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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good morning, everyone!

Yesterday, my husband and i completed the second inspection of our backyard top bar hives, and i thought i'd share a few highlights of the experience.

May 17th, 24 Days After Installation, 2 Packages of Italian Honeybees in 2 New Top Bar Hives

First Hive - No Cross-Combing, Queenright

It's always a little shocking to see how swiftly things develop and change within the hive.

We were so struck by the beauty of those dark copper cells on the left hand side. Is it correct to assume those cells are where hatched brood recently emerged?

It turns out our anxiety over the process of freeing attached comb from the observation window (lower left hand side) was unnecessary.

A flick of a butter knife (in an upwards stroke, of course!) is all it took.

Our first drone cell sighting! Interestingly, there was one comb in each hive that had a few drone cells on it.

The Queen ...

Following advice read here and elsewhere (thanks in particular to JakeDatc), one blank bar was placed between each comb to give our girls a little more elbow room. :)


Second Hive - No Cross-Combing, Queenright
Things seemed to be in good order in the second hive as well.

The Queen ...

... with what appeared to be quite a few hairy babies around her!

A few drone cells on one of the combs, just like the other hive.

Comb, blank, comb, blank, comb, blank, and so on.


As always, feedback from experienced eyes is both valued and encouraged. :) Meanwhile, happy beekeeping everyone!
 

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Awesome pictures again. I'm going to have to break out our DSLR for the next inspection. Pretty neat to see the emerged brood, thin cap brood, and more recently capped brood in a wave across that one comb.

Looking great!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you so much, Tomkat!

Beekeeper23, many thanks to you as well, and i would add the words, DO IT, if you're at all inclined to buy (or make) a pair of top bar hives. We've got four chairs set up in our humble little apiary; 2 in front of the observation windows, and 2 more a short distance in front of the entrances, a table in between them for beverages. Once we've wrestled ourselves away from the observation windows, it's not hard to while away an additional hour or so in front of the hives, just watching the bees, in and out, in an out, occasionally blowing the curious ones off our arms and hands if we want to send them on their way. Do it. You know you want to.

Jwcarlson, thank you so much, and thanks especially for your very informative comment about the timing sequence of that brood comb! I really wasn't sure until i read your words what those "waves" of color and texture differences were all about. Now that i understand them, that comb seems even more beautiful. And please do post more photographs of your hives. I enjoy them very much.
 

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Are your entrance holes on different ends of your hives? I'm looking at the entrances on the two pics of the bars of comb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
BeeGora, yes they are! This allows the entrances to be as far apart as possible since the hives are in the same area.
 

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Awesome. they are kicking butt. Thank Michael Bush more than me, i've mostly repeated what I have read and what i've observed in my gf's TB hive.

I'm really curious to see how fast they draw those bars out with good record/photo documentation by you. All that capped brood emerging will bump up the population nicely and be put straight to work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you, JakeDatc (and Michael Bush!). I will confess that since last night, i've been wringing my hands a little bit in fear of "chilled brood" now that there's more space between the larger combs. Do you think they'll still be able to keep the brood sufficiently warm with overnight temps in the mid 40s?

PS: Hubby is by far the better photographer. He can take one shot and get one great photo. I have to take 20 in order to get one that's worth posting. :)

PPS: How long has your girlfriends top bar hive been buzzing? Has it been through a winter yet?
 

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It has a weird history since she doesn't have much time for manipulation and inspections. It started 3 years ago as a swarm from her original TB hive (since dismantled). We're not sure if those original bees are the ones who are in there now. they may have died and another swarm moved in. But they made it through this winter and seem to be doing well so far. Temps are finally getting into the 60s during the day reliably and more things are starting to pop

I gave her a nuc swarm trap to put out with it to hopefully get a swarm from them or a nearby hive. Beauty of Top bars... with 36 some odd bars full open you can leave them to their own devices and they'll do what they want pretty successfully.

