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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Commerce, Georgia USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Starting TBH got a few questions

    First, how does the top bar hive differ from other hives in terms of pest problems and pest control? How exactly do you apply whatever pest control is necessary in a top bar hive?

    Second, I have seen a lot of conflicting opinions on entrances, bottoms, and ventilation. Thoughts on these three things would be greatly appreciated. I haven't actually built my hive yet, it is still in the planning stages so I want to get everything straight now so I can build it optimally the first time, rather than having to fix it later.

    Third, most of the plans that I have seen, including the one that I have chosen, are approximately 44 inches in length. Aside from the awkwardness of it, is there any reason that I couldn't build one larger? 8 - 10 - 12 feet long?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    192

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Blair View Post
    First, how does the top bar hive differ from other hives in terms of pest problems and pest control?
    Top bar hives are not significantly different. Some say that the top bar hive is less stressful to the bees, making them healthier and stronger. That is not necessarily true. Stress does make the bees weaker, but there is nothing inherent in other types of hives that causes stress. Pest control is much the same in Top Bar hives as in any other hive type. You have to respond appropriately to each type of pest. Most treatments don't care what type of hive it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Blair View Post
    Second, I have seen a lot of conflicting opinions on entrances, bottoms, and ventilation.
    First ventilation, because that is related to the other two. Ventilation is really important. Without ventilation your bees will not survive very well. You have to plan your hives with ventilation in mind. You can provide ventilation and let the bees control how much they want. They will propolize anything beyond what they need.

    I have hives with bottom entrances and top entrances. Both work fine. I don't like entrances in the middle of my top bar hives, they require way too much manipulation and can effectively cut the hive in half, causing overwintering problems where bees can't get to the stores on one end of the hive or the other. I like top entrances because it enhances the ventilation in the hive. The hot air that naturally rises to the top has a way to escape. This is true for both top bar and langstroth hives. I don't have to cut any holes in the hive, making them easy to construct. Top entrances also help to keep out mice and help to deter skunks and possums.

    Bottom boards are an interesting issue. If you want to use powdered sugar as part of your mite control, screened bottom boards are a must. However, my experience is that the bees are more likely to abscond from a screened bottom board top bar hive. I have heard that from others too. I lost two packages when I had a screened bottom board on my hive. Since I went to solid boards, I haven't lost any to absconding. Of course you can build a screened bottom board with another moveable board below it to control ventilation, which might be a good idea too. This is what I would use if I was treating for mites. You want the mites to fall through the screen so they can't get back up to the comb.

    In my area we use solid bottom boards and don't have a big mite problem, at least so far.

    Top bar hives present problems for some types of feeding. Some of my hives have holes cut into the bottoms to allow boardman feeders to be used in the ends of the hives. I have also made devices to allow feeding of patties that slip between the top bars, but you have to have a raised top to allow that.

    Here is a link to some hive plans that are used in my area. http://abqbeeks.org/forum/topics/tbh-plans. TJ is a very experienced beekeeper. We like to use the same dimensions for the hives so beekeepers around the area can share bars if need arises. This brings me to the point of suggesting that you should get in touch with local top bar beekeepers and see what they do. Conditions are different in each area, and what works well for me in the middle of the desert might be completely different from what works in Georgia. One thing I would suggest, however is that you don't make the hive too deep. When it is very hot, the wax gets very soft and collapses under the weight of the honey if the hive is too deep. I think you might have occasional hot days there in Georgia.

    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Blair View Post
    Third, most of the plans that I have seen, including the one that I have chosen, are approximately 44 inches in length. Aside from the awkwardness of it, is there any reason that I couldn't build one larger? 8 - 10 - 12 feet long?
    I make my hives 42.5 inches long (inside dimension) because it is easy to cover them with 48 inch stock and 42 is divisible by 1.5, which is how wide I make my bars. The extra half inch is for the entrance. Up to 48 inches long is good. Most of my colonies didn't fill up the 42 inches this year. I have heard that the bees won't use much past 48 inches. The queen pheromone starts getting weak at that point. You could build a really long one like you describe if you wanted to put multiple colonies in it separated by follower boards, but it seems like it would be kind of a hassle, and it is way to big for a single colony.

    Check out the top bar forum here. There is lots of information there. Also, Michael Bush has lots of great information on his web site, http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Commerce, Georgia USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    That is all very helpful, thank you. The hive plans that I have make the hive 12 inches deep. It also calls for a screened bottom with an extra bottom board just for wintering, but after looking at other peoples designs, having sliding bottom board inserts is starting to sound like a very good idea. The top bars are 17 inches long. I am going to check out both of the links that you gave me.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    192

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    I would caution you about the depth of the hive. My combs are about 10 inches deep and I had lots of problems with comb collapse. My bars are about 20 inches long. I make them long enough that they can't fall into the hive. My blog has some pretty good descriptions of the bars. The comb guides hit the side of the hive before the bars can fall in. In the plans I sent you, the comb is only about 9 inches deep. In warm areas this is probably better. Comb collapse is a mess and the bees get angry when you go in to clean it out. I can almost guarantee you will have comb collapse with the size hive you are talking about. You won't find standard sizes of lumber that high either. If you use standard 1x12 lumber in the design I sent you, you just cut one edge of the sides at a 30 degree angle to make the board 10 3/4 inches wide on the longest side and you are ready. I don't try to cut end pieces with angles on them. I just cut pieces 20 inches long and fasten the sides to them at the proper angle. Much easier than trying to cut the end pieces to the proper angle, and they help to keep the hive standing upright in wind if they ends are sitting on the ground or a stand. Your design sounds like it might be a little tippy unless they have some kind of support base support added. The end pieces are exactly the same height, unlike what is in the plans I sent you. This is to accomodate the top entrance. Check out my blog. I think I have descriptions of how I build my hives in there. If it isn't there I will have to add it.

