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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Zeeland, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    20

    Default Wintering in TBH's

    How good do they winter in TBH's? I made a tbh and put a small swarm in it 2 weeks ago. Looking good so far.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Not well in the North.

    We have a local top bar hive retailer here in Maine.
    Apparently she brought 17 TBH into winter and none of them survived.

    I tried to winter one and they also didn't make it.

    From what I hear, of the 40 or so TBH I know about in Maine, 4 survived the winter of 2009-2010 (which was a very mild winter)

    TBH are fun until your bees die. Then you feel a bit like a jerk.
    I am trying again with two this year. So far they're gangbusters but winter will be the real test.
    Erin Forbes, EAS Master Beekeeper
    overlandhoney.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Accord, NY
    Posts
    333

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    "Apparently she brought 17 TBH into winter and none of them survived." Wow!!!
    "From what I hear, of the 40 or so TBH I know about in Maine, 4 survived the winter of 2009-2010" Wow! WOW!!!


    Are the losses connected with the hive design or is this a coincidence?
    We do have cold winters and mine over-winter fine.
    There are a few things you can do to prep them:
    Watch the cluster going in the winter. You can rearrange the honey stores so they are all on the same side of the cluster.
    Top entrances for moisture ventilation.
    Make the hives a little taller so they can move vertically and not have to move across comb, along the cold walls, in long cold spells. (I believed this for many years and build my hives accordingly until last winter when the bees showed me they don't care. I lost some taller KTBHs but of the two 9 5/8" tall, straight walled hives, both survived.)
    I'm sure there are other suggestions. Check out MB's Website he keeps them in Nebraska. Dennis Murrell was keeping them in Wyoming, I believe. Plenty winter in those places!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Why folks in cold climates keep trying to use TBH's is beyond me....clusters don't move sideways from frame to frame very well.

    Bees like to go up and down......

    In a TBH they get stuck in the cold, unable to move to the next bar and starve.
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
    Posts
    3,594

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    I have a friend (in Connecticut) who tried to keep bees alive in tbh's but finally decided to go with Lang's...
    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Location
    DuPage County, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,442

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Quote Originally Posted by JPK View Post
    Bees like to go up and down......

    In a TBH they get stuck in the cold, unable to move to the next bar and starve.
    This is easily solved if the TBH uses the same size bars as a Lang. In the fall, simply take 10 bars out of the TBH and place them in a Lang hive body and set it on top of the TBH. Put a follower board in the TBH. Next spring, reverse this. I did this with my 20 frame condo hive. Works like a champ.
    Regards, Barry

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,142

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    >Why folks in cold climates keep trying to use TBH's is beyond me....clusters don't move sideways from frame to frame very well.

    I don't try. I do. And the bees do just as well horizontally as they do living vertically.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    nelsonville, ohio
    Posts
    383

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Quote Originally Posted by JPK View Post
    .clusters don't move sideways from frame to frame very well.

    Bees like to go up and down.......
    i wish you would have been here last winter to tell my bees this.. i lost a hive with 70lb of excess honey above them. thay moved to the side of the middle brood box and starved. had them inspected and the result was thay just didnt move up..
    some people read to many books,, my bees cant read

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Bucksport, Maine
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    You know bees live just fine winter after winter in spaces between floors in old buildings. These combs are not more than 8 inches deep and lined up all nicely in a row, horizontally. How they do it, I don't know: I never spent the winter with them, but they do it. They can live in old gas tanks and none of the horrors that we worry about seem to matter to them one bit. I agree with Michael, and my bees built their hive the way they wanted it. If they can't find their food then they will starve. Ok, because if they can't find their own food how do I expect them to go outside the hive in the spring and find it. Just for the record, In this area bees didn't make it through last winter in Langs either. If the box is big enough and has enough stores for winter the bees should be fine. On the other hand if their first big warm winter day meal has high levels of systemic chemicals perhaps their tummy aches prevented them from returning to eat any more. I'll die before I eat any more of that; and so they do. Must have been the type of hive, don't you thing Joe. No Tom must be the cold weather. We I think they got lost and couldn't find the honey. By the way....for real; my at least 4 year old bee tree died last fall. Must have been the wrong size tree.
    Last edited by DavesBees; 06-25-2010 at 09:05 PM. Reason: I'm old, can't spell, got crs, and fat but fast fingers!
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Bucksport, Maine
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    11x,
    You should not be wasting your time on the forum. You must use this time to teach the bees to read. It won't take all that long since they really only need to be able to read and follow arrows with food written on them. You know what take the longest.....painting those tiny flippin signs and fitting them in the hive in the proper places. This is a huge responsibility because once you teach them to read it's all on you buddy. One wrong turn and well you know the rest.......
    Dave - PM me if you are interested in natural beekeeping in Hancock County Maine.
    http://www.davesbees.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    If it works for you then great, have at it.

