Here¬ís my question about TBHs, the number of top bars and the size of the box.
The combs in the hives I¬ím presently using are about 16 inches across at the top and just about 12 inches deep. I¬ím using an average of 35 top bars for each hive. Many times I get between 20 and 25 with brood (sometimes even more). The rest of the bars will get filled with honey comb. Sometimes the boxes get completely full so even using several more bars might be useful. My boxes are more or less four feet long. They are all trapezoidal-shaped Kenyan TBHs.
One of the problems I see at times, mainly between the honey flows and right at the end of the honey season, is that the bees will only seal off half of some (or many, depending on the hive) of these honey combs. The bottom half of the cells remains opened up (with half-ripe honey or nectar probably).
I usually wait to harvest a comb until they are just about completely sealed off (at least 75 to 80 percent). I want to make sure the honey is ripe. But at the same time I sometimes want to harvest these half-sealed-off combs. I want to keep the honey from one type of flower separate from the next (not mix honeys from different flowers in the same comb). Other times I want to pull honey out earlier than the other beekeepers in the area while there is a bigger demand for it. Other times I want to pull more of the last honey and not leave it for the bees¬óbuying sugar during the dearth can be cheaper and many of the brood combs have a nice piece of sealed honey at the top anyways.
One idea I have is to make the box shallower, maybe only 8 or 9 inches (while keeping the top comb width at 16 inches--maybe?). The bees might seal off a comb this deep a lot faster. The potential problem is that I would probably have to have about 45 to 50 top bars. That¬ís going to make for a long hive¬ómaybe five feet or so. But I would need it to be that big¬óthe bees down here will fill it up.
Does anybody out there have experience in managing a TBH that is this long? Has anybody seen any difference between managing a shorter but deeper TBH compared to a shallower but longer TBH? What could some of the pros and cons be with these two hives? Does at least 75% to 80% of the comb sealed off sound right for harvesting? Do you think the bees will move through and effectively work a hive this long?
Comb breakage with a deep TBH might be one negative factor but so far it hasn¬ít been that much of a problem for me. Most of the hives are in the shade. Broken combs are usually my fault, they don¬ít fall naturally.
Thanks for any feedback. I appreciate it.