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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    Question

    First of all, let me apologize for a long and rambling post. Its probably as much for me to get it written down as it is for input.

    Let me explain me situation. A couple of months ago I got interested in bees and beekeeping (my wife calls it obsessed). Unfortunately, I should be finishing grad school next spring and will almost certainly be moving. It’s not much of a situation to be starting a hive or two. Since I can’t actually do anything, I have been studying and planning. I’ve learned a lot, and started to get some idea of what I would like when I get somewhere more permanent. At the risk of seeming like a crazy man taking to himself, I thought I would try to map out my thinking to the point I am at.

    Top Bar hives – TBH’s look more interesting the more I read about them. I pretty quickly decided I wanted to try them. I could build my own, and the natural cell size sounded like it was a great way to go (I would like to avoid treating if possible, and don’t want pesticides). I found everything pretty open ended (many possibilities in TBH designs). I like the Kenyan TBH design. Partly because the comb shape seemed stronger and less attachment to the side would be nice. Partly, I just like how they look.  They look more interesting and fun than a simple box.

    Ok, so I want a KTBH. There are still lots of choices though. (Cue my wife rolling her eyes at me spending more and more time reading about bees). As I read, I decided that a screened bottom board sounded best. Better ventilation and mites drop through (nice for counting mite drops too). Ok, KTBH with a SBB. No problem.

    More reading … the Bee Wrangler’s combo hive looks cool too. Maybe I can make a KTBH with a SBB that is set up to take supers on top? Sounds doable … (more obsessed thinking)

    More reading … Walt Wright checkerboarding sound interesting too. I start reading old articles in American Bee Journal and Bee Culture. Looks really cool, make sense, and sounds very useful. Might be hard to adapt to a TBH, but would work nicely in a combo hive? Looks like more reason to try to mix the KTBH with the combo hive design.

    At this point I start sketching out designs for a hive. After many different attempts, and shifting to the computer to draw them, I came up with a design I wanted input on. I used google's sketchup(its free) to do the design. Here are some pictures and the actually design file for those who might want to see it in vertual 3D.

    view 1
    view 2
    view 3
    view 4
    sketchup file (if anyown wants too look at it).

    Its made with only 1x12's and 2x4's. All the peices shouldn't be too bad to make on a table saw. I calculate it to have a volume of about 95L (~3 mediums or more than 2 deep I think). It should have the right dimensions to nicely accept two Langstroth boxes on top (plus some, its longer than two boxes).

    My idea was that I would start off using the hive just like a normal TBH. If everything want well and the hive was strong, in later years I could add supers and try to use the checkerboarding technique.

    I still have a few things that I think I may change, and a few things I have questions about:

    Possible changes:

    1) it has no place to put a board under the bottom screen to close it off or catch mites to count. The easiest fix might be to use plywood for the sides so I can have them longer than 11 1/4 inches.

    2) the enterance could be moved to the upper part of the side or end. That way its higher (I've seen Michael Bush's arguments for top enterances). This might be better too if I add supers (bee's can get to the supers easier)

    3) Haven't really decided on the top. Flat or sloped. Gets more complicated if you add supers too.

    Questions:

    1) top bars if supers are added. What would be the best way to allow access to the supers? I could make the top bars thinners with spacers between them and have a "inner cover" for if I am not using supers. Would the bees attach combs in bad places? Any other ideas?

    2) Is it deep enough? Some people seem to suggest 16" or so deep. Would the 10-10 1/2 here work?

    3) if you super a hive like this, how likely is the queen to more the brood area up and lay in the supers? (can't really just swap boxes here, the TBH is always the bottom)

    4) Overall, does it make sense? Is it too complicated? Any suggestions or additions?

    Sorry again for the long winded post. And thanks everyone for all your websites and dicussion on these boards. Its been a lot of good reading and info.

    Kawayanan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Thornton Colorado
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    2,003

    Post

    and less attachment to the side would be nice.
    In my TBH (same as BeeWrangler's latest design except my entrance is along the top edge) the attach the entire length of the comb to the side opposite the entrance.

    Partly, I just like how they look.
    And there is nothing wrong with that.

    1) it has no place to put a board under the bottom screen to close it off or catch mites to count.
    I think your design needs a bottom or at least a portion of one to take the tortional loads. I put bottoms on mine, drilled a couple 2" holes and screened them with #8 hardware cloth for ventilation. If I need to do a mite count I'll have to do a sugar roll. With a TBH it's easy to get bees, you don't have to take the hive apart.

    use plywood
    I didn't but would consider it. If you don't and you decide to put a bottom on then be aware of the grain along the bottom. Match the sides or you'll have expansion problems.

    Is it too complicated?
    I would nix the 2x4 rail that has 4 cuts.