    You really don't need to look far for evidence that bees prefer to move up and down than side to side.....take a nuc, hive it and intentionally give it an extra box on top of your cluster.....which way are they going to go? Over to the next frame or up onto frames above them.....they will predictably go up.

    Everyone I know that has TBH's in New England has extremely high mortality rates, much much higher than Langs and it makes sense why. Bees go in one direction in your TBH and end up at one end with no stores.....except for the stores at the opposite end of the hive many many bars away. When its cold a cluster can rarely move quickly enough accross multiple empty combs before starving.

    Barry's idea is essentially stacking bars like a lang which reduces the problem dramatically.

    If it works for you then keep doing it.
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,142

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Yes, they need to be at one end at the begining so they don't leave half their stores behind them. Left to themselves they usually are, but if they are not, I intervene. It seems to me that what they have troulbe doing is changing direction. If they are moving sideways that's not a problem. But they don't back up and they don't change back to up or down after coming from that way. Which makes some sense, but also, in a ten frame Langstroth, leaves a lot of stores behind...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Ok, given the higher mortality rate and the fact that like most bees they choose to make their brood nest in the middle and if they also are likely to starve without human intervention that forces them to one end of the box at the beginning of the colder weather (ie it requires even MORE management than langs), requires that you crush and strain instead of extracting....why would anyone that lives in cold climates choose to use TBH's?

    If you want your bees to draw their own comb then give them frames that are designed to foundationless or take your wedge and nail it sideways and rub it with some bees wax.

    I'm all for trying new things, particularly things that make life easier and increase chances of a colonies survival....but TBH's in cold climates don't accomplish any of the above......unless I'm missing something that is.
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,142

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    >Ok, given the higher mortality rate and the fact that like most bees they choose to make their brood nest in the middle

    Actually they usually choose to make it at one end...

    > and if they also are likely to starve without human intervention that forces them to one end of the box at the beginning of the colder weather (ie it requires even MORE management than langs), requires that you crush and strain instead of extracting....why would anyone that lives in cold climates choose to use TBH's?

    Well, I wouldn't recommend an extractor for anyone with only a few hives... langs or top bars. They don't requre any more intervention than langs. And what does cold climate have to do with any of those things?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post

    Actually they usually choose to make it at one end...
    Mike, a couple posts before you stated that you intervene if they are not at one end of the hive.

    Moving a cluster/brood space is a lot more intervention/management than is required in managing langs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    And what does cold climate have to do with any of those things?
    A colony in Florida in the winter where temps are in the 40-60 degree range most of the time can move to where their stores are without much trouble......you don't find colonies in warmer climates starving inches or a frame away from stores.....they just move.

    In the north where temps will sit below freezing and dip well below zero for good periods of time have a MUCH harder time moving and if a cluster gets too small and cannot move....they starve where the same cluster in warmer climes can move and will survive.

    The point obviously is that theres a lot more room for error in warmer climates.....and TBH's make it more difficult for bees to get to stores.....lets say all things equal you winter with 2 deeps in a Lang and ~20 bars in a TBH. The distance between the two furthest frames in a lang is about half that of a TBH
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Accord, NY
    Posts
    333

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    "Ok, given the higher mortality rate..."
    Not a given. Other than the dismal survival rates I've seen at the beginning of this post, that is not my experience. If someone brought southern bee packages and did nothing but put them in top bar hives I'd expect as much as 50-60% die-off the first winter in my area. Someone starting with 17 TBHs and losing all of them... there's got to be something else wrong than the hive design. (Could be that coastal Maine is actually warmer and a lot more humid than inland US??? Then hives of any design would have different ventilation/ stores requirements.)
    Here's a colony I removed from 6" depth space between 2X10" floor beams. They overwintered fine. Probably for a few years in a row as I saw signs of the previous owners having tried to seal them out.


