Response to a presentation
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  1. #1
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    Default Response to a presentation

    At our last bee meeting someone gave a talk about top bar hives. He had been keeping them for 2 years, and had nothing good to say. Some of what he said made no sense, some of it did. I was thinking I would run it by the people on this forum to see everyone’s opinion. Firstly, there is not enough volume to overwinter bees. He said that they had died every winter. Secondly, the combs break constantly and cannot be reattached. Thirdly, you cannot share resources with other hives. Fourth, you have to deal with a cumbersome lid that requires 2 people. Fifth, they cannot be transported.
    Some of these I find ludicrous, some I suspect are valid. So what do we all think?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    too funny, I dissagee on all points

    1 People overwinter nucs, so volume is not an issue, if it is, you built things way wrong
    2 well if you flip it around like a lang frame, sure 2.5 painters tape
    3 why not? I guess if you made all you hives different demntions it could be an issue. 2 min to chop the end barrs of a lang and trim to fit A KTBH, less then that to rubber band a KTBH comb in to a lang frame
    4 ummmm got nothing here most of my lids are styrofoam.... did the guy bild his out of 2x12s or something?
    5 Steve Hardison ran them for almonds, Doc Mangum moves his all around as well. Main tricks are let some attachments grow in, place the hives so the combs long axes are in line with the direction of travel

    All that being said, if your going to built your own KTBH for $30, go for it! If your going to buy one, just get a lang for about the same price, Its much easier on the beginner, and will hold it resale better if you find out beekeeping is not your thing.

  4. #3
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    Default

    No, I build my own out of reclaimed and scrap lumber, or repurposed materials. I build my Lang’s that way too. The only point I agreed with was the lack of interchange between top bars and langstroth.

  5. #4
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    Default

    We wintered a nuc this winter, btw. Late season, small swarm. No way it could have filled a ten frame up. They are doing pretty good now!

  6. #5
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    Mar 2016
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    Hall, Georgia, USA
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    I agree with MSL: they are all bogus. It sounds like he never read a book or watched a video on how to manage them.

    That being said, with respects to Dr. Magnum, if you are going to move hives a lot and do pollination, I would recommend Langs. I have moved TBHs, but it requires a friend and you have to drive very carefully. For a hobbyist who plans to leave her hives in one place forever, they are a lot of fun. If you want to become filthy rich pollinating almonds, spend a little bit more on your equipment and forget TBH.

  7. #6
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    In my view, all those points are true, or not true, depending on the beekeeper.

    We had a big upsurge in TBH's here starting maybe 10 years ago as people here read the overseas literature on them and decided to give it a try. But now, nearly all those hives are gone and the owners have either quit, or gone langstroth, and i have heard all the above reasons being given as why they are giving up TBH's.

    However my own suspicion is that people who struggle with TBH's also more likely to struggle with langstroths if they make the change. Bees are bees and if you can look after them in one hive type well, you will probably look after them in another hive type well also.

    When i was selling packages to new beekeepers setting up TBH's, the hives ran fine if they were near neighbors and i was helping them. But a TBH can be confusing to new beekeepers who may often do almost no management other than open, look, and close again.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    right, the KTBH is alluring to the natural let them bee beekeeper, were as in realty a lang and foundation is far better suited to a limited management approach.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    Never thought of that MSL, you raise a good point.

    TBH beekeeping here went through a kind of growth bell curve, an up and then a down, and is now almost extinct. Now i think about it from your viewpoint MSL, it could explain this exactly. It is absolutely true that the kind of people here that were attracted to TBH beekeeping, were of the natural, leave it alone mentality. And here in NZ, that doesn't work.


    More interventionist types, or those OK with following mainstream wisdom, gravitated to Langstroths. So the demise of TBH keeping here may have been more down to the type of people each hive type attracted, than the actual hive type.

    Interesting thought!
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    I taught "equipment" at a few bee schools this year, and even though I am "the top bar guy" I really tend to stress the advantages of Langs for new beekeepers in those classes. I can remember my first year trying to "hack" a feeder, and then hack a robbing screen, and then try to convert from a political sign lid to thin plywood to finally a built lid. None of this is rocket science, but it increased my stress my first year. (I never thought twice about what lid to put on my Lang hive, for example; buy a lid and put it on the hive and move on).

    And the bloom is off the TB rose a bit it seems. 3 years ago TB keepers were maybe 5% of new members to our local clubs... now it is like 1%. Those numbers are so small I'm not sure they are scientific, but it does seem that more people arrive at class planning to use Langs (and also planning to treat).

