investment costs. I wouldn’t want to go into it half heartedly after spending a bunch on Langstroth equpment. If someone wants bees and some profits with out investing much in management time and money, the TBH could be just the thing.

    3. It is much easier to recuperate the costs of inversion with the TBHs. It is much less of a risk both for the farmer and the loan institute. If the project should go under for what ever reason (which very well may happen) there is much less of a loss. This year my partner and I recuperated the costs of setting up our 30 hive apiary last year with out a problem. At least here in Honduras honey has the advantage over other crops in that the price is quite high and stable (if not rising). If a beekeeper can sell his or her honey right to the consumer, they can make a real decent profit.

    4. The closed system helps to control the africanized bee a bit better. They still can get quite ornery but it is definitely with less frequency.

    5. The cost of expansion is also much lower. Even though some beekeepers down here are working with Langstroth equipment they still find it hard to find the money to expand. This equipment is just too expensive. Even if they make a profit on the honey, it doesn’t mean they have extra money to reinvest. That money just about always needs to go for the kids, their schooling, health care and to put food on the table. There is never enough to cover even the basics of living. The TBH can be a very cheap alternative.

    6. You never know if the farmer will “really” like beekeeping. If the person really enjoys the bees and honey and is serious about this activity, you can reinvest in him later. Keep it simple at the beginning.

    7. There are several Langstroth beekeepers in my area who have said they want to start installing some TBHs. They don’t think it is “backwards” at all.

    I’ll try to get some photos to you in the near future, one way or another. That goes the same for production figures. I need to sit down and go through my notes for this year.

    A trip to Guatemala might be nice. Vacation is coming up in June and July. I’ll let you know.

    ----------
    Tomas

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Guatemala
    Posts
    244

    Post

    Thanks for a lengthy, honest reply.
    Figures of actual TBH results are of course much more important than pictures.

    Somewhere in June - July will meet, somehow.

    Saludos.

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