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  1. #21
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >
    As far as combs, it's not the honey cost of secreting the wax to build the comb, it's the TIME lost during a flow when there is no where to store the nectar. Drawn comb will make a lot more honey expecially in a short heavy flow, than when they have to draw the comb. This is probably the biggest loss in production in a typical top bar hive. But you can extract a top bar comb if it's older and you can figure out how to fit it in your particular extractor. It is not hard to do them in a tangential and even a radial could work.

    Michael, I am going to respectfully disagree to a point. A lot of the following is for the wider audience as I realize you are intimately knowledgeable on these items, more so that myself, so correct where necessary.

    It is lost time and honey to wax production and lost foraging due to lack of storage.

    Honey consumed while secreting wax and building comb:

    The lost time does equate to lost honey and not just lost foraging opportunity during flow. From literature, a colony of about 50,000 bees can secrete about pound of wax per day. That equates to about 3 medium frames per day of wax. The bees that are secreting are doing just that and only that. The carbohydrates these bees burn during this period comes from consumed honey. This is where the 8 pounds per pound of wax is lost. Four pounds a day for consumption during comb building. It is my understanding that the hormone level in bees rise when their honey stomachs are full and this initiates wax secretion. Also foragers and just emerged bees are not the bees secreting wax. It is primarily the bees that are 2 or three weeks old.

    Honey lost due to inadequate storage:

    Three medium frames of wax hold about 12 pounds of ripened honey. Nectar weighs less. Most plant nectar is 40 to 50% sugar with the balance moisture with a few percentage points of other inclusions (these give different honeys different tastes). Therefore nectar requires greater storage volume. If you figure that nectar is 40% sugar/60 % and is dried down to 18% water(moisture content) then nectar conversion to honey changes the ratios from 40/60 to 82/18 sugar to water. 1 pound of nectar has 9 ounces of water in it and 7 ounces of sugar. 1 pound of honey (18%) has about 2.8 ounces of water remaining in it. So for every pound of ripened honey stored the bees collected 2 pounds of nectar (more or less). So during a heavy flow when honey cannot be dried fast enough additional comb is needed to accommodate the wet nectar. About twice as much as for ripened honey. This allows for some ripening (moisture reduction) to occur during glow. This means that the bees in an average size colony (50,000) can generate enough comb per day to accommodate about 12 pounds of ripened nectar which should eventually yield about 5 pounds of honey. Using these numbers, if there is not comb available for storage, then the bees are limited to about 35 lbs of “surplus” honey per week production during a otherwise boundless nectar flow. These numbers are ballpark as there are few if any absolutes in beekeeping.

    So as you say, there is certainly lost foraging due to no storage space during a heavy flow if there is not drawn comb available for use. I would be interested to know what actual field weight gains are from similarly populated Langstroth with drawn comb and a Top bar with no spare honey comb sitting side by side are during a short intense flow.

    Also unconsidered above is flow timing and comb building:

    The bees that produce the wax are generally 2 and 3 weeks old. If the flow is early, before the hive has a maximum supply of wax building bees, then they will not be able to produce enough wax to store the honey coming in. This results in additional loss of surplus due to not having drawn comb.



    Hive configuration losses:

    It has been mentioned that top entrances can increase honey production. This could be in part due to quick and close access of the storage areas to the house bees. Less distance the bees have to travel to store equates to more foraging time. More foraging time equates to more nectar. In a Langstroth hive with the standard bottom entrance, the bees can move from the bottom of the hive directly along many paths to the top of the hive. On a TBH they have to transit the entire brood next before reaching the storage area. This equates to lost foraging due to the foragers having to “wait” for the house bees for a longer period. I imagine that a TBH with a slot entrance on the side that can be adjusted as to the entrance position could be utilized to give the foragers and house bees quicker access to the storage areas. This may also reduce the swarm instinct by decreasing traffic through the brood areas.

    All the above is academic to actual field experience. And mileage may vary. From my experience with my TBH and langs, the langs far out produce the TBH. My TBH produced about 20 pounds of surplus the first year. Second year about 10. I then added some lang supers to it and they filled up 2 supers (75# honey). My langs have all averaged 100# per year or better. I will have to qualify that a bit as the TBH was completely treatment free and yielded 2 splits and then swarmed in its second year. It doed out due to mites and SHB this past fall and I was glad to see it gone.