    Still: if that dude's hive is so big he cannot lift the lid, but he cannot get bees to overwinter in it, I have to wonder how drafty or wet his hive is. Or maybe he had 3 pounds of bees in a 80 liter hive. Or maybe his bees were varroa infested and dying in October, and he blamed the hive design for the December deadout.

    Mike

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    In my opinion there is nothing natural about top bar hives, Bees in a natural setting prefer a vertical nest not really a horizontal one. The reason for them in the first place was to provide something better than the hollow logs that were being used in parts of Africa. It was also designed to be simple to build with the most rudimentary tools almost with a hammer and a machete. It would appear to be a step backwards for modern beekeepers who have the tools available to use the Langstroth or AZ hive systems. However If one really works at keeping bees you could keep them in a reasonably sized bucket whoops that is what the old skeps used to be like. Finally one could say people who live in glass houses should not throw stones, well people who live in grass houses should keep top bar hives, maybe.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    The dude has been doing it for 2 years.... That is all I needed to hear.
    Splitting a first year hive successfully https://youtu.be/ZfRTreQ-S9c

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    If anything is hands off, that is long Dadant/Layens/Lazutin/etc.
    A big one.
    A true "set it and forget it".
    Natural or foundation - your choice.
    At the expense of mobility (but if you choose highly immobile TBH-toy anyway, might as well go for the good stuff).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    In my opinion there is nothing natural about top bar hives
    yep, all "marketing", why else would people pay more for a KTBH then a lang?
    https://backyardhive.com/collections...lden-mean-hive
    $350 for the base unit, + $75 for the vented roof......SMH

    But a KTBH IS a modern and technologically appropriate way to keep bees, however you are trading your "sweat equity" (to build it and work it more frequently) and lower performance(smaller crops) in order to save money.
    If you build your own , go for it.
    The nice thing for me starting with KTBHs was equipment for expansion was never an issue, just spend a few hours and bang together another hive and just about any job site trash pile meant a few nucs. My 8 year old can work a full sized KTBH production hive, witch is cool.

    But if you don't want to put in the sweat equity, buy a lang not a KTBH.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    >>Firstly, there is not enough volume to overwinter bees. He said that they had died every winter.
    >>Secondly, the combs break constantly and cannot be reattached.
    >>Thirdly, you cannot share resources with other hives.
    >>Fourth, you have to deal with a cumbersome lid that requires 2 people.
    >>Fifth, they cannot be transported.
    Some of these I find ludicrous, some I suspect are valid. So what do we all think?

    1. Size - A KTBH is the same as about 17 deep frames. It is strictly speaking smaller than the officially recommended size for overwintering. I personally consider it to be too small for non-African bees, and I use top bar hives that hold 25 deep frames (as bars). Having said that, many can and do overwinter their KTBH.
    2. If the entrance is a slot one bee tall and 4 in wide, combs can fall off when no inspection is happening. I use 3 holes about 1 in across, never had problems with combs falling when not inspecting - for most hives.
    3. can't share resources - well, yes, true if you have mediums and deeps too!
    4. lid cumbersome - uhhh, well depends on how you build it. I used a sheet of plywood and put handles on.
    5. transporting TBH - I haven't tried it yet, that is coming up this summer because I am showcasing my TBH at my club's apiary - they will have a month's stay there. To transport the TBH, I will move 10 bars into a Lang box and move that around, then set up the TBH, then add the bars into it. It is more annoying than moving a Lang.

    For the record, I am transitioning to Dadant deeps for my production hives. And Lang deep frames for my queen production/overwintered nuc hives. There are some disadvantages to the TBH, most critically the longer time to inspect for me compared to a Dadant deep.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    I find the beekeepers who "struggle" with topbar hives are the dyed in the wool Langstroth beekeepers who try to manage it the same way. I have a local group of beekeepers that get together specifically to talk about how to manage a topbar hive since there are not many resources out there on how to do it. For those new beekeepers that follow along with what I tell them, they are very successful. For those that start to listen to 4 different local people and watch a bunch of youtube, they tend to get confused and lost in all the different approaches.

    What they find very confusing is when they are told to add a pollen patty and to start supplemental feeding in February. You just don't do that in a topbar hive or it will swarm in mid-March. They also need to understand that there needs to be some type of varroa mite management in the hives from the first season onward. Too many think that the topbar hive is a "set it and forget it" kind of hive (those really don't exist anymore in the USA since we have so many beekeepers and pest pressures).