    Any suggestions or additions?
    I would also nix the entrance. I made grooves along the top edge for my entrance. Today I would just leave an end bar off. If you don't cut an entrance in the hive itself then you have as many possible entrances as you have topbars. You could then use this hive as a sort of nuc bank if you also build followers. So say you want a bank of 5 bar nucs. You put in 5 bars, 1 empty area for entrance, and a follower. Repeat for the number of nucs you want.
    JohnF INTP

  3. #3
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    May 2005
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    Post

    Kawayanan,

    I'm not far from you
    let me know if you want to come checkout the ones I built

    http://www.drobbins.net/bee's/lh/lh.html

    Dave

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Chapel Hill, NC (go Heels)
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    111

    Post

    John F:

    Thanks for the comments. I would like to have a removable bottom board, and may go with plywood so that I can increase the side length to allow it. As for torsional strength, I could add a 2x4 along the bottom corner of the trapezoid. That would be easy and cheap and still leave the bottom open. It might get heavy, but then again, its a TBH and I should't have to move it. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    I would nix the 2x4 rail that has 4 cuts.
    Probably right, I think I went too far trying to keep the top the same measurments as a Langstroth box. I could easily remove all the extra cuts and only lose the top bars fitting into a Langstroth hive. That wasn't a top priority anyway.

    I would also nix the entrance. I made grooves along the top edge for my entrance. Today I would just leave an end bar off.
    This is interesting. If you would just a bar off, do you not have a cover on your TBH? Do you just use the top bars as the roof? It would seem that this would leave a pretty long opening that might be harder for the bees to defend.

    Drobbins:

    I'm not far from you
    let me know if you want to come checkout the ones I built
    I would love to see your hives (and bees too [img]smile.gif[/img] ). You could probably get some free labor out of me too if you didn't mind a curious helper tagging along. I'll send you a private message [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Kawayanan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Thornton Colorado
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    do you not have a cover on your TBH?
    Yeah. And I meant to tell you before that I would use a flat top. When I am working in one hive I use the next door hive as a table.

    But if you are considering supering than you probably will want to use a set of migratory tops.

    It would seem that this would leave a pretty long opening that might be harder for the bees to defend.
    If your top sits on the topbars than the only opening is really at the ends of the topbars; one on each side. You could plug them up all on one side and then the opening is only however wide you leave it on one side.

    Oh, and hey, I haven't done this yet. Michael Bush describes his entrances as a gap at the end sort of like I described and that's where I got the idea.

    I'm a newbie and a tinkerer. My next couple of hives are going to be 8 frame mediums. I really like the long hive idea and I think there is an advantage to using frames and being able to super.

    Dave, I would be interested in your "experiences so far" with the long hives.
    JohnF INTP

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

    >1) top bars if supers are added. What would be the best way to allow access to the supers?

    On mine the access is between the top and the front bar so when I add a super the access is through the super and they just continue to go in the same gap in the front bar.

    > I could make the top bars thinners with spacers between them and have a "inner cover" for if I am not using supers. Would the bees attach combs in bad places?

    Without comb guides? Always. With comb guides? Sometimes.

    >2) Is it deep enough? Some people seem to suggest 16" or so deep. Would the 10-10 1/2 here work?

    10-10 1/2 is deep enough.

    >3) if you super a hive like this, how likely is the queen to more the brood area up and lay in the supers?

    Unlikely, but always possible. If you have solid top bars there's not a lot of access to the super so she's not likely to view it as part of the brood nest.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2005
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    Raleigh, North Carolina
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    Post

    Kawayanan,

    just let me know
    you're welcome any time
    but I might try to turn you into a wolfpack fan [img]smile.gif[/img]
    (local sports stuff folks)

    Dave

    [size="1"][ August 24, 2006, 07:53 PM: Message edited by: drobbins ][/size]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Mebane, NC, USA
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    115

    Post

    I always wondered why TBH's aren't sized to accept a traditional Langstroth deep frame, either with foundation or foundationless. Any reason? With this size TBH body, the beekeeper would still be able to uncap and extract, no issues of comb attached to the sides, etc. Is there a reason why this is not do-able?

  9. #9
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    I always wondered why TBH's aren't sized to accept a traditional Langstroth deep frame, ...
    You need to check out DRobbins' hive. Or Michael Bush's long hive or BeeWranglers combo hive. Actually BeeWrangler's TBH design is sized to allow use of deep frames too.

    These are hive boxes built so that they could be used in either or a combo of the horizontal or vertical world of beekeeping. They all are built to some frame dimension. I think Dave and Michael use medium depth and Dennis uses deep.

    So it has and is being done.

    To me the place where these two different worlds differ the most is at the topbar/top bar. The topbars of a TBH are designed to push together and close off the top of the hive whereas frames for vertical equipment have tops that allow verticle bee movement. If you use regular frames in a TBH sized for frames then you will be giving up the closed top.
    JohnF INTP

  10. #10
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    Mar 2004
    Location
    Mebane, NC, USA
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    Post

    Thanks, JohnF. Would the spaces you have with the standard frames be a problem in a horizontal hive? Is there a reason why the TBH's top bars have to be solid, with no spaces like you have with standard frames? I know there is no reason for the spaces in a TBH, since there is no hive body above, but would the bees care if the spaces were there?