    If you are not concerned about honey production and do not extract and are prepared for the extra management a TBH entails then it should be cheaper to get started with. Mine was more frustration than it was worth

  2. #22
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    Jan 2011
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    Brainerd, MN
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    538

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    Dan, what is the dimensions of your top bar hives. Width of the bars, depth and width at the bottom. Just curious.
    Pretty similar to the chandler tbh, but a bit bigger on the bottom. The top bars are he same length however. I don't have the exact dimensions on hand, but that should give you an idea.

    I remember that the guy I bought bees from scoffed at me saying that in his experience bees don't move horizontally as well as they do vertically, turns out he was right (in my experience). I also had other issues with the design namely lack of ability to feed easily, provide protein supplement, and inability to move. It's just not versatile. For all those homeopaths out there, you are better off with a warre. If size concerns you then make it larger. Nothing says you have to follow the exact dimensions.

    Either way I am doing better with my warre and langs.
    Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. #23
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    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddox65804 View Post
    ...The only thing I don't make is frames. They are just way too cheap to buy compared to the time I would have to spend to make them...
    Ah, there you have it. If you take away the woodworking required to create the frames, then sure - the two are comparable in terms of time and materials to make - but you can't just skip that big part - you're having to spend a dollar or so per frame in additional time to assemble them, or you're having to spend the time and effort to make them from scratch.

    So the two are not comparable. The lang is significantly more complicated and expensive because of the frames.

    You can whack out a complete and functional tbh with reclaimed material and basic tools pretty easily. Not so with a lang. The frames add too much complexity to do that.

    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 01-08-2013 at 10:56 PM.

  4. #24
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    Panama City, Florida, USA
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    593

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    So the two are not comparable. The lang is significantly more complicated and expensive because of the frames.

    You can whack out a complete and funtional tbh with reclaimed material and basic tools pretty easily. Not so with a lang. The frames add too much complexity to do that.

    Adam
    I agree with Adam. You can make a TBH from reclaimed wood easily, but not a lang. But if you are using new wood then....

    I can build a TBH with volume equal to three medium lang bodies for about $50.00 from new wood from Home Depot. Medium lang bodies are no cheaper to build from scratch than to purchase pre-cut (at hobby quantities). I figure a lang body with frames is about $15.00 each (foundationless) so the boxes and frames are $45. The bottom and top add about another $5.00 or so. So the cost is about the same. Assembly of the langs will take longer (3 boxes to assemble and paint, 30 frames, a top and a bottom). If you use foundation in the langs add another $22.00 or so to the cost.

  5. #25
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    Aug 2002
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    >Honey consumed while secreting wax and building comb:

    In my experience they will make more honey on foundationless frames than they will on frames of foundation. If the only issue was the cost of the wax, this would not be so. But the issue is that they need somewhere to put the nectar and since they build the foundationless faster they have somewhere to store it sooner.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Colorado
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    3

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Since much of the advantage to the TBH is horizontal frames, as well as natural comb formation, couldn't a person build a TBH to accommodate lang frames, and let the bee's draw natural comb on those? Then you could extract and reuse the comb. This would seem to provide the best of both worlds.

  7. #27
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    May 2012
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Yes, this would be a long hive. I think it has been described by someone as having all of the disadvantages of a Lang and the disadvantages of a TBH all in one! <grin> They are heavy so you can't move them easily, you have to use frames so there is no cost savings of no frames and I've not heard of anyone with great success with them. But I have seen long hives (photos anyway) with supers on them, and I have seen them with dividers were they are basically like a bunch of nucs built together. I think they have their place, but honey production with a long will most likely be like a top bar, unless it is super-ed. It's all about your personal goals.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    If you are going to use frames, there is no point in using anything but standard Langstroth equipment unless you get a real kick out of making stuff. A set of frames is pretty cheap, all things considered, as you will be using them for decades in most cases, same deal for boxes.

    If you stick with standard sized Langstroth equipment with Hoffman frames, you can sell extra bees, buy extraction equipment that your stuff fits, and so froth.

    Top bar hives were revived by the Peace Corps for use in Africa where people had no money, no sawmills, and few tools. They are NOT an inherently better way to keep bees, just an improvement over killing feral hives when you cannot obtain equpiment other than scrap lumber or raising bees in skeps or gums (illegal in the US, for good reason). There are no other advantages so far as I can see, since all natural comb (no foundation) is just as easy in a Lang as it is in a top bar hive. Managing a Lang is much easier than a top bar, and extracting honey with re-using comb isn't practical without frames. Destroying honey comb every year greatly decreases your honey production, by the way. I would say, typically, the equivalent of two shallow frames per box, so you need to consider that, too.

