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Thread: Use TBH or not?

  1. #1
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    Default Use TBH or not?

    Hi, After a lot of research I think I might prefer using Top Bar Hives and am curious as what others would suggest. My reasoning is that they will be easier to harvest and lift since my wife is also interested in taking care of bees. I can also build hives myself and save initial costs. Some posts say stay with what you start with to save expenditures on unused equipment so I want to be sure before purchasing hives. I also saw a swarm trap on Beesource that shows two frames with wires threaded thru them and hinged together to hold comb. Could this same method be used on top bar hives if I made the frames triangular? On Biobees they build TBH with sliding divider boards. What is the thinking behind that? Thanks, John Brewer

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    If you are going to be making tbh frames then honestly just build a Lang. You can build everything in a lang if you have the time or skills. Most prefer to buy in frames because they have to be very precise. My tbh swarms and swarms. Then I always end up feeding in the fall while my first year langs gave me a harvest. Not that always having a huge harvest is important, but I am sick of feeding my tbhs. Also don't drink the kool aide at Biobees. I have been there for a few years and some will tell you that you should never inspect your hives and they will be better for it, but they won't be.

    So I guess do what you'd like. If you want a tbh or two that's fine, especially if it's a lifting issue. They are oodles of fun to inspect compared to langs. Just dont expect them to do as well.

    One suggestion. Would be to make your top bars the same length as a Lang frame. You could also make it a Lang long hive so that it fits Lang frames.

    Also follower boards are handy but not absolutely necessary.
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I'm new too, and plan on starting with TBH, have 2 built already for bees next spring. For a TBH Swarm trap, I plan to get old comb and attach it to bars with a hair clip. If you are interested in that method, I have seen links to youtube on how to do it somewhere here.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Thanks for the valuable info. Yes I can build the Lang, just looking for opinions of experienced people. Do you think I could make frame bodies from 1 inch square aluminum tube with 1/2 thick pvc board. I own a business that fabricates marine and awning accessories and have plenty of the stuff. Also qualified welders to stick it together. Thats just a thought.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    The frames you saw hinged together I think are for doing cut outs. You cut the comb out and sandwich it in the frame.

    I would not go TBH just because you think it is easier to build. Lang hives are not hard to build. You can go with all 8frame medium hive boxes and they are pretty easy to handle. Being able to reuse your built out frames are a big advantage of the lang hive. Not trying to discourage you from TBH just somethings to think about.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I used frames like that when I switched to Langs. Cut 90% of the brood comb from the TBH and tied it into frames for the Langstroth. I thought I'd taken enough to phase out TBH, but they made another queen and are back, big as ever.
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    19 inch top bars so u can swAp them and langustroth is more easy to move from place to place

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I have one Kenyan TBH and two Langs, all started this spring. I plan to move out of the TBH, just very slow build up compared to the Langs. But it has California Italins vs Texas Buckfast bees. So here is my two cents, I would build/buy a Tanzanian rather than the Kenyan style. Also I would size it to take Langstroth frames. That would give real flexibility to you. Just fit a flat top inner cover if you want a gabled top. I plan to switch soon and will be a chore but only needed one time.
    I also will buy local bees next time from a treatment free supplier.
    http://beenaturalguy.com/plans/tanzanian-tbh/
    2 cents.....
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Some people love their top bar hives. I absolutely hate the top bar hives. 2 years I have spent on them and have yet to harvest honey. Queen problems, lack of honey production, lack of production, (the bees DO NOT want to more horizontally), damaged comb, and collapsed comb (my fault). I quit. I combined them into one hive and if they make it through winter they are getting moved to a lang. A couple in the bee association that I am president of just recently moved theirs to langstroths as well. I am not a hobbiest so I look at things differently then those keeping a few hives in their backyard for enjoyment. But I still would not recommend them to anyone.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    QUOTE=bmat555;861943] On Biobees they build TBH with sliding divider boards. What is the thinking behind that? Thanks, John Brewer[/QUOTE]

    Being an avid TBH'er I would recommend for a newbie to start with a Langstroth with foundation first just to be able to learn about the bees and their ways. It is best to have at least some experience with bees as working with natural comb could easily be more than a newbie can deal with if things go awry or have a TBH mentor.

    A follower board can be an important tool for many reasons. One being to restrict the area of the winter nest which in turn if applied at the appropriate time will promote the back filling of the nest consolidating their winter stores rather that letting the bees spread it throughout the entire hive.

    There are at least three TBH books now out that could be helpful, Wyatt Mangum, Christy Hemingway and Les Crowder. I've only read Wyatt's book and would recommend reading it.

    http://www.tbhsbywam.com/[

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Both types of hive have their advantages, but I'm sticking with langs. We have access to an extractor, which means we have drawn comb in supers for honey production, and that increases what you get quite a bit.

    You can easily move frames from hive to hive since they have four sides and the comb is very unlikely to fall out. TBH combx are unsupported except at the top, and can break much more easily than langs.

    Most of my buddies who have tried TBHs have quit using them. Nice for a hobby, a pain when you need to do something like move eggs into a hive because they lost their queen, they are harder to feed, and the only real way to get honey is to crush an strain, wasting the comb.