    I currently run 7 full size topbar hives and about 7-10 topbar nucs each year and love them. I did branch out into a medium long langstroth so I could help another local club with queen rearing, but I do not "enjoy" that hive like I do the topbar hives. I'm also adding 2 traditional Langs (but foundationless) at the garden center where I work so we can have some local honey to sell at the garden center. (I don't look forward to their management as I struggle with lifting any size box and I will have to start using a smoker to work the bees).

    A speaker should only talk about their personal experience, so the guy that did the presentation in the OP was sharing what he knew. I know differently and I'm pretty close to Maryland so I know they can overwinter here just fine. As for the comb breaking, I will not use the triangular shaped comb guides. The thin rectangle pieces of wood are much better for allowing the bees to make a full wax attachment to the main topbar. My combs are very hearty and I can move them around quite easily without breakage.

    I get my kits from Beeline Woodenware out of MI and always add a long window so I can observe what it happening in the colony all season long. Their kit comes with a roof that is supposed to be reinforced with wood, but I take those 2 long pieces and make another hive with them, so my roof is extremely lightweight, but the tin grips the sides of the hive to stay on securely in most wind storms around here.

    I'd be happy to post photos if people are interested, or you can find them on my bees' FB page.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    Hey, Trish,

    I was curious about your experience with the entrances and trying to understand the dynamics of that. Do you mind explaining it more?

    thanks,
    Thomas

    Quote Originally Posted by trishbookworm View Post
    2. If the entrance is a slot one bee tall and 4 in wide, combs can fall off when no inspection is happening. I use 3 holes about 1 in across, never had problems with combs falling when not inspecting - for most hives.
    My grandfather and great-uncle kept bees and my fiancée's grandfather, too. I want to pass this tradition along.

  18. #17
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    Default

    While he was going through his presentation, I, my wife and our mentor were kinda like “what?”. I was hoping to run it by some people with experience, because what he was saying made very little sense. As I said, the ability to swap resources with a Lang is about the only thing he said that sounds right. Some people shouldn’t have 🐝 in my opinion. I think he worked his ktbh, but I know his description of how he flipped the frames around is probably the reason his combs broke so much, and his inability to reattach them probably severely weakened his hives. I’m about to run a production of 3-4 of them, was a little skeptical after hearing this not so glowing presentation, but since so much sounded like bull crap, I think I’ll go ahead.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    I guess I am becoming one of those former top bar hive enthusiasts. I'm transitioning to Lazutin-inspired hives. I would say I don't regret starting on top bar hives, it kept me open minded to try other things, which is how I got turned on the the Lazutin style hives. I still don't see me working Langstroth's any time soon. For example, I'll be receiving a Langstroth nuc in a month. I'm going to convert the frames to fit in a Lazutin square hive.
    My grandfather and great-uncle kept bees and my fiancée's grandfather, too. I want to pass this tradition along.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    >Firstly, there is not enough volume to overwinter bees.

    There is no standard volume for a top bar hive. But frankly I think there is more than enough in any I've seen. I winter several every winter.

    >He said that they had died every winter.

    You need to have the bees at one end with food in front of them...

    >Secondly, the combs break constantly and cannot be reattached.

    I seldom break them so I think "constantly" is an overstatement. When they do, it's because I got in a hurry.

    >Thirdly, you cannot share resources with other hives.

    If all of your hives are the same size and shape, of course you can...

    >Fourth, you have to deal with a cumbersome lid that requires 2 people.

    Mine isn't that cumbersome. On any of the ones I have including the one I built, the Goldstar and the BeeBuilt ones. Mine is the easiest though as the lid is just a piece of plywood.

    >Fifth, they cannot be transported.

    It takes two people to load an established top bar hive and if there is a lot of new comb it will not be very wise, but I have transported them. I've broken comb back when I ran DuraComb in a Langstroth and it was new comb and a rough road.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Response to a presentation

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    More interventionist types, or those OK with following mainstream wisdom, gravitated to Langstroths. So the demise of TBH keeping here may have been more down to the type of people each hive type attracted, than the actual hive type.

    Interesting thought!
    What I always said to those who wanted to do it differently, be it TBH or Warre or whatever, is: The Langstroth hive is a very good design.

    To me a more reasonable variation is to do Langstroth with natural cell or partial natural cell. With partial one can use the foundation combs to help the bees 'get it straight' with the natural cell.

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