    You can, of course, suit yourself, but all the people I know around here who got excited about top bar hives are switching to Langs.

    Peter

  9. #29
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    Dec 2011
    Location
    Springfield, MO, USA
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    102

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    So the two are not comparable. The lang is significantly more complicated and expensive because of the frames.

    You can whack out a complete and functional tbh with reclaimed material and basic tools pretty easily. Not so with a lang. The frames add too much complexity to do that.

    Adam

    I respectfully disagree Adam. I build and use both types of hives. It is just as easy to build a Lang or a TBH with reclaimed material in my experience. As I said before, they are both boxes - one is horizontal, the other is vertical. If I "whack" one out, it takes less time than if I build one well - not matter which style I'm constructing. If I build them well, they both have joints and inside dimensions and other design factors that all need to be considered so all the parts fit and work well together.

    Both types of hive (horizontal or vertical), can be run with topbars or frames. Frames are really simple to build and use (and easier on the bees). I don't see the monster of "complexity" in frames. I can put together 100 frames in about the same time that I can mill out 100 top bars. Both frames and topbars need some type of starter strip to work well. (Yes, I know a starter strip is not necessary, but they work better with one)

    From my experience there is not much difference in the equipment, if they are built to the same quality standards. I suppose I could build an overly complicated TBH and then compare it to a simply designed Lang if I wanted......

    There are differences in the management strategies.
    Jeffrey Maddox
    www.MaddoxBees.com

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Springfield, MO, USA
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    102

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    I think it is important to remember that African bees (Apis Scutellata) behave differently than European bees (Apis Mellifera). Mostly in the fact that Scutellata is a migratory species. Mellifera is not. So, some of these comparasions between our management of bees or choices of equipment are probably not very apt.
    Jeffrey Maddox
    www.MaddoxBees.com

  11. #31
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    >couldn't a person build a TBH to accommodate lang frames, and let the bee's draw natural comb on those?

    I have four or five.

    > Then you could extract and reuse the comb. This would seem to provide the best of both worlds.

    You can save lifting boxes because it's horizontal. You can have natural comb if you use foundationless frames or just top bars. But if you mean having frames then you still have to build frames and that was always the tricky part of making a Langstroth hive and the thing that top bar hives were designed to avoid.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm#ttbh
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #32
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Quote Originally Posted by Maddox65804 View Post
    I respectfully disagree Adam. I build and use both types of hives. It is just as easy to build a Lang or a TBH with reclaimed material in my experience... Frames are really simple to build and use (and easier on the bees). I don't see the monster of "complexity" in frames. I can put together 100 frames in about the same time that I can mill out 100 top bars. Both frames and topbars need some type of starter strip to work well...
    You seem to be making comparisons using pre-machined lang frames, where you're assembling those on the one hand, and then talking about making top bars from scratch on the other. Two different animals.

    Adam

  13. #33
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    Dec 2011
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    Springfield, MO, USA
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    102

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Top bars and frames are both components of a beehive. Both take resources to acquire or build. I can either spend time/energy or, a money. Sometimes I spend my time and energy - sometimes it is more efficient to spend a little money.

    For me, topbars and frames are about the same cost in the long run. I can mill out 100 top bars or I can spend $70 dollars to buy 100 frames and assemble them. It is quick and simple to put them together (unless you use nails and a hammer and follow the outdated directions they give to newbees).

    They could be called "two different animals" but they are both being used in the same process, so comparing them against each other is very apt. If I have two different animals to do the same job, and both do it equally well with a few minor differences, then choosing one over another is mostly a matter of preference. Both are good. Just because I might prefer one over another does not mean the second one is bad. I like to use both.
    Jeffrey Maddox
    www.MaddoxBees.com

  14. #34
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    May 2009
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    Flora,IL
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    2 questions I see to weigh in on... I use TBH for comb. I sell a lot of honey with comb chunks and TB are great for that. TO keep brood from the comp is easy for me. I use 2 top bar widths 1 3/8 for the brood area, and 1 1/4 for honey so far for the last 3 years its worked flawless..... I don't think TBH generate as much honey per hive. and I think thats do to the horizontal vs vertical positioning. I think bees prefer vertical. A warre have might answer that but I have not tried that as the main point of TBH was a cheap way for beginners to get rolling.

