Blended style hives. Top bar possibilities.
After a recent discussion on this forum about hybrid designs using 19" long top bars that would fit into a Langstroth (L) hive, I just had to jump in here.
Although this is mostly a different thread with a different topic, I had to mention one item that fits both there, and here.
Deep hive bodys are NOT advised with top bars as several have stated in the other discussion, and I STRONGLY agree with them with clear experience to back it up. Fresh new first year comb DOES fall off badly if you get a four item combo...
* hot day
* first year comb
* a deep hive body
* use of top bars
... all in one 'event'. Do NOT try that unless you like cleaning up a lot of messes and killing a lot of brood. To put it pointedly, it is just plain way too much stress on that amount of load bearing comb. You're asking warm, fresh, soft wax to hold up several pounds of honey, brood, and bees. If it is a catastrophic failure (total collapse), you can lose way too much brood. Its just not worth it.
I've gone to mostly shallow hive body use just to eliminate that issue and so far it has done so pretty much 100%. No comment on medium hive bodys, I just have not wanted to experiment with them. Besides, I'm 50+ so its better to plan for being an old guy and go 'all shallow' right now.
Now, onward to the meat of the real topic here.
Last year I started with 4 K (K) top bar hives. Bars were sized at 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 20 1/2". The hive was meant to handle a L hive body stacked on top of the K 'starter'. I did indeed do that, and enjoyed the explorative versatility.
I moved the original bars over onto a L hive body, put 3/4" x 1" x 19" bars on the now lower emptied K layer, and finally stacked the L atop the K. The lower bars are not used tight packed like most people do K hives. My configurations mostly don't require an inner cover like L unless regular 'insertable' (19") top bars were used on the top layer.
I guess this hybrid is sort of inclusive of the Warre design idea too. They are pretty much stackable. I can stack top bar stocked hive bodys on top of L hives with frames, and have a K 'closed top bars' on top of it all if I want to.
Using insertable top bars similar to how frames can be inserted allows various variations to be stacked easily in a 'mix and match' style. It allows the bees to move up or down as they seem to prefer. Obviously the K can't be stacked without some "Not so good" fiddling though... so that design is mostly going away now. I struggle with if that design still has too much merit to abandon it completely though.
I found a manufacturer who may be interested in making top bars in a 'stock' size to my specifications. that would be as mentioned before at 3/4" x 1" x 19" as mentioned before.
The manufactured bars would fit right down into a L hive body exactly as frames do. Currently (temporarily) there is no comb guide, no spacing guide, and no precision on having comb always exactly placed. That might be remedied by either inserting comb guide, OR by putting frames in every other location to help them build straight, and then moving the done frames with comb down to the next layer as they start it to repeat the process. That does indeed help make straighter comb.
One way to do this project is that the manufacturer would use existing off fall of 7 ply plywood to make the bars. Would like any feedback on that idea. Do you think plywood would hold up decent? Would anyone else be interested in getting a supply of them made so they could do a run of 1000 at a time and split up the costs.
It may even be possible in the machining to have them put a spacer built in directly onto the pieces... at a currently unknown cost. thus their profile looking down from the top would effectively fit almost perfectly with frames and need no special spacing or anything different. They would be just plain 'drop in' bars in a L, or as the entire hive done in Warre style or Tanzanian stackable.
As an alternate, if an order were confirmed they might be able to do them in regular 3/4" stock so the bar size would end up being the same size in pine. That would clearly be more expensive as the plywood is already an off fall of a current project.
So, talk to me guys n gals. What do you think?
Should I throw a poll on this to get an idea how you all think on it?
Poll questions might be:
1: Would you be interested in using or getting insertable 19" top bars?
2: Would it make a difference if made of plywood or of regular pine stock?
3: Would you be interested in getting machined top bars at 1 1/2" x 3/4" x 19"?
4: What kind of volume would you be interested in?
Obviously I'm thinking in terms of if a special run might be made for us as a group?
Re: Blended style hives. Top bar possibilities.
After a few years of trying different size Top Bar Hives I settled for "insertable 19" top bars". I allows me to sell nucs in the spring and introduce nucs in my yards. I have made some bars as you describe, with a thinned out midsection to allow vertical bee traffic, but stopped sing them. For me it's simpler not to super right now. If you want, I can send you a couple of samples.
I wouldn't use plywood. Might work but I don't trust it. I use mostly pine because it's easy to work with, warps less, and easily accessible to me but I have used cedar and hardwood as well. When I sell them it's $2/ piece (any length.) If I did 1000 of them it'd probably be half that. Still not as cheap as unassembled frames.
As best as I understand, this is the shape bar you are talking about:
top view, 19" long, 1 1/2" wide at the ends
end of bar view (on it's side)