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Discussion Starter #1
While going through the hives today, I realized that I had changed over the two seasons I've been working these hives. I'm more careful now to close the space up between bars that I have inspected before I take out the next one. It occurred to me how much easier this is than leaving them spaced. So I thought I would share this for those of you who are new enough not to have figured this out for yourselves already.

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When one inspects a tbh, you usually begin at one end, removing a follower or empty bars to make a space, then lifts a comb, inspects it and moves it out of the way to reveal the next one.

On a hot, humid day, one can quickly grow tired of trying to get the bees down between bars as you push them together, and you might be tempted to just leave a little space so the bees don't get squished, and to keep going with the inspection by moving on to the next bar.

In my experience, this is a mistake. It is much wiser to close the spaces behind you as you move through the hive.

Let's say you remove your follower and/or empty bars at the beginning to make a space and that space is 10 inches wide. If we're moving from left to right in the hive, we take a bar from the right side of our space, inspect it, and move it over to the left side of our space. If you take the time to close the space up between the inspected bars as go, and inspect every bar, you will finish with that same 10 inch space open at the other end of the hive. And all the bars will be touching each other. This means that you will have very few bees crawling around on top of the bars, and you can replace them - or move them all back to their starting positions - often moving 2 to four bars at a time. This makes closing up pretty quick and painless, right when you're getting so sweaty you can't stand it anymore.

On the other hand, if you don't close up space as you go, the bees tend to crawl up between the bars in the space you leave. The hive temperature drops and the bees get more and more upset. It also means that your working space becomes smaller as you go. So if you start with 10 inches, and leave bars apart here and there as you go, you might end up with 3 or 4 inches of open space to work with at the other end - restricting more as the inspection progresses. Worse, you run out of space entirely before you finished, and you are forced to shuffle bars to get space again - meaning you end up moving them three times. Brutal.

So by the time you get through the hive, you're dripping with sweat and running out of patience, you've got less room to move things and you've got angry bees all over the place. Right when you're running lowest on zen, you have to exercise even more patience in order to get bars back together, as there are way more bees up on and between the top bars, and they're running out of patience with you. This situation is no fun.

So close up space behind you, and you'll find the inspection of a top bar hive easier on you, and easier on the bees.

Take it or leave it.

Adam
 

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Sounds like the voice of experience, Adam!!!! :) I definitely agree with your opinion -- much easier to keep things "tidy" as you go -- less work, better view, calmer bees, fewer mistakes. I also have learned to move 2 or 3 bars at a time when closing the hive back up, as you mention, although the size of my hands prevent me from moving more than that.

Another tip based on experience -- It can be a real temptation to slide a top bar (or bars) along the sides of the hive or to slightly tip or rotate the bar while you are removing it from the hive to get a better view of the sides of the comb. This tends to scrape, roll and injure bees.

I watched a video of a guy who was pulling brood combs from his TBH to inspect them. He was slightly tipping each bar at the same time as he was lifting it out of the hive. This was probably an unconscious move created by his clear desire to inspect the surface of the comb. The video camera showed he was inadvertently rolling bees on the backside of the comb. If he had raised the bar, then looked at the comb, he would probably have been fine.

I try to always raise a top bar (or group of bars) STRAIGHT UP, then do what else I want to do. I try hard to not think anything but raising the top bar raised as high as it needs to be, THEN I move on to the next thing I want to do.

I don't have to raise a top bar (or bars) much to just to move it sideways, but there has to be enough of an open gap between the comb and the sides of the hive to clear the bees that often cover the sides of the hive and edges of the comb.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
DeeAnna,

Agreed. You don't want to slide bars or groups of bars along within the hive body, but pull them straight up until their sloped edges are enough up and away to make sure that you're not rolling bees.

Rolled bees are angry bees.

That's another reason I try to make sure that I have plenty of room to work (like 8 - 10 inches of space). It allows you to easily look down into the hive and along the edges of the next comb to be removed, gives you space to cut attachments, and allows you to carefully separate the bar and move it up and out without rolling bees.


Adam
 

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Thanks for the tips! I am interested to hear how many of you TBH owners smoke your bees when you inspect. Can you explain why or why not? I have heard so many different opinions on that matter. I havew not used smoke as of yet and the bees have always been very calm but the last time I was in the hive they were pretty upset and I lost a bunch of bees because they tried to sting through my gloves. Felt really bad about that it probably was not the best day/time of day but I also wonder if it makes a difference that the hive is so full.

b
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I use smoke and recommend that you master its use before deciding to put it aside. I feel that it's use is a skill that takes time to learn; from lighting a smoker, to keeping it burning to knowing just how much to smoke, if at all and when.