    "... and the fact that like most bees they choose to make their brood nest in the middle..."
    This is something I'll have to pay more attention too. In my hives the queen pretty much shuts down while the bees still bring in stores, backfilling what used to bee brood nest. Cold nights, warm days. So I can't see much of a brood nest. I watch where they cluster and it's not (usually) in the middle. I only once moved a bar (to the far end of the cluster) mainly because it was loaded with pollen and I wanted the bees to have access to it in the early spring.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Slovenia
    Posts
    325

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    I have average temperatures as Michigan and have no problems with overwintering TBHs ( Bush design ).

    If you think about it...people overwinter in 2 deeps, some even in 1 ! ! ... so go and make TBH that is suitable for your climate. That's all.

    Anyway... if you have the comb height high enough bees will move up even in TBH
    I leave them to arrange their nest on their own for overwintering and they stay on one side taking food from the patch of honey on top of the comb They kind of move up. If we look at the hive, they pretty much stay at one place and don't move much. 100% overwintering in climate with average temps as Michigan. 4 seasons with quite hard winters with weeks under -15 Celzius....
    Last edited by beenovice; 06-26-2010 at 03:31 PM.
    Sig

  18. #18

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    The only given here, is that some folks don't like tbh's, which is fine. You don't have to. But with plenty of anecdotal evidence offered by folks like Mike Bush who aren't just talking about a guy they know, but their own first hand experience, I'll be more inclined to take their word for knowing what they are talking about than someone who knows a guy who knows a guy.

    What is happening here however is spreading Fear, Doubt and Uncertainty about something that doesn't need to be. It doesn't affect non-users for beans what type of hives other people use, yet folks continually try to bully others with mis-information and biased opinion an what equipment they should use.

    Folks are certainly entitled to have their own opinions about equipment, but I'll prefer to listen to the opinions of people who actually know what they are talking about.

    Big Bear
    No, I am NOT a bee "Keeper". Anything I post is just my opinion. Take it easy and think for yourself.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord NH
    Posts
    2,665

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    Aram, what you're describing in the example of your cutout doesn't really translate to TBH for a couple of reasons.

    1. A cutout, particularly one in the photo you provided is going to have temps moderated for them due to heat from the house.

    2. The cutout in the photo would actually *ALMOST* be more similar to a TBH with the bars perpendicular to the direction they run in current designs.

    This makes it MUCH easier on the bees because they can move back and forth on very long comb instead of having to move across many short/smaller "frames"

    There have been more folks that just chimed in on the last couple of posts that HAVE had successes than I've heard in the last couple of year.

    Maybe a poll of TBH users with success rates would help.

    I frankly don't care what people use and if I thought that there were advantages to TBH's I would use them myseld, but I just don't see it and the majority of folks I know that that DO have TBHs have much much higher mortality rates.
    Milk Cows Not Taxpayers

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Slovenia
    Posts
    325

    Default Re: Wintering in TBH's

    JPK : we can agree that we don't agree

    It is not TBH that is at fault here. Certainly there might be some problems due to lack of information on actually beekeeping with TBHs if we compare it to information on Langs.

    The thing is that you have to do some research yourself and see what works for your (micro)climate. If bees in your winters overwinter in one deep + one medium then they will probably overwinter in TBHs ( Bush design ) also. It is really no brainer......at least for me.
    I am 100% successful in overwntering in TBHs in climate with average temperatures as in Michigan, USA.

    What is bugging me is that people who overwinter in one deep or deep+shallow or medium are telling me that my TBHs will overwinter poorly because bees will not move up. They kind of not realize that bees in my TBHs have more way up(or similar) than bees in their hives
    I guess they don't think before they talk or write hehe. They just think that because they use Langs and stack them upwards that they have comb with more height ah well. I will leave you now to continue telling me how it is not possible or something. This thread reminds me of "you cannot keep bees without treatments" thingie...

    I keep bees for fun and a little profit here and there. Just so we are clear on that. If I would go big ( 200+ hives ) I would settle on LR or some other "standards" that are standards around here.
    Currently I keep bees in frame hives also ( LR and some other standards ) and see no real world difference in overwintering and overall colonies strenght. This is probably because I leave them alone, don't add or take frames, bars and take very little honey from them since I don't feed ( to lazy to feed them in August and September so they can overwinter doh ). Let them bee
    Sig

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