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Discussion Starter #1
So when we got started here we took the ag extension's bee classes. I assume to keep costs down, they allowed vendors to come and teach the classes. One of the first messages we got was that not only were Langstroth hives the best things since Betty White, Top Bar hives, were akin to "The Devil" in a rather Bobby Boucher's Mom sort of way. He never really got specific as to why one was better than the other, but later looking through their company catalog, I noticed they didn't sell any Top Bar stuff, and perhaps that was the problem.

However, at the point of regrouping and starting over, I want to leave no good and plausible option unexplored. So if Mama is wrong about TBH, where can I find the pros and cons, and basics on how to work with them? And yes, I have started a google search and I am watching everything I can find on YouTube, I guess I am looking for personal experience, or a mentor or just opinions, or whatever.

(North Carolina, Zone 7B )
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

It's a different type of beekeeping. If you are only in it for the maximum honey crop, go with something you can super, put frames in, and spin with an extractor.

Many of the people I mentor are only interested in additional pollination for their neighborhood and don't want to spend a fortune on beekeeping equipment. They love the fact that they can put a window in the hive and watch what happens in a colony throughout the year. I find inspecting a topbar hive produces less agitation on the bees part, so I rarely use a smoker, so one less aggravation on my part as well. (I do use anise oil in a spray bottle to cover up any alarm pheromones).

Many people I talk to about getting into beekeeping want to build their own topbar hive out of scrap wood, which is a very realistic thing to do. However, I'm not a carpenter by any means and found a kit from Beeline woodenware in MI for $155 that works very well, being 4 ft long, complete with roof and screened bottom with an IPM solid board insert. A 2x4 hive stand or cinder blocks work very well to elevate it to a comfortable working height so you are not bending over like you would be with vertical Langstroth hives.

I also really like the fact that I don't have to fuss with foundation and wires.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

Ruthie :

In 4 years of keeping a single colony, I got a honey crop of 30 and 35 lbs and 0 and 0. So the idea of a honey crop, though enticing, is not paramount. However, if I am buying medicines at $40 a pop, and sugar by the 25# bag and bees every year, and on ad infinitum. This is not a model I have enjoyed. And even though I can easily sell honey at 15-20 per lb it is a gigantic loosing proposition as either a sustainable hobby, or a sideline.

As for pollinating my garden, I have always found that while having the girls in the yard, I rarely saw them working local things. I know in my head that they must, but the only time I saw them working anything at all was when there was a mud puddle, and they decided to take a drink :).

So goals would include,
1. Not having to lift heavy boxes or supers
2. Not having to buy bees every year
3. Having my garden pollinated
4. Having enough honey for my family's use
5. Having a little extra honey to help offset the cost of materials
6. Avoiding "magic"

I am willing to build every single piece of necessary hardware. I am willing to relearn everything I have learned up to this point. I am willing to try to catch swarms. I am willing to force propagation. I do not have the time and resources to do proper queen rearing. I am willing to go beyond a single hive, but not necessarily up to a "whole lot", since I have to keep SWIMBO happy, and she is concerned with the aesthetic of the yard/garden etc.

So that's where I am. This is probably the wrong thread to have posted this, but I assume I can cut and paste if I get answers in other places.. :)
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

First of all I've been a langstroth beekeeper for over 30 yrs. But I keep some TBH for fun. To me TBH's are about being cost effective, anywhere's from free to $60 bucks if you buy the materials or scrounge. There simplicity is part of there attractiveness. There is like 4 books on TBH beekeeping you should get some. Wyatt Mangum's book is really nice. You can check out his website here: https://www.tbhsbywam.com/ You could probably have 10 TBH's cost wise to 1 langstroth colony. Nothing wrong with TBH's but they are different managent. Alternatively a warre type box hive could be good aslo. See Sam Comfort youtube vids for this. I would do a deeper box than Sam uses however as he specializes in queen rearing. Better choice would be 1x8 or 1x10 lumber. These boxes are much lighter then Langstroth even with 1x10 lumber. The choice is yours really.
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

