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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Chester, PA, USA
    Posts
    30

    Default Hive Size, how big?

    This is my 3rd year attempting to be a bee keeper and I went with top bar hives. One major reason is my bad back. Lifting supers filled with honey sounded painful at best.

    I started off by buying the plans for the BackYardHive Golden Mean hive and made 2 of those.
    Code:
    Dimensions: 36" L x 19" W x 9" H
    (top bars are 18" in length)
    As I later read on this forum and other places... they seem to small. The brood nest ran straight to the back of the hive an even when it contracted it still only left at most 3 top bars which didn't have brood. It was also impossible to keep them from swarming.

    So this spring made Golden Mean hive, but upped the length to 42". I put in a split and all has been going well until the fall Goldenrod flow (which I'm still in). The hive is packed. Every bar has almost fully drawn comb. The back 8+ are all nectar and the brood nest is packed with nectar where there isn't brood. So much so, I doubt there is a free cell to lay an egg until stuff hatches out. It's still nectar though. I've got nothing that's capped to pull out and give them an empty bar.

    I noticed Wyatt Mangum is using 5 foot hives (and I plan on picking up his book for a winter read). If I should move to a 5 foot hive, what about the roof? I've been using an inner cover with a gabled outer cover for my hives so far. In the winter I fill the space with insulation for warmth. I'm worried that a 5 foot long gabled roof is just going to be too heavy for me, but I'm no sure about Mangum's roof system for over-wintering in cooler (but hardly cold) climate.

    So, is my 4 ft hive still too small? I can knock out and test a 5 ft hive easily enough (the bees are happy fix my poor carpentry), but can anyone give me the scoop on roofing and over-wintering for SE PA?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    43,622

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    A piece of sytrofoam on top of the cover with some bricks on it works fine. Or put it under the cover with some bricks on the cover...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    5,001

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    You could make the 5 ft gabled roof in two separate sections to reduce the weight you need to lift. Cover the gap where the two sections meet with either a small matching removable gable, or use a piece of heavy plastic/rubber over the gap. An old rubber doormat would work.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Accomac, Virginia
    Posts
    113

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    Last I knew Mr. Mangum went to 48" and 42". 5's are heavy to move if you move them, if not probably ok. If I remember correctly 5 foot was about as far as they would work efficiently. I build mine 4' with 17" bars.
    Ed

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Salina ks
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    I run my bars at 1.5 by 19.5 inches wide with a 2 inch plastic foundation strip for comb support. My hives are 39 inches long and 10 inches deep. I pull capped bars as needed and replace with empties to keep them busy. So far they are producing the same as my Langstroth's. Top bar hives are not a walk away and forget till the flows done they are more of a hands on be aware type of hive.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Chester, PA, USA
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    I'm not planning on moving the hives. They are strictly stationary once occupied.

    I pull capped bars as needed and replace with empties to keep them busy. So far they are producing the same as my Langstroth's. Top bar hives are not a walk away and forget till the flows done they are more of a hands on be aware type of hive.
    This hive from a new package this year and they didn't have a great population for the spring flow. So they were quite light on stores before the fall flow hit. The only frame of honey they had was about 20% full. I was about to starting feeding them so they'd have winter stores (didn't want to depend on the fall flow) when I noticed them start pulling in large amounts of nectar.

    A week later and they still seem to be pulling in nectar hand over fist so I can only guess they are getting more space by evaporating the water out of the stuff already collected. I've done a little "lift tests" by lifting the back of the hive an inch or so in the evening and it's getting substantially heavier, but nothing is capped yet so I can't really pull a couple bars.

    This is my first year with a 4 foot hive, I really just didn't expect to bump into the back of it so quickly. I don't say that as a complaint, while it does present some issue, it's problem due to success.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Marquette, Michigan
    Posts
    65

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    Hi I also built from backyard hives plans. Used their angles but built 42 inches, bars are 20 inches. I did 1 e3/8 with the 1/4 inch spacers. They have three bars at front with pollen and nectar, then 12 brood bars and 10 bars left 7 filled and capped and 2 with partial drawn comb and 1 empty. Last week I had to do a one comb harvest, it was great. I'm happy with the size. Also I used 2 x 12 lumber instead of 1 x 12 . We're in upper mich. monty

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Casper, Wyoming
    Posts
    137

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    I got 5' and 4' hives. The 4' are nice for size, but the 5' I like because they got more stores for Wyo winter. I don't have to move my 5' but I do move the 4' around.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Wichita Kansas
    Posts
    66

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    I started off with 36" hives but they filled up to quickly and swarmed on me. In later versions I've made them 48" so I can use dimension lumber and that length seems to work ok.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    237

    Default Re: Hive Size, how big?

    My hive from honeybeehabit.com is about 45 inches long, with 28 bars. It came with a gabled aluminum roof that fits snugly against the outside of the hive, but is very light to move. I got a late start, so I only have 11 bars of partial comb. Have been feeding since I brought the bees home in late July. My bees are not so organized in their arrangement of comb. The queen is laying on every comb except the 2 wider ones that they drew first. Those used to be filled with honey, but they moved it all to the brood comb. I just wish they would fill those 2 up with syrum for the winter. I did put handles on either end of my topbar, but it's a two person lift to move it off the hive stand. It is "short" enough that I could fit it inside my mini-van if I wanted to move it somewhere.

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