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  1. #1
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default What's your method of examining a TBH?

    I find the examination of a tbh presents different challenges than a langstroth. For one, it requires that you start at one end, and work through the hive, shifting bars to make space to remove others that follow.

    It can be a real challenge to get bees to go down and move bars together tightly without squishing bees. Add a really hot day, and it can try one's patience.

    What is your set-up and what is your approach? Do you use smoke? Do you have a follower board, or more than one? What do you use for tools, and what is your preferred method of moving bars and getting things back together?

    Thanks,

    Adam

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Accord, NY
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    333

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    I don't get too carried away with the examination. I don't let them build comb end to end, always have at least two or three bars that I can remove. Then I can see the face of the first comb and reach in if I need to cut any attachments. I slide the bars in the empty space created by the removed bars and examine bars one at the time, and place them next to the bar s I already examined. Keep the order of the bars and the orientation and the bees seem very happy to be reunited. Harvest or insert bars to expand as I see fit but otherwise try to minimize disturbance. I rarely go through the whole hive unless I have a reason to. If I inspect the first two bars of brood and see that everything looks good I go no further. I can usually tell how many bars of brood they have. You can peek through the other end if you want to be sure.)
    I do use smoke most of the time. I admire the guys who don't. I think they are onto something (i.e maintaining the hive scents and environment as undisturbed as possible.) Maybe it's my handling them, not as smooth as I should, but I see them less disturbed by the smoke than by me opening the hive. I know smoke does not "calm" bees, they just seem less frantic when I use some smoke.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Portland, OR, USA
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    641

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Right now I manage around 10 horizontal top bar hives and 12 Warre hives, so my methods may be a little different than someone with only a hive or two.

    All of my top bar hives at this point have side entrances. Usually 2 toward one end, 2 centered and 2 toward the other end. I start colonies at one end and let them expand in one direction. I keep a follower board on each side, however, so I can easily access both sides of the colony.

    I generally go out to my HTBHs every couple weeks and at minimum check for comb production and, as needed, expand the cavity (2 follower board hives). Monthly I go through most combs in the colonies, check for cross comb, and fix or remove problem combs. As you've probably seen, most cross comb begins once they start expanding combs for honey storage. Therefore, most issues are at the far end of the hive where the freshest combs are.

    I don't use smoke in any of my HTBHs.

    I start by looking through the window and checking for the location of the last comb. Next I move the follower board over as far as possible to give me ample space to shift combs out of the way after inspecting. If needed I'll remove all the spare bars from the hive and replace them once I'm closing it back up. As I move through combs and shift them out of the way, I make sure that I keep them flush with the other bars I've already inspected. This way, when putting the bars back, I can move 2-3 at a time and minimize the time it takes getting bees out of the way.

    Honey combs will usually have attachment up at least one side of the comb. I quickly check both sides prior to moving it. If there's attachment I slide a hive tool down each side to remove the attachment, then I cut through the propolis holding gluing it to the next bar and shift it over.

    Using this process I can generally get through 10-15 combs in 8-10 minutes, as long as there's little cross comb. This usually allows me to check honey stores, eggs and disease and get the hive back together.

    The most difficult part of top bar hives is learning to work with the top bars themselves. Once one is comfortable removing and manipulating the bars -- especially the fragile, fresh honey combs, the process can go very quickly. Having worked in Langstroth hives, Warre hives and HTBHs, I can genuinely say that I MUCH prefer to work in horizontal top bar hives. I find myself killing fewer bees than the other two options, and I don't have to lift any heavy boxes.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post

    It can be a real challenge to get bees to go down and move bars together tightly without squishing bees. Add a really hot day, and it can try one's patience.


    Adam
    Not a TBH guy myself but something I've thought of for those who are, would it be possible to make the top bars, with a smallish wider part at each end, and the middle bit slightly thinner, so the top bars could be put hard together with the end bits touching, to get the correct space between combs, but the middle of the bars would have a gap between so bees would not get squished.

    If a "bee space" was used, the bees will not build between the bars it will stay clear, the same principle as used in langstroth frames so the bees won't glue the whole hive together.

    Good idea for a non TBH guy?, or a crap idea?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
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    1,020

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    I find the examination of a tbh presents different challenges than a langstroth. For one, it requires that you start at one end, and work through the hive, shifting bars to make space to remove others that follow.
    That's exactly why I invented the two-follower system - see http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/ho...r-hive/6288193
    Much easier and less disruptive if you can look quickly and easily at both ends of the nest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    It can be a real challenge to get bees to go down and move bars together tightly without squishing bees. Add a really hot day, and it can try one's patience.
    I use a water mist spray, which encourages them to get their heads down. A little extra 'encouragement' from a goose feather is sometimes necessary.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    What is your set-up and what is your approach? Do you use smoke? Do you have a follower board, or more than one? What do you use for tools, and what is your preferred method of moving bars and getting things back together?
    No smoke; two followers; standard hive tool + bread knife for occasional attachments; move bars slowly and carefully without jerking; see above.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Findlay, Ohio
    Posts
    524

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Ok, this is part one of a 16 minute + video of one of my inspections. This is not perfect by any means and I did not go through the entire hive.