However, if I am buying medicines at $40 a pop, and sugar by the 25# bag and bees every year, and on ad infinitum. This is not a model I have enjoyed
So goals would include,
1. Not having to lift heavy boxes or supers
2. Not having to buy bees every year
3. Having my garden pollinated
4. Having enough honey for my family's use
5. Having a little extra honey to help offset the cost of materials
6. Avoiding "magic"
I am willing to build every single piece of necessary hardware. I am willing to relearn everything I have learned up to this point. I am willing to try to catch swarms. I am willing to force propagation. I do not have the time and resources to do proper queen rearing. I am willing to go beyond a single hive,
All that being said, why are you attracted to a KTBH? The only advantage would be not having to lift boxes

Its not like the KTBH is going to have better survival, cost less to treat mites in, pollinate your garden better or provide you with the honey for your family +"extra" honey to offset costs.

A KTBH takes more work and involvement, they are cheap, but like a fixer upper they require a lot of "sweat equity" to keep going.
Having run KTBHs for a lot of years(and langs + top bars the last 4), my sense is if you haven't been successful with Langs, you will likely suffer the same fate with KTBHs.

there is a profound loss of honey crop, do to the small population size, natural drone comb, and wax production. I see about a 15# advarge form mine

Natural level of drone comb cuts honey production in 1/2 Seeley (2001) and increases mite production by 400% WILKINSON, SMITH (2001)

Wax is costly, having to redraw the harvested honey combs costs you about 20% of your harvest.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

Thanks for the references, I will look them up.
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

All that being said, why are you attracted to a KTBH? The only advantage would be not having to lift boxes

Its not like the KTBH is going to have better survival, cost less to treat mites in, pollinate your garden better or provide you with the honey for your family +"extra" honey to offset costs.

A KTBH takes more work and involvement, they are cheap, but like a fixer upper they require a lot of "sweat equity" to keep going.
Having run KTBHs for a lot of years(and langs + top bars the last 4), my sense is if you haven't been successful with Langs, you will likely suffer the same fate with KTBHs.

there is a profound loss of honey crop, do to the small population size, natural drone comb, and wax production. I see about a 15# advarge form mine

Natural level of drone comb cuts honey production in 1/2 Seeley (2001) and increases mite production by 400% WILKINSON, SMITH (2001)

Wax is costly, having to redraw the harvested honey combs costs you about 20% of your harvest.
The interest is because of 1. Since reading Dr Leo's stuff, I kind of feel that everything I know is wrong, and the first thing I was ever taught was that TBH are the "worst thing for bees and beekeeping ever". No reasons, just a statement. So since I am looking into the prospects or horizontalness... and this group seems to lump horizontal and TBH together, I figured I would ask. I simply don't know anything whatsoever about TBH, and it seemed like a good place to ask. maybe it is the devil, and the worst thing for bees and beekeepers, or maybe the guy who said it just worked for a company that sold all sorts of Langstroth products and didn't stand to make any money if people got into TBH. See my conundrum?

Just trying to be curious. And open to whatever is the best idea moving forward.
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

maybe the guy who said it just worked for a company that sold all sorts of Langstroth products and didn't stand to make any money if people got into TBH
Ask your self WHY they don't carry KTBH when people are willing to pay more for one than a lang set up and they cost less to make so they would have a higher profit margin.
The marketing campaign around the Alt/Anti suggesting "big ag" is wrong, actively "suppressing knowledge" has a powerful attraction for many

The long and short here is if your bees die every year in vertical hives, they will die every year in horizontal hives.

You need to change your beekeeping, not your box
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

The long and short here is if your bees die every year in vertical hives, they will die every year in horizontal hives.

You need to change your beekeeping, not your box
True enough, but if I am changing my keeping methods to follow the writings of someone who advocates specific equipment, then both changes happen at once. Well, I have finished "...With a Smile" and most of the concepts were certainly general, well until the apendix, I am assuming the translation of de Layens book, will be focusing on the specifics of working specifically with the Layens shape and size.

