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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have noticed that several new beeks are doing top bar hives and just wondering what made them decide to go that option. Is it the price or do they all have bad back? :) Thats about all I can see that are the advantages besides look better as a yard decoration.
 

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I chose to go with TBH because of
1. cost (kit from Beeline was $165)
2. didn't want to assemble a bunch of stuff
3. neighbors have no clue what is sitting in my front yard next to my porch
4. I don't have to smoke my bees (and possibly burn my fingers or melt the siding on my house)
5. I get to have an observation window, and I look at them at least twice a day
6. I'm in it for the education (and pollination) and not the honey production
7. I didn't want to use foundation
8. I can't lift a lot of weight. Bad hips, bad knees.

I'm sure Lang users will come up with all sorts of points of how I could do it differently with Lang hives, but I waited 20 years to get into beekeeping because the "traditional way" seemed overwhelming and confusing. Since I started my hives last year, I've talked numerous friends into getting bees with a TBH. Mostly women between 40-50. The TBH seems to be the hive of choice for that group of gardeners.
 

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I started a top bar this year, out of curiosity and somewhat as forcing mechanism to question and experiment with a few different hive management ideas. But from what I've seen and read, there is a conflation of "natural" beekeeping with top bar "hive design". So I do think some new beekeepers are drawn to the top bar for this reason alone . But I've yet to come across anything that convincingly suggests that any of the approaches to "natural" hive management in a top bar hive are exclusively born of the design.

That said, there are some distinct differences in management that may attract some. Notably, the horizontal aspect of the hive means you are not lifting heavy boxes to inspect the far reaches of your brood area. That can be a real strong appeal to some folks. And due to the design of the bars themselves, the hive stays essentially closed to all but the outer exposed bar during an inspection. This can somewhat be replicated in the Langstroth with cover cloths, but not fully.

It might be worth flipping the question around to and asking why there should be an expectation that they would go Langstroth or that bad luck would be the reason. Do you have a particularly compelling reason to not go with TBH?
 

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tbh are good for the reasons already stated. However, they are not the best choice for colder climates due to physics and the fact that heat rises, not sideways. So bees having more vertical options where they naturally store honey high and place brood low, allows for them to move up far easier than down during cold winter months. Beyond that, the combs are not easily removed and inspected, since they normally get glued down to the side walls. Similarly possible with Warre. However Langstroth frames are easily removed and inspected, and are uniformly easy to axtract honey and place back into the hive for reuse without damage.
 

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I started with langs and have just got a tbh.
I did this for the reasons above..I am especially interested in the observation window.
Two of my Langs have observation ports that are also interesting.
 

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I guess you could call my hives a topbar. I did make Half-frames for them and made the combs larger than a lang deep by 33% more area. I chose the design because it just looked like a design that was begging for customization. I wanted something that I could mess around with the design. I did make the frames larger to help with the cold that hits us during winter. You wouldn't think it would be that bad in Texas. But the weather here in the panhandle is just ugly (Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and almost always windy.) No, I don't like it here. But, we have family here, and the wife doesn't want to leave.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The reasons I was asking is that I noticed there are several new folks that ate using tbh's. I was wondering if it was for the weight I would just go to the 8 frame shallows, but if it is for cosmetic or so your neighbors don't know like Ruth said I totally agree. Maybe its that I am not familiar with these hives but how do you expand them or make them smaller as your hive grows or shrinks. And as stated how do the bees survive in the cold with these hives.
 

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I use a follower board to expand the hive. I haven't thought about shrinking the hive.

Hey Nate if you want to see a non-standard topbar hive just give me a call. Also there are a few standard topbar hives and a couple of warre hives behind the "Buffalo Chip". They have a sweet setup for their hives. And all but one of his topbar hives overwintered successfully this year.
 

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tbh are good for the reasons already stated. However, they are not the best choice for colder climates due to physics and the fact that heat rises, not sideways. So bees having more vertical options where they naturally store honey high and place brood low, allows for them to move up far easier than down during cold winter months. Beyond that, the combs are not easily removed and inspected, since they normally get glued down to the side walls. Similarly possible with Warre. However Langstroth frames are easily removed and inspected, and are uniformly easy to axtract honey and place back into the hive for reuse without damage.
sounds like you've never used a Top bar hive before. Sam Comfort, Michael Bush and many others use top bars in cold climates with great success. my gf's hive in CT came through this harsh winter quite well with no insulation.

actually top bars don't get glued to the sidewalls that often.. they generally preserve the beespace along the edges except perhaps a bit of bridge comb similar to between lang. frames.

while many people do crush/ strain for top bar hives because they are harvesting less combs of honey, people have built baskets to put into extractors. They build top bar comb pretty quick so having them rebuild it isn't a big deal.

But your Langs can't even stay warm without your little heater system so......
 

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Last year I built a long Lang for the same reasons people use TBHs. All one height, never pick up anything heavier than a honey filled frame. Cheap to get into.
Mine are rough sawn lumber I got off the farm so my only cost is 30 frames and the flashing on the roof.
Mine last year overwintered fine so I built another this year. Plan on building another.

They are sure easier to work. The bees seem calmer and there a really handy place to store a few extra frames of drawn comb when opening up the broodnest on my standard langs.

I won't know about honey production till this year is up.
Woody Roberts
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, I will see if I can check one out. I have never looked at a TBH up close
 

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I was surprised as how well the TBHs overwintered this year in the crazy cold we had. I was sure they would die due to the extreme cold and no winter prep. On the first really cold morning I told my wife that it had been fun being a bee keeper, but they soldiered on. I had one die in February, but I didn't think it was going to make it to Thanksgiving!
 

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I also started with KTBH's for 2 basic reasons:
1)- I had everything I needed to make two five-footers and a two foot nuc, without spending a penny.
2)- I didn't want to use foundation, or other things that I had to buy to keep my hives going.

This year we are expanding into Langs, but have no regrets, and a great first year experience with the tbh's.
 

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The TBH is a far simpler (and less intimidating) concept for a newbee to grasp. Its no fuss approach is appealing to people trying to escape a somewhat contrived modern lifestyle.. Unfortunately the bees remain anything but simple, so opinions might change!

Still loving mine on day38, but having constructed it myself I'm probably biased ;)
 

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I am using long beehives and modified Langs both with top bars. The bars have standard length for compatibility. Why top bars? Mainly for "natural" beekeeping: bees build what they need, no foundation, no treatment, fresh beautiful white comb, healthy bees. 4 years in the row - instead loses I have gains (30-50% per year). But, keep in mind that I am a hobbyist and have no intention to do any commercial beekeeping. TBs need different management. Once beekeeper AND bees learn what is good and what is bad - managing TB hives are easy and pleasant. Bees are much calmer in horizontal hives (not necessary TB). It seems to me that bees actually learned that the comb must be straight - at the beginning one needs to "teach" bees what is proper (straight comb). Once they understand your "teaching", they will make straight comb. My bees do straight comb without any "starting strips" etc.
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