    Just in case anyone is interested... do not make your roof like mine. At over 4ft long, it is heavy and not easy to handle. One of these days I will make a much lighter roof.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6Eq625Gfd0

    Part 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8aY4D2GWf4

    Yes, it is windy.
    Last edited by FindlayBee; 08-05-2010 at 08:31 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Good video!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Findlay, Ohio
    Posts
    524

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    If you notice in the first video you see some comb fall off the first exposed bar. I had a comb of uncapped honey fall about a month prior to this inspection. I moved it to the open end of the hive for the bees to clean out. I wasn't able to get back in a week like I had planned on doing. After a month, the bees started to build the broken comb up and attached it to the follower and the first bar. I was not upset when the comb in the video fell, I was going to cut it off anyway. It is still in the hive, but on the outside of the follower. I have found that the bees will clean this up and move the honey back into the hive. There is enough gap between my follower and the hive to allow the bees to move back and forth. I have yet to have any bees build outside the follower in any of my hives.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Modesto, CA USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post

    it can be a real challenge to get bees to go down and move bars together tightly without squishing bees.

    What is your set-up and what is your approach? Do you use smoke? Do you have a follower board, or more than one? What do you use for tools, and what is your preferred method of moving bars and getting things back together?

    Thanks,

    Adam
    Tools
    1. Smoker - rarely used, only when they get mad, sometimes at the end but usually not at all.
    2. Brush - rarely used
    3. Piece of wood - It is longer than the top bars by a couple of inches, and is only 1/16 of an inch thick it is my most important tool for getting the bars back together. all you need to do is move a bar close but not crushing bees, gently lay the piece of wood on top of the bees, they move down out of the way, and you close the space. Once the space is closed, remove the thin board, and close the last of the space. no crushed bees!
    4. Long knife - mine is a modified roast carving knife about 13 inches long, very thin, with the first inch ground as thins as a razor blade. this is for removing attachments, and cutting wax if needed.

    I do not use follower boards, once I move a frame, I set it back about three frames distance, remove the next and keep the frames together as I go. when I have gone as far as I feel I need to, I slide all of the removed frames back together at one time, SLIDE, you can only do this if you cleanup the attachments as you go along, or when you slide the bars, they will catch and crush-role bees. As the space gets less, bees generally bunch up at which point I use the piece of wood mentioned above.

    Works for me, hope it helps.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Quote Originally Posted by IBRed View Post
    Tools
    ...Piece of wood - It is longer than the top bars by a couple of inches, and is only 1/16 of an inch thick it is my most important tool for getting the bars back together. all you need to do is move a bar close but not crushing bees, gently lay the piece of wood on top of the bees, they move down out of the way, and you close the space. Once the space is closed, remove the thin board, and close the last of the space. no crushed bees!...
    This is very interesting, so I'd like to get more detail. So you move the bar close - like how close?

    And once you lay the wood on top of the space full of bees, how do you know they've moved down and out of the way? Do you peek before you close the space?

    "Once the space is closed, remove the thin board and close the last of the space"

    - not sure what you mean here. You've closed the space with the board on, then you remove and close the last? You mean you only close it most of the way with the board on top, then kind of tighten it after?

    Thanks,

    Adam

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Modesto, CA USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    The piece of wood is the same dimensions as the top bars themselves. My bars are mad of 3/4 in wood so I made a very thin strip out of the same material. My thin strip is 17 x 3/4 x 1/16 in. the reason it is longer than the bars is it makes it easier to pull out.

    When you are working your hive, and you move bars together you have bees in that space. with a lot of bees the space may be 1/4 of an inch wide, and full of bees. With fewer bees you can get the space down to a bees width, and the bees are still able to go up and down through the space. At that point, I use my strip of wood. I put it in as if I were going to space the bars 1/16 of an inch. when I do this the bees run down as they go down the strip of wood fills the space the bees once occupied. At that point I push it all together. The strip is still in place and pushed tight. Remove the stripe of wood, now you have a space 1/16in wide, no bee can get in, now push together and your done.

    Regards, Riley N.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    Nice. I'll try it.

    Anyone else? I think it's really important to tbh users,, who have less available mentoring, books and other information, to share their knowledge.

    Thanks,

    Adam

  13. #13
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    Nov 2009
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    IBRed:

    Riley, that is a GREAT tool. Using something thin to push down the bees as you squeeze the top bars together after inspection is a brilliant idea.

    I decided to try the same concept using a metal framing square (which is a big L-shaped ruler used in building construction - a common item in garages and workshops), which is about 1/8" thick. The long end spans right across my 18" wide tbh. It's heavier, and sits right there until I squeeze in the bars against it and the L shape means the shorter end hangs down on my side of the hive, allowing an easy grab and remove - even with gloves on.

    This made more overall time much shorter without rushing, and made the experience much more enjoyable. I didn't crush a single bee (that I know of) and used far less smoke, as the bees were easy to get to go down as I closed up the bars.

    I'd like to make a post about it on its own, just to highlight this useful tool. Did you learn it from someone, or did you come up with this?

    Adam

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Modesto, CA USA
    Posts
    44

    Default Re: What's your method of examining a TBH?

    I am glad to hear it worked. I can go through my hives fairly quickly with the shims help. I just happened across the idea because my top bars are 2 different sizes and when they start to make fat comb I put shims in to keep things straight, and I use them to fill any gaps at the back of the hive. Just me being me, I made sizes from 1/4 down to 1/16 and as I was spacing a bar, the bees just ran away, so I've been doing it ever since with the longer shim for easy removal. One thing you will find in your next inspection though, is you will have pinched a few heads, the 1/8 of an inch space is enough for a bee to stick her head in and get pinched, you will not feel it like an entire bee, but it will happen. Sometimes, I pinch a head with only the 1/16 spacer, not sure how, and not very often.

    As you are well aware, help is hard to find, if you would like to make a post about the idea, feel free, we all need as much help as we can get.

    Riley N.

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