  11. #11
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    May 2005
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    JohnF,

    I started two of em from nuc's this spring
    I really like em, they're so easy to work
    no lifting
    One of the advantages of topbars is you just remove 1 or 2 at a time so the bee's don't get all exposed to light and fresh air and stay calmer
    I'm using frames, but I can achieve the same thing by not removing the top but just sliding it back a ways
    that way only the part of the hive I'm messing with is exposed
    Most folks say I'll get less honey from them but as a hobbiest that not really my top priority
    I've built 4 of em and I think those 4 and 4 langs will be about all the hives I want

    (famous last words) [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Dave

    [size="1"][ August 25, 2006, 03:07 PM: Message edited by: drobbins ][/size]

  12. #12
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    Would the spaces you have with the standard frames be a problem in a horizontal hive? Is there a reason why the TBH's top bars have to be solid, with no spaces like you have with standard frames?
    In some parts of the world where the beeks work mean bees having most of the hive closed up is an advantage.

    For me I don't think it would matter. If I get to poking around a lot and spread out the topbars so that there are gaps between all of the bars, the bees start poking their heads out the gap and a few will lollygag around on the tops. Mine are gentle so it really isn't a concern.

    would the bees care if the spaces were there?
    Lucky us, Dave came along and described how he is doing exactly what you are asking. My real answer is that I don't think the bees will care but I can imagine some cases where the beekeeper might. Reference above mean bees as well as dealing with a gigantic entrance if your top doesn't close off the top. Dave uses migratory tops so his tops close the top. (Did I get all the "top"s right?)

    Dave, (famous last words) ahem, yeah, me too.

    [size="1"][ August 25, 2006, 05:35 PM: Message edited by: John F ][/size]
    JohnF INTP

  13. #13
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    Post

    [img]smile.gif[/img] [img]smile.gif[/img] [img]smile.gif[/img]
    John, we're doomed
    Dave

  14. #14
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    Post

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

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Casper, WY
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    Post

    Hi Kawayanan and Everyone,

    It's been awhile since I've checked out sketchup. And now, it's a great and very intuitive 3D tool. A neat way to share design ideas without all the computer overhead. I've used a high end CADD program and have always wanted to replace the line drawings on my website with 3D sketchs. But it's a real time consumer with CADD. I think sketchup is the perfect tool for the job.

    And it makes a great 3D etchasketch for the kids. :&gt

    >Is it deep enough? Some people seem to suggest 16" or so deep. Would the 10-10 1/2 here work?

    My top bar hives are alot deeper than most. The 10 inches should be more than adequate. Some factors to consider are climate and type of flows. A deeper box gives the bees more vertical options when overwintering. That can be important in a severe climate during late winter/early spring buildup.

    Another factor is the type and duration of the honey flows. A shallower hive works better with less intense and more frequent type flows. With these kinds of flows, the bees need less honey storage(more will be available soon) above the brood and will extend some of the surplus behind the broodnest. With deep combs, the bees will pack the broodnest and put very surplus honey behind for the beekeeper to salvage.

    A deeper hive works better for less frequent/more intense flows. The bees will pack the broodnest first for feed between the flows and winter. Any surplus will be put behind the broodnest for harvest.

    To illustrate these points think about how your bee would behave, in your climate, on four 5' tall combs or on twenty 6" tall combs.

    Regards
    Dennis

    [size="1"][ August 28, 2006, 03:31 PM: Message edited by: B Wrangler ][/size]

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    Totnes, Devon, England
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    Kawayanan - first, thanks for introducing me to Google sketchup. Something else to learn. [img]tongue.gif[/img]

    TBHs are fun. They are easy to build, use and manage. My bees seem to love them and so do I. I'm certainly not going back to frames, foundation, supers, extraction, etc. Supers? If you insist, but why bother? To me, the beauty of the TBH is its simplicity, so why complicate it? I used to have a shed-full of boxes and all kinds of beekeeping cr*p - now I just have TBHs (my last frame hive goes next spring) and no space-hogging junk.

    I like your side-near-the-end entrances, which are also in my #3 design, soon to be in production, except that I just use a 1" hole about halfway up the side. The bees seem happy with this arrangement and have never requested a flat landing stage, which IMO is anthropomorphism - like the Victorian hives with entrances resembling classical porticos. IMO a wide entrance is more difficult for them to defend, thus wasting bee-hours. And I've never seen a feral colony with a landing stage...

    FWIW - one more thing - don't make them too deep - 10-12" is plenty. Too deep makes it difficult to handle the comb without breakages. Make them long instead. And use thick timber - min 3/4". I think thick top bars are good too - keep the heat in. And the roof - corrugated plastic sheet, cut oversize all round, with stones or rocks on top. Simple, cheap, effective. All words I like.

    Good luck and keep us informed.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

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