I am open to not use the teachings of de Layens and Lazutin and Sharashkin. But if I am going to apply them, would it not make sense to follow them completely?
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

So goals would include,
1. Not having to lift heavy boxes or supers
2. Not having to buy bees every year
3. Having my garden pollinated
4. Having enough honey for my family's use
5. Having a little extra honey to help offset the cost of materials
6. Avoiding "magic"

1. Horizontal will do this in day-to-day management (do understand that moving an entire active, heavy horizontal is bear, especially late season).
Compact vertical hive will do about the same, just differently (by the box management).
Depending on your exact format, a full box of honey is similar to about 6 Lang med frames - even I can lift that much.

2. Trap free swarms - enough said.

3. Who said the honey bees will pollinate your garden?
They won't. It is an over-used myth.
Native bugs do an excellent job pollinating small gardens.
Create habitat for bumble bees and solitary bees (or at least don't kill what already exists).

4. Trap those swarms and you will have enough honey for family use.
Don't worry if the captured swarms die (they likely will die) - dead bees need no honey and so you get to keep it.

5. Don't try to sell honey (general waste of time and even more money).
Instead make this bee/honey enterprise to be nominally free, so that you get your bee products for nominally nothing.
Propolis harvest alone is such a great deal for me - that alone makes it worthwhile (check the pricing for propolis).

6. Just assume your bees will die in your particular location and go from there.
No magic, but the location has a lot to do with it.
Of course, you can choose to learn how to properly medicate your bees, then they could live longer.
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

Given your past experience I don't see TF working out so well for you.

Learn to keep standard bees alive in standard equipment using standard methods 1st. They are "the standard" for a reason, they work

Learn form the people who make their income from their bees, not selling their books.
as I said the anti/alt has a strong attraction, but most who try fail and quit or convert.

once you can handle the standard ways and keep bees alive, then experiment
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

1. Horizontal will do this in day-to-day management (do understand that moving an entire active, heavy horizontal is bear, especially late season).
Compact vertical hive will do about the same, just differently (by the box management).
Depending on your exact format, a full box of honey is similar to about 6 Lang med frames - even I can lift that much.
Real problem as I see it is working bent over more than lifting supers.

2. Trap free swarms - enough said.
Yes, let's do this! Formulate a battle plan for this...?

3. Who said the honey bees will pollinate your garden?
They won't. It is an over-used myth.
Native bugs do an excellent job pollinating small gardens.
Create habitat for bumble bees and solitary bees (or at least don't kill what already exists).
I have noticed them working some of the stuff in my own yard. But not usually. AAMAF, I normally don't even notice them working the lawn clover, or dead nettle in the yard. Makes sense to me that they would not necessarily work close to home. So we can remove this number from the list.

4. Trap those swarms and you will have enough honey for family use.
Don't worry if the captured swarms die (they likely will die) - dead bees need no honey and so you get to keep it.
Oh, yeah, best harvest when they die off before winter :) I would prefer to winter some bees, split, make nuc's, work the process, see the whole thing work. But if I could catch swarms effectively, I could settle for that for a while... It would be a good start.


5. Don't try to sell honey (general waste of time and even more money).
Instead make this bee/honey enterprise to be nominally free, so that you get your bee products for nominally nothing.
Propolis harvest alone is such a great deal for me - that alone makes it worthwhile (check the pricing for propolis).This I don't get. I have no problem selling honey. People beg me for it. If I could harvest a ton, I believe I could sell it and as the most expensive honey in town. I get as much for plain old honey as some people sell sourwood for. That said, how do you sell propolis? I know it is a thing, but other than using some myself in soap that I make, no one has ever asked me for any. Where/how does one find this market. Wax is the other thing. I have no idea how people capture enough wax to sell. Although, I kind of get it if you are pulling old comb when you flip the two bottom boxes I guess that would account for 8 deep frames worth of wax per season, plus cappings. I have just had so much issue getting then to draw out comb on purpose, even with full sheets of foundation in place. Keeping that triggered is definitely something I missed.