    By all means, try one if you like. I suspect you will eventually switch to Langstroth hives of some sort or other. After all, top bar hives, while hardly new (the Greeks had them three thousand years ago), are currently in vogue as very inexpensive third world hives, where materials are hard to get and industry is thinly spread or non-existent. You can make a top bar hive with sticks and mud in a place where there is no flat lumber, but I'd hardly call that superior to a properly built Langstroth hive.

    Peter

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I agree with Delta. I am a first year TBH keeper and that learning curve was STEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had crossed comb, lost comb, lost brood and stores. It was very difficult. I am pretty savvy and pretty hardy about hobbies and this one taxed the fun aspects of a hobby. I am considering moving my girls to langs in the spring. We'll see if they make the winter. Time will tell.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Hives are highly individual, and some of them have a grand time making convoluted comb while other keep it strictly aligned and in the frames.

    I have a buddy who started a large swarm in a lang box without enough frames in it as a foundationless hive, and they built the comb at a 45 degree angle to the sides. He scraped it all out and put in foundationless frames, and they built comb across the frames at a 45 degree angle to the box.

    He had to put some foundation in to get them to build in the frames.

    My bees have never done anything weird with empty frames other than not always filling them and building cross comb at the bottom.

    A hive that wants strange comb in a TBH will make a super duper mess, for sure!

    Peter

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by bmat555 View Post
    Hi, After a lot of research I think I might prefer using Top Bar Hives and am curious as what others would suggest.
    Prof. Roger Morse writes very open about Top Bar Hives in his book. I agree with him. Sincerely.
    (“The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping”)

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I've tried all kinds of hives, If you like the none lifting type, I preferred the lang long, I think it was about 4 ft long, holds regular frames, I went with starter stips. It is very handy for grafting , the frames interchange with lang hives and you have no supers to lift. The down side, is when trying to remove some honey, the honey is very often above the brood. So you would have to cut off the brood to get any honey.. The kenya hive was fun, had a window in it, but the frames don't fit anything else. I would suggest start with a lang hive, get time in and expand. If you need to start flat, go with a lang long 33 frame and you have the option to move frames..

    Either choice, its fun..
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I use long langs and a few 8 frame standard langs. The long langs are a little easier to work in some ways, but harder in others. The long langs can be a little hard to get the frames out of unless you scoot a group of them at a time to make room. Not a huge problem, but definitely different than a normal lang. The bees don't normally get as riled up either, especially if you throw an old piece of burlap over the section you aren't working (as a manipulation cloth).

    My long langs are GREAT for comb honey! They seem to carry a higher number of bees, and it is not hard to get the last third of the box full of honey you can harvest - at least in my parts. I have a heck of a time getting my bees to move up into supers normally, but my wildish/feral bees seem to love the long hives. I am guessing it is because they are like a soffet or empty water meter box?

    I used to make mine 40 frames, but now make them about 21-32 - about 3 eight frame deeps so I can super them too (usually with a nuc box or two.) They never seemed to totally fill a 40 frame box. And yes, they can develop a stupefying number of bees in them. Just have to remember to keep feeding empty frames to them between drawn frames and they will fill the box right up. Takes a little bit more work than a standard box, but not too bad.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    I agree with DeltaBay that for a beginner, a Lang would be better. Perhaps the biggest reason is that you'll find it much easier to get help/mentoring with Langs since their use is much more widespread. Plus, most beekeeping books are geared toward Langs.

    That said, I do know some beginners who have started with TBH's and have done okay. There's a new book, Top Bar Hive Beekeeping by Wyatt Magnum that I'd recommend.

    Lastly, not far from you, the Bedford Beekeepers are having a workshop on building Top Bar Hives on Saturday, Nov 17th. More info here:
    http://www.bedfordbeekeepers.com/Home_Page.html

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Use TBH or not?

    Ok, here's my $.02.

    I started with BOTH the TBH and Langs.
    I noticed that I inspect the TBH less due to the top bars being framless. It is somewhat time consuming to remove all the bridge comb. But that was the only downside to the TBH that I found.
    If I had to do it all over again, I would build the hybrid everyone speaks of, the "long lang" that standard frames from a lang could be used. Especially with lifting issues as you stated.
    The follower boards are completely necessary. Again, necessary in a TBH IMO. If an area is too large from the get go, bee's will have a tendacy to fly the coop.
    The follower board creates a certain sized space to make the bees think they can successfuly thrive in the TBH. As the hive pop increases, the follower board is moved and frames added.
    Same thing with the Lang hive. They start in one deep and supers are added when the pop. calls for it. You NEVER see or hear of a package of bees added to a Lang than immediately ALL the supers (5 -6) and frames (50 - 60) added.

    BTW, I added ONE large swarm to my TBH and they are all still there 7 months later with the same queen. 27 out of 29 bars filled with brood, stores and honey. I did build a queen excluder in a follower board for for completely store free and brood free honey. I did harvest 20# and left 40# the first season. The TBH IS my strongest hive to date.

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