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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Posts
    36

    Default Top Bar width for African bees

    I'm well on my way to finishing our observation KTBH with the students at the school I volunteer at in Nairobi, Kenya.

    I was planning to make all the top bars 32 mm wide. Something quite difficult to explain to Kenyans that this measurement needs to be very exact. I read yesterday in one of Michael Bush's powerpoints that you can also use 32 mm bars all the way and then use 1/4" spacers.
    My question, are these spacers necessary for African bees as well?

    Another question I have is what comb guide people prefer. Because we have to cut everything manually, no comb guide would be easiest. I saw somewhere a piece of thin rope with molten wax over it. The triangular comb guide looks nice but seems very difficult to make and get right by hand.
    What do you guys advise for a comb guide?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
    Posts
    1,388

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    I have used a piece of 1/4" angled wood trim for a comb guide. As far as width, the actual dimensions don't have to be real exact, just close enough that they will not gob up the comb everywhere. The will build with a very small space, abot 3/8ths inch between the combs. African or European does not matter. They are really the same bees, just different habits.

    These days I just make my hives to fit a standard lang frame.
    NM desert/mountain beekeeper - Black Mesa Honeybees.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Posts
    36

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Thanks for the advice Paul.

    Finished all the top bars by hand today. All are now 32 mm wide. Still thinking about what kind of comb guide to use. Probable the rectangular piece of wood sticking below the top bar and a few with the a string waxed on.

    What size is best for the wood on the top bar? I was thinking of making it about 6 mm wide and 5 mm high. That should be something I can cut with a wood saw.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,494

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    I don't think you will need the string with wax on it. Making a comb guide would eliminate the need for that. You don't need wax on the guide at all, as the bees would do a better job of attaching comb directly to the guide. I would think that the size you are going to use would work (6x5). I know that some folks use corrugated plastic for comb guides. A wooden stick should be easier to attach.

    If you could make something like a wedge I would go that route, but it may not be easy to do with limited tools.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Posts
    36

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    I've finished making all the top bars 3.2 cm wide. Now it's onto the comb guide. I've decided to give different versions a try. See the following website for the different versions: http://thehoneybeat.com/2011/06/top-...guides-11-ways

    I was going to go with 5 bars with a groove (kerf), 5 bars with wood guide carved from top bar, 5 bars with a string and molten wax. That leaves 11 bars to try. I was going to try the triangular guide using trim and maybe a kerf with a starbucks stirrer in it. Problem is that there are no Starbucks cafes in Kenya yet.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,494

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    It's nice to see someone in Kenya making a Kenyan Top Bar hive, and asking mostly Yankees how to do it. I was a bit confused about the Starbucks stirrer method. They use a plastic stick that covers the hole. I then looked at the site and you are doing what most people call the Popsicle stick method. I think that method is fine. You mainly want to give them a good idea of where to put the comb, and then watch them to ensure they get the idea.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,104

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    >My question, are these spacers necessary for African bees as well?

    Yes. The principle is that bees build brood comb very exact in depth. They do not build honey comb exact and prefer to build it thicker. So if you fill the hive with 32mm bars and the bees expand to the point they start to store honey, they will make the comb thicker and it will start to connect to the next bar. That is the time to insert the 1/4" spacer to make the bar wider. Or make some 1 1/2" (38mm) bars and feed those on the end of the brood nest. You can still feed some of the 32mm bars back into the middle of the brood nest for swarm control and to get straight comb. If you put them between two perfectly drawn combs you get another perfectly drawn comb.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
    Posts
    1,310

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >You can still feed some of the 32mm bars back into the middle of the brood nest for swarm control and to get straight comb. If you put them between two perfectly drawn combs you get another perfectly drawn comb.
    I'd like to repeat what Michael just said there...if you insert an empty bar (comb guide is immaterial) between two nice, straight, drawn brood combs, the bees will build a beautiful, straight comb on the new bar, using the two existing combs as guides.

    NOTE: If you insert a new, empty (with, or without comb guide) bar between two combs full of honey, the bees WILL NOT build a nice straight comb on it; 9 times out of 10, they'll just make the two existing combs so thick that they attach to the new bar, leaving a 3/8" (bee space) gap along the center of the new bar while sticking all three bars together!

    Also, if you have access to popsicle sticks, or tongue depressors, those will work perfectly as comb guides in the kerfs you're cutting. I've used that method, with good results, myself

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,104

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Posts
    36

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Thanks for all the advice. The observation ktbh is now finished. See a picture at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michisu...in/photostream.

    The landing board can be detached easily and I also made a higher piece of wood so that I can close the hive.
    I made 5 different top bars, we'll see which ones the bees like best. Today I tried to make the 1/4" spacer top bar but sawing it by hand was a problem and halfway through the wood snapped. I guess I'll have to go to a carpenters workshop so it can be done by machine.

    Things still left to do:
    - Put some wire from lid to main hive to prevent monkeys from getting to the honey
    - Actually hanging the hive in the right place
    - Making a Queen Excluder from an extra top bar and some wire mesh (coffee mesh)
    - Making a feeder box, or feeder jar (still thinking what's cheapest and easiest. The waterproof hardboard is hard to come by here in Nairobi.)
    - Maybe I want to make a top bar stand so that when the top bar is being inspected we can place it in the stand and explain some things to the students.
    - Make a hive tool
    - Attempt to make a smoker
    - Try and make a protective suit from an old overall and some small mesh.

    Can't wait to move the bees from the catcher box to the main hive! First off to South Africa for a short holiday and then back to beekeeping.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,076

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Remichi View Post
    Things still left to do:
    - Put some wire from lid to main hive to prevent monkeys from getting to the honey
    ....

    - Make a hive tool
    - Attempt to make a smoker
    Lots of posts on Beesource about bears, skunks, mice and some unscrupulous bipeds being a threat to beehives. Its not very often that you see "monkeys" as a problem.

    Here is a thread (with photos) from a member who made both a smoker and hive tool from mostly scrap:
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...ade-bee-smoker
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,494

    Default Re: Top Bar width for African bees

    Nice hive! I'm not sure the girls will care about the bars design. After the first 1 or two it is going to be based on spacing more than anything else.

    I'm the only monkey in my hive!

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