6. Just assume your bees will die in your particular location and go from there.
No magic, but the location has a lot to do with it.
Of course, you can choose to learn how to properly medicate your bees, then they could live longer.
By location, do you mean specifically where my stand and hive sit? Or my City/State/Zip? I guess I could be okay with them dying every year, if I knew I wasn't spending a bunch of money buying them every year. Seems cold blooded, but I could factor that into a success scenario, as a jumping off point to not having them die every year.
Responses inline.
 

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Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

Responses inline.
1.
Real problem as I see it is working bent over more than lifting supers.
That is why you set your horizontal hive at the level that works for you - no need to bend.
This is exactly one of the strong advantages of the horizontals.
You get to choose your personal, customized level of your work.
Minus to the verticals here (especially the heavy box verticals).

2.
Yes, let's do this! Formulate a battle plan for this...?
Scan the sub-forum on swarm trapping.
No need to rehash it here since plenty has been posted already.
This year I will have traps on at least 7 locations because I have access to that much and I need the bees.
I have done many more traps before but did not gain much by the #s.
As well going above 10 traps is taking too much time/effort as for me.
My traps are set just about where I want the hives to stand.

3. Next...

4.
Oh, yeah, best harvest when they die off before winter........
Exactly.
The worst time is when the bees die off in March/April, AFTER consuming lots of stores.
The best time is when they just collapse in October - makes for a great harvest (do make sure to prevent robbing to stop the mite spreading and to keep your honey).
This year I am still harvesting and storing the resources away for later use - I took lots of losses.
Just today I decided I will put up lots of chunk honey into the freezer this year.
Best honey and I have it.

5.
This I don't get.....
I will not become significantly richer by selling honey from my small operation to even bother with it - hence this is my opinion.
If my son wants to earn some college money by selling our honey - his choice to make and he is welcome.
:)

Well, I just give honey as rent to my landlords and then to some friends/colleagues/neighbors.
After that it is ours to keep. The more the better.
Last year was very bad year and we had very little honey.
So this year I will freeze lots of honey and have also some conventional honey put up because I don't see I will have much honey in 2020 (got no bees left).
You see it makes sense to freeze honey towards a bad year (instead of selling it for marginal profit and then be out of it).

Propolis I need myself; might sell off to select crowd by a word IF have too much harvested.
I just finally became serious about propolis harvest this year since I need to clean out lots of equipment anyway.
Wax I need myself too - self made hand lotions, deodorants, etc.
Wax is a product of shredded old combs after C&S honey harvest and bee bread harvest.

6.
By location, do you mean specifically where my stand and hive sit? Or my City/State/Zip?
You need to understand what is your local bee situation.
Your own ZIP and the surrounding ZIPs are probably what you should be concerned about.
Whatever goes on in this area immediately affects your success or your failure.
Like I mentioned before, my ZIP-tied locations is infested by annual package bee dumps from southern locations.
This year's dump feels even larger yet per the local bee forum messages - there have been lots of imported bees dumped again (hundreds probably in my vicinity).

Because of these massive imports, my own TF efforts have been failing due to massive dilution pressure against whatever bees I had.
Does not matter if I follow Leo Sharashkin's books to the letter - those books are mostly irrelevant here.

So you must know very well how many bees and beekeepers are present in your locations, what they are doing and if they are working for your or against you.
A large commercial yard next to you will screw up any selections attempts you might try.
On the other hand, this very commercial yard will be welcome if you want to trap for throw-away, one-season swarms.
That's the idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Re: Assuming Top Bar is not the worst thing in the world, what are the actual p & c?

Okay, thanks for all the advice, and information and links about TBH. Pretty sure, though I like the idea of it, it is not a style that is going to work for me at this point. Though, I have a few things earmarked, and there may be some TBH in my future. I no longer believe it is "The Devil". and certainly see a valid place for it, just not for me, right now.
 
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