    I have gradually moved from complicated hives to really simple hives. I can make a hive in about an hour now, because it is just 5 boards cut to size and fastened together. I have a jig to lay the boards on for assembly. I have assembled hives in 20 minutes after the boards are cut. I have a crown stapler now, so it would probably be a lot faster than that now. I also found that 2x lumber is cheaper than 1x lumber and I suspect it makes a sturdier, more insulated hives for the girls.

    The really time consuming part of all this is making the top bars. They can be relatively complex depending on what comb guides you use. I am thinking about writing a blog about what I have found out about comb guides from the bees.

    Good luck!

    Ted

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Spicewood, Texas, USA
    Posts
    232

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    Check out www.bushfarms.com You'll find answers to all your TBH questions.

    Good luck, and keep in touch here. Lots of good people and good info on BeeSource.

    Sondra

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Commerce, Georgia USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    I was noticing that 2x lumber was cheaper than 1x. If there are advantages to using 2x I could leave it at that but I do have a thickness planer so I figured at the very least I could make the cheaper 2x lumber 1x with that.

    http://www.freefilehosting.net/howtobuildatopbarhive

    This link should be a link to download the ebook from which I got my plans. It was a free download from biobees.com but they make you go through some hoops registering with another site to get it so I figured I would upload it myself. If you get a chance check it out and tell me what you think. Taking all the suggestions I've gotten so far into account I am getting materials today, very exciting.

    A friend of mine is going to be making a nuc for me when the weather is more appropriate for doing that and I am hoping by spring to have 5 or 6 hives built. Room for some package bees maybe, and splitting later on after the first year if everyone is doing well. I think it'll be good to have a few extra on hand for expansion or accidental damage.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Posts
    192

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    There is no file there. This is the design that I DON'T recommend. It is good for the cool UK climate but would be a small disaster in Georgia. They recommend the entrance in the middle and that causes separation of the bee cluster from half the food in the hive for winter. That might not be a big problem in Georgia, but they also have to do a lot of manipulation to keep things in the right place. Why not just put the entrance in the end of the hive and let the bees figure it out.

    Ted

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Commerce, Georgia USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    Right, I have been making small adjustments to the plans based on your suggestions and other peoples suggestions, and people seem to unanimously agree that end entrances are a better idea.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    626

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Devin Blair View Post
    This link should be a link to download the ebook from which I got my plans. It was a free download from biobees.com but they make you go through some hoops registering with another site to get it so I figured I would upload it myself. If you get a chance check it out and tell me what you think. Taking all the suggestions I've gotten so far into account I am getting materials today, very exciting.

    A friend of mine is going to be making a nuc for me when the weather is more appropriate for doing that and I am hoping by spring to have 5 or 6 hives built. Room for some package bees maybe, and splitting later on after the first year if everyone is doing well. I think it'll be good to have a few extra on hand for expansion or accidental damage.
    Devin, I bought a hive to start out this year from Gold Star Honeybees that is based on the one by Philip Chandler that you get from the biobees website. I didn't like the big three hole entrances in the bottom middle so I put some slightly smaller ones in at the top towards the outside and just plugged the originals (I actually used a reducer on one and used it for a Nuc entrance in the same hive body for a while). It has a screened bottom board so I did not find the heat and humidity to be an issue at all. It gets really hot and humid during July and August here in Saint Louis but I didn't ever have bearding. This is a picture after I did my chop and crop of a nuc into my Gold Star hive, it shows the plugged and new entrances.DSC02455.JPG

    I had a broken observation window in the hive I bought so I had to whip up a temporary one to put my package of bees into. It is a bit smaller but uses the same angles and top bars so I can take bars from it to put in the big hive but not the reverse. I'll retire it to a nuc or swarm box next year because I have a full size replacement mostly built. I was waiting on experience with the two I have working to tell me exactly where I wanted the entrance holes. I ended up putting two in the upper outer corners of the side of the hive (4 total). I put them in each end because I had the nuc in that hive, but in the new hive I am just putting them at the one end. I used the wedged shaped top bar design similar to the hive I bought for the temporary hive too, except I made the bars 1 1/4 for brood and 1 1/2 for honey like suggested by Mike Bush. The original hive has 1 3/8. I found that the original un-regressed package bees built better on the 1 3/8 bars but now they build fine on the 1 1/4. DSC02020_email.jpg

    I am thinking of changing the bottom board design as I am not thrilled with the screened bottom board. (It has advantages for the heat but I am starting to think it just lets the pests in the hive.) I want a well attached solid bottom board but one that I can swap out for a screened one because it came in handy for ventilation when I had to close the hives because I had contractors working in the yard.

    I do like the peaked roof, I think it helps keep the hive cool and dry.DSC02022_email.jpg

    Good Luck! Enjoy your new hobby!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Commerce, Georgia USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Starting TBH got a few questions

    Thanks again for all the information, I got all the materials for my hive, my planer is acting up so it'll take a little longer to build than I'd hoped, but I will post pictures when it is done.

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