  15. #35
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
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    3,722

    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Swienty once sold an extractor for tbh frames, but they don't advertise it anymore.

    BeeCurious
    5 hives and 8 nucs................... Trying to think inside the box...

  16. #36
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    Jul 2011
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    Evansville, IN
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    I don't know about your bees, but putting frames that are not glued and nailed into my brother's hives is asking from trouble. The amount of propolis those girls put on things is astonishing, and un-nailed frames won't live long.

    The nails do more than hold the wood together to let the glue set, they provide significant shear strength, much more than the wood. A nail through the side bar into the top bar is the difference between a splintered off top bar and a whole frame when the bees have made a mess, as they will sooner or later.

    Make a simple assembly jig, and you can put together 20 frames in half an hour or so, all nearly perfect.

    Always always CHECK the frames for square and flat, and correct them before the glue sets.....

    It doesn't take an huge amount of time to make frame parts once you get set up properly to do so and if you manufacture a large number of parts per operation. May not save any money if you consider time, but scrap materials work just fine. Lots of 24" 2x4, 2x6, and 2x8 pine at construction sites, lots of cut-offs at lumber yards (so a box costs 29 cents times four plus the effort of cutting down and rabbeting or cutting box joints).

    For a commercial operation, hard to justify making boxes and frames unless you have lots of time on your hands in the winter, but for a hobbyist with a table saw, not a significant investment in time.

    Peter

  17. #37
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Erin, NY /Florence SC
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    I'm somewhat ignorant about top bar hives as the people I speak to about them seem less interested in honey production but in bee husbandry for the most part. I'm making the assumption the frames of surplus honey are stored to the outside of the brood nest as frames (top bar beekeepers are not adding top bar honey supers above?) as the flow crowds out brood. Then you have combs full of honey with no side or bottom support which you have to pull, transfer into another box and transport to an extracting location. Just that aspect of pulling and transferring frames in a yard seems time consuming and what keeps them from collapsing under the weight of say 5 or 6 lbs lbs of honey? Am I understanding these top bar frames are then being put in a radial extractor and spun to extract? I can't imagine the onces I have seen full of honey would last through the 1st minute on the lowest setting on my 20/40 Maxant. Am I also understanding people here are extracting them in radial (or tangetial) extractors successfully? Are these hives all started with packages, are you top bar guys using swarms or is there some method of transferring a nuc into them that does not entail major manipulations? We get calls about nucs for top bar hives and I also wonder if anyone is out there making top bar nucs because I'd love to have somewhere to refer people.

  18. #38
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    May 2012
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    Default Re: question on honey production vs langstroth

    Joel, a top bar generally isn't supered, but there are folks that do super them. Really, if you want to use supers it makes sense to stick with Langs. Most folks running TBH's are not running a lot of them, so harvesting them is normally done a bar at a time on a hive. Most folks take the bars, cut of the comb and put the bar back in the hive, of put it someplace to let the bees clean it up and then put the bar back in the hive. Production on the TBH's isn't like a Lang, and extraction usually isn't something you would do with top bars. I have read the some folks do use extractors, but you are right, you would have to be careful to not totally destroy the comb. Mostly you would get comb honey or crush and strain. Again, if you want production stick with Langs.

    I would guess that most hives are started via packages, followed by swarms. Some people do a chop and crop from a Lang hive, but this isn't for the faint of heart. Even people that have done it successfully don't recommend it. Once you have a hive or two you can do splits. I personally have put together TBH swarm traps, and I hope to get some caught this spring. But I'm hedging my bets and do have some Robo style (lang) swarm traps as well.

    Not too many folks sell top bar nucs. I believe that Sam Comfort at Anarchy Apiaries used to, but I saw a video not that long ago of him making packages. The impression I got was that he would rather sell packages than nucs. The problem with TBH's and nucs is there is no standard which makes it difficult for someone to sell nucs. Some are considerably shallower than others, some are much wider.

    There are a few selling nucs, but I haven't been keeping up with the folks that are selling them.

    I think there are a lot of folks that start with TBHs, but eventually go to Langs if they want production. There are some folks like Wyatt Mangum that use TBH's for commercial pollination, but he is in the hundreds of hives, not thousands like the bigger guys. They require more maintenance when the hive is being established, otherwise you can end up with a cross combed mess.

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