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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, new here, 2 posts in the welcome forum.

I have a TBH I picked up on Craigslist. Nicely made, glass window. I made new bars for it, with wedge guides. No bees yet; need to wait for next year now.

Inside dimensions 12.5" wide, 9.5" deep, 34" long.

Is this too small? Will it be a constant swarm risk? Should I make a second one for spillover?

One other thing I've realized in reading: seems like bees are like rabbits and just keep multiplying. I really don't want a business. I just want to maybe help out the bees a little bit by not using any chemicals, letting them build natural sized cells, etc. I would like to have just one or two hives and keep it that way.

Is that a realistic goal? I can't really just let them swarm. I'm in a neighborhood. Good sized lots, but still have folks and their houses within a few hundred feet.
 

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I think that they are too narrow and too short. 16 to 20 inch bars and around 4 feet long is more common, though there are plenty of exceptions. You can never have too many hives! LOL
There are ways to make splits and keep your hive numbers low. You can always split for a while, before a flow to get a bit more honey, and then recombine before fall.
http://www.bushfarms.com/beessplits.htm
 

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for the first year, you will probably be fine. The second year, you will need to do something to prevent a swarm or two from leaving your hive. If you don't want to be in the bee business, I'd recommend you find a local beekeeper who will come and split your hive for you each year. He gets the free bees, and you get a reduced colony size.
 

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"Is this too small?"
You can raise bees bees in that volume. Left to their own devices, bees look for cavities of about 40 liters, a bushel, or ten gallons in size. What you describe sounds to be in that range.

"Will it be a constant swarm risk?"
Short answer, yes. Some strains of honey bees tend to swarm more than other strains. Depending on the genetics of the bees you obtain, they will tend to swarm in a volume of that size. If you are concerned about bees swarming in a fairly urban area, you would be better off with a larger top bar hive. Having room to expand in the hive is easier on the beekeeper.

"Should I make a second one for spillover?"
If I were going to make a second one, I would go ahead and build it to the dimensions described by Duncan. But, having the same length top bar in multiple top bar hives makes things easier to manage. Probably not what you wanted to hear. I hope this works well for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
for the first year, you will probably be fine. The second year, you will need to do something to prevent a swarm or two from leaving your hive. If you don't want to be in the bee business, I'd recommend you find a local beekeeper who will come and split your hive for you each year. He gets the free bees, and you get a reduced colony size.
Oh, that's not a bad idea...

Thanks for the comments, folks. Maybe I can make a more standard size second TBH, while also figuring a way to make the shorter bars fit the larger hive later on. I read somewhere here about screwing the shorter bar to the longer one. Since I don't have bees yet, there might even be a better way to make them work together...

I'm also trying to make no cracks or crevices which the bees can't patrol (for SHB). More complex things tend to have more hiding places.
 

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I would get larger hives for the bees and keep the small hive close by as a swarm trap. Start the bees off in the large hive with a divider board and when space starts to fill up move the divider board to give them more room and lessen the swarm tendency. That's just my opinion.
 

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It's not altogether a bad thing for swarms to occur during a season. Once, the bees swarmed out of one hive and right into an empty one next-door. In any case, not-all of the bees will leave.

(Fair warning, though ... this year, hornets built a huge nest in one of the empties, and I had to destroy the hive-box to get rid of them. Not a financial loss, but a PITA, and a very serious multiple "yee-ouch!!" before I ran back to get "suited up" to ... ahem ... deal with ... the little :waiting:s ...)

I build the hives long enough that I can grab the handles at both ends and pick the thing up. One's a little longer than that.

Really, the only thing about the Backyard Beekeeper plans that I paid close attention to was the inside dimensions. My hives sit on cinder-blocks, shimmed so that they are level along both axes. Nothin' to look at, but the bees love 'em.

