Re: Top Bar Hive Questions
Let me first say that I started with a TBH due to the expense of starting with a Lang. After two years I have had nothing but pains with them. After this winter I will be fully transitioning to Warres and Langs. If you are skilled enough to make TBH frames then I'd just go a step further and build Langs. They are more features to better support your bees. I will link below very easy to follow plans for building a Lang. If you have your heart set on using a TBH, then I will not discourage you from doing so. I just wanted to say that they are more hassle than they have been worth.
When it comes to placement, it isn't that big of a deal how close they are. The closer they are, the more likely you will see some drift. Different colors will help reduce that. I am thinking about maybe just coloring around the entrance to give the bees a hint as far as where to go.
No when it comes to disease...wow that's more than one topic can cover. I would advise buying a good book that has some good pictures. The key is really being able to know how to identify them. Everybody will differ about how to approach diseases and infestations, but one thing is universal. That's the ability to identify. You must be able to know when things are going wrong. It's important not only for your own bees, but it also can impact those around you. I will tell you that the one thing I always actively manage is for Varroa. Some always treat for foulbrood and nosema, but I don't. There are a lot of other diseases that we can do nothing about, but you must still know what they are and how to find them. Good luck!
Swarms don't need to be the source of your first hive. I have bought packages and nucs. In all reality catching swarms are going to be relatively easy (take with a grain of salt as I have never seen one). But swarms are going to be less defensive than a full colony of bees as they have nothing to protect, and I have had a few testy colonies. I would take every opportunity to catch a swarm if you come upon one or somebody informs you of one. One word of warning with packages is watch how the bees start building comb very closely. A lot of people start out and have their comb build wrong due to the queen cage and things just continue to go wrong from there. But if you want a package, you better call now. You have to reserve in January to get them in the spring.
I had a TBH winter last year, and I'm in Minnesota. The keys are to have a good fall population, low levels or Varroa, and plenty of honey in the fall. I probably went a little overboard with wintering, but I figured that every little bit helped. In all reality some insulation above the top bars is probably all that's required. I also put some hard insulation on the outside and some tar paper outside of that. Also reduce the entrance. Make sure to also place a mouse guard of some sort.
Hope this helps!!
Not Michael Bush. My name is Dan. Sorry for the confusion.