This is them feeling pretty good about life at the end of the summer last year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Oh, look at all those happy bees, and on a stand fit for a Queen! It's funny - there's a thread in one of the other areas that's basically discussing the evil characteristics of a top bar hive design. In my admittedly inexperienced opinion, anyplace where bees happily congregate is a beauty to behold, no matter what the dimensions, be it "man made" or natural. Your girlfriend's hive is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing the photo here!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi, JakeDatc!

Well, the girls spent three nights with the combs arranged in that spread out configuration. We were doing so much hand wringing about the possibility of chilled brood that we removed two of the blank bars and brought the combs back together. I honestly think that was the right move ... we kind of split the difference. They do seem to be closing the two remaining gaps with new comb. It looks like approximately 1/4 to 1/2 sized combs have been constructed in those new spaces, but we won't know for sure until the next inspection. Meanwhile, the "nest" just looks much safer in that there's a higher density of bees to care for the brood. So this was a learning experience, for sure.

I've been checking the ground around the hives daily for signs of discarded brood. So far so good! I'm crossing everything i can anatomically cross that it will remain so. :)
 

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Thanks for the beautiful photos and hive details. I too am a new beekeeper with one top bar hive.

I would like to follow your progress. My bees appeared to be doing well, then on my third inspection, I found two combs full of supercedure cells. The unexpected anomaly was a shock. Waiting to see how it plays out. Your results seem like a textbook example of perfection.

Did you feed your new hives? If yes, for how long?
Do you clean your observation window?

Best,
Pat
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Good morning, Pat, and thanks so much for your comments and questions! We're enjoying it so much that we find ourselves wishing we'd gotten started years ago ...

We do feed our bees with a syrup of 1 part water to 1 part white sugar. Since our bees started out with nothing but an empty wooden box and an unfamiliar queen, preventing starvation seemed like the least we could do for them. Also, we're not taking any honey from our bees this year, so the issue of honey contaminated by syrup doesn't apply. When there's a "flow" on, we've noticed that they take less syrup. So for the moment, we're still making it available on the assumption that they'll use it as they need it.

Meanwhile, i'm sure i'm not the only one who's fascinated by what you encountered on your third inspection! Keep us posted on what happens next.

PS: We don't clean our observation windows. Sometimes, they can get a little gritty, but the bees do seem to make an effort to keep it fairly clean.
 

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Yes, I will keep you posted! I will check the hive on Monday May 26th--dying to find out what's up.

Your TBH looks like mine: from beethinking?
I would also love to ask you some questions about how many entries you're leaving open, when you moved the back board, etc.

I installed my package on April 27 in the middle with a 5 bar space. One side had the feeder and the other side was empty. After 3 days, I moved the backboard about 5 bars back and overnight, the bees moved into the smaller cavity to the left of the center where there were only maybe 4 bars.

It's all so fascinating.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Patricia, the waiting is so hard, isn't it? We'll do our next bar-by-bar inspection on the 31st, and i can feel the anticipation fermenting in my gut. Like you, i can't wait to see what's going on inside the hive ...

If memory serves, we started with 10 available bars. Hubby drilled a hole in one of the follower boards, and that became the "feeder" board. We placed the feeder behind that hole, and blocked the rest of the hive beyond the feeder area off with the other solid follower board.

When we removed the queen cage on day three, we gave them two more bars because they'd already made progress on quite a number of combs, and we didn't want them to run out of space. As a general rule, that's how we've been assessing whether or not to give them more bars. Are they running out of comb space? Time for some bars! :) But whether or not this approach is "correct" from a proper beekeeping standpoint is something the experienced beekeepers would have to respond to.

As for the entrances, since we have two hives that are situated 6 feet or so apart, hubby realized the entrances would be as far from one another as possible if we opened the outermost corners (as if the two hives were one long unit). The hive on the right has the right corner entrance opened; the hive on left opens on the left. It seems to be working really well, and bees aren't the least bit confused about which hive they belong to.

I've read differing opinions about whether or not more than one entrance should be opened at a time. That's a bridge i'll cross when i get to it (maybe the experienced beekeepers can chime in on this as well). Right now, the single opening is serving their purposes just fine.
 

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Hi Estreya,

It sounds like we are following the same practices. I'm look forward to your updates.

Thanks for the correspondance,

Pat
 
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