If all the bees do leave ... "absconding" ... it basically means that they think they've run out of nearby resources of nectar and so-forth. They send out scouts to find a better place to live, move the colony there, and send workers back to pick the thing absolutely clean of honey. You need to try to manage things such that they never feel the need to do that. Flowers in a pasture, after all, are pretty.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I would get larger hives for the bees and keep the small hive close by as a swarm trap. Start the bees off in the large hive with a divider board and when space starts to fill up move the divider board to give them more room and lessen the swarm tendency. That's just my opinion.
I'm thinking I will need to do just that. Build a larger one and keep this one as a backup.

mrobinson: i do have some concern about forage. We have plenty of crape myrtles blooming (and I see BeeGora is also from this area so he can attest), but I don't see a lot of anything else but weed grass. I might ask my senior neighbor if I can plant his side yard in clover. I mow that for him right now or it would be 2 feet tall in dallisgrass and bahiagrass. Few flowers in it. I would think clover would be an improvement. But he might not want the bee activity.
 

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It's sort of a time right now around here where flowers aren't very plentiful and I do see the bees drawing-down some of their stores. In a few weeks the Fall flowers will start to appear. Keep the yard mowed and scatter flower-seeds like they do along the highways.
 

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I couldn't get to my lawn for a couple of weeks and one morning I went out to see bees climbing all over the bahiagrass. The lawn was alive with them. I had to mow the front lawn (I waited until evening), but I've left the grass in the back alone for the time being. Once the goldenrod starts blooming, which should be soon, I'll get back to regular mowing.
 

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Keeping a just one or two hives can be challenging depending upon your skills and luck. It's not like having a couple of cows or goats. Hives are very dynamic. You can go from dealing with swarming to the sudden need for resources like extra brood and queen cells. There are always some winter losses, and with just two hives, losing one takes out your safety net. I suspect that in order to ensure you have a hive or two, you may want to also plan to have a nuc or two in the works.

Alternatively as suggested, working with a local beek to take splits or to share resources when you are in need sounds like a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I couldn't get to my lawn for a couple of weeks and one morning I went out to see bees climbing all over the bahiagrass. The lawn was alive with them. I had to mow the front lawn (I waited until evening), but I've left the grass in the back alone for the time being. Once the goldenrod starts blooming, which should be soon, I'll get back to regular mowing.
After reading this, I did a little search, and sure enough, the bees will go for the Bahiagrass pollen, too. The elder gent next door has a lot of everything in that side yard. I call it a side yard, but it's right next to the road. If I don't mow it, someone else will, since many of the lawns here are weed free. But during my mowing there, I've been looking for flowers and bees. There are actually a lot of little flowering weeds there. Would be better if there were more low-growing flowing weeds like clover, though. He has a little clover. Not nearly enough. At first , I was worried that mowing his lawn would transfer weed seed to my lawn. That probably is happening, but I'm tired of the lawn care anyway :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I suspect that in order to ensure you have a hive or two, you may want to also plan to have a nuc or two in the works.
I'm researching designs and plan to build two larger TBH this fall/winter. And planning to keep the smaller one, but not sure how it will be used. It's is more trouble to try to expand the existing one than to build a new one. And the bars will be shorter than the new ones. We'll see.
 

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I am always experimenting with different designs and built a short hive a couple of years ago. I cut the top bars so the bees could move up like a Langstroth and then I made a shallow super for it. The bars in the super are much wider for honeycomb. The first year the colony was a precocious swarmer, but this year they haven't swarmed once (at least I haven't found any evidence of swarm cells in any of my inspections). They attached the honeycomb from the super onto the lower top bars and I nearly had a disaster the first time I took it off, so after that I insert a guitar string (the high E, nice and thin) between the hive and super and gently cut off the attachments before lifting. I learned to draw the string in the same direction as the gaps in the bars and not perpendicular to them as this cut at least one worker in half the first time I did it. I saw the poor thing later trying to fly around without an abdomen. Having a short hive has been interesting, and in some ways I really like the hive, but I won't build another like it. I don't like the extra work of having a super to deal with. A four foot top bar hive, properly managed, is straightforward and easier.
 
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