There was a recent thread in the Bee Forum that was very interesting and had a lot of input. Search it up. It was within the last month or so. Wait, here it is.

Hive makes no difference as to whether or not you should use smoke. First year bees can be pretty gentle for most of the first year, but get more defensive as they get a lot stored up for winter. There are just too many stories of well-meaning beekeepers who forgo the use of smoke and get badly stung by bees that seem to turn very aggressive without warning.

But there are lots of opinions out there. From what I can see, most of the people by far who don't use smoke are relatively new to beekeeping, and are under the impression that it's somehow harmful to bees.

Adam
 

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I have a real issue with the folks who think the only way to work with bees is without protective clothing or a smoker. I am not and never will be a "bee whisperer" and I do not like to get stung. I always wear gloves, a veil, and protective clothing. I may or may not use my smoker, but I always make sure it is lit and ready for use every time I go into my hives.

I think of the smoke as a way to interfere with alarm pheromones, plain and simple. I do not think of smoke as a means to drive the bees around or force them back into the hive.

"The books" say to puff smoke into the entrance of the hive, wait a minute or so, then open the hive. This might be good advice for a Lang hive, but I can't say this advice has done much for my TBHs the times I've tried it.

What works better for me is to lift the lid on a hive, remove a top bar or three, wait a little bit, and check how the bees are behaving. I never really know what to expect, so I'm prepared for anything. Sometimes they are calm and indifferent to me, and I might not need to use much if any smoke at all.

Sometimes the bees immediately pop up through the opening in the bars and seem annoyed right away. If so, I will waft smoke lightly over the top bars, not so much in the hive. The bees that are annoyed and raising a ruckus are not generally the ones IN the hive. They are the ones walking on or flying above the bars. I will sometimes also waft smoke around myself if the guards are buzzing around me aggressively.

I tend to not puff smoke directly into the hive unless the bees in the hive are also getting unhappy and are starting to boil up at me. This usually happens near the end of an inspection, especially if I have been slow or clumsy. Then I will direct a puff or two into the opening I've made by removing top bars. I wait a bit for the bees to calm down, and then I resume work. This tactic won't work forever, so I save it for times when it is really needed.

Other things I think make a difference:

Puff lightly a time or two, wait a bit, then go back to work. Less smoke is better than more.

Sometimes taking a deep breath and changing my mindset works better than smoke. I think my scent changes when I get anxious, and that trips the bees' triggers.

Learn to ignore the guards patrolling in front of my veil. They are annoying, but they can't sting me. Eventually all but the most determined few will go away.

Work smoothly and purposefully. No jerky motions, don't get in a hurry, don't get annoyed.

Don't breathe through my open mouth or drip sweat onto the hive.
 

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Getting back to the original topic. It is really easy to move blocks of eight or so bars back into place when closing up by using a couple of bars that have 3/8" wood starter strips. Slide the starter strips under the end edges of the top bars, lift them slightly and move into place. You may need to us what everyone is calling the beedown strip to slide the group of bars the final 3/8 inch. I've moved up to ten bars of comb using this method. Makes closing up very quick.

On smoking, DeeAnna, you have said it well and sounds like you are well on your way to being the Bee Whisperer. Adding, I think it is important to learn how your bees react to inspections at different times of the year. During a dearth a large colony is going to be more aggressive than in early spring buildup with a flow on and fewer bees. A little smoke will go a long ways. Many times just lighting the smoker in the yard is enough.
 

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"...really easy to move blocks of eight or so bars back into place when closing up by using a couple of bars that have 3/8" wood starter strips..."

Great tip, Delta! I had not tumbled onto that idea, and probably never would have without your help. Thanks a bunch for sharing.

"...During a dearth a large colony is going to be more aggressive than in early spring buildup with a flow on and fewer bees...."

Good point. I have not worked with my bees during the fall or dearth times, so I am sure I have more to learn about this issue.
 

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Thanks for all the different thoughts. Will definitely give the smoker a try. Do not really have an opinion one way or another just had not needed until now. I certainly always wear protective gear since I have had an anephalactic reaction to a yellow jacket sting a few years back.....:) Can someone please elaborate on what the exact reasons are for utilizing the smoke and how it impacts the bees? I have read that the smoke masks our own smell but also came across several times that the bees will eat when smoked and therefore be calmer. Any insight? Should I have posted this under a separate thread??(probably!, sorry)
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"...the exact reasons are for utilizing the smoke and how it impacts the bees?..."

Yup, should go in a new thread. But, honestly, I'm not sure it needs to be asked again. A search of the archives will bring up lots of debates about this issue, including at least one long wrangle in the past several weeks. I don't think anyone really definitively knows the answer. I sure don't.
 
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