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Discussion Starter #1
I run 600 cols in modern equipment on 4-way pallets. I first heard about KTBHs in 1985 while in school in Ohio. Dr. Tew had one in a steel drum cut in half. It was in the demonstration yd as an example of what was being used in Kenya to try to improve honey production in Kenya. This was a Kenya/Peace Corp Development Project as I recall it.

Yesterday, while riding in the van w/ a friend I learned from him that he was in the Peace Corp at that time doing beekeeping in Tanzania and that the TBH was being used to transition the beekeepers there from traditional basket like long hives, which couldn't be inspected for disease, to modern hives w/ frames. I found it fascinating to get first hand testimonial about the rationale of why tbhs came into existence in the first place.

He also told me that the traditional hive users startede their cols in the middle of the tube hive and harvested combs of honey from the ends until they got to brood.

So, my question is: Why do you want to use TBHs? What are you getting from them? What is the allure? I am curious about this.

I think, perhaps, I think about TBH users like the locals in western NC felt about me and the other Hippies when we moved there from subserbia to get back to the land and lead a more simple life only to find that it weren't so simple. Shoes on the other foot and it's kinda cramped. :)

Where in your tbh do you start your col? Middle? End?
How did you learn about TBHs and do you seek info and instruction from other TBH afficianados?

Thanks for you patience. An old dog here.
 

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My reason was that it is a low cost way to get into beekeeping - I didn't know for sure I was going to like it. The bees chose to start the comb about 10 inches from the front of the four foot hive. Adrian
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Where are they now? The brood combs that is. R they centered? To one end? Have you positioned them or let them do as they will?
 

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the rationale of why tbhs came into existence in the first place.
I'm sure you are already aware that the top bar hive was not 'invented' in modern times as it dates back to early greek/roman and even egyptian hives using sticks and wooden pieces over the tops of various containers.

Perhaps the better question of why the renewed interest of such an old method?

Because like you said about hippies wanting to get back to the land and away from 'modern' city ways, many people don't think that newer automatically means better.

I will say my own reasons are:

1) It is much less expensive to build a tbh over a lang

2) it is easier for me to work a tbh than a framed hive as I have big hands and fingers, making it very difficult to grab the frames in a full hive box, but on a tbh, Iam able to much easier handle the top bars from the outside ends, agitating the comb much less and more smoothly.

3) I am of the opinion the bees are benefiting from having fresh drawn comb which is cycled out of the hive more frequently thus removing and reducing possible harmful contaminant buildup in said combs over time.

4) I get the feeling I have a better interaction with the bees in a tbh, could just be me, but I think the tendency to move slower and take more time with each comb to prevent comb damage to that which is newly built and similar aspects of these types of hives enables one to take a less 'commodity' perspective toward the bees and affords them a bit more respect. again, might just be me.

5) and perhaps more importantly..because I can. I will run the type of hives I want to run much as the next guy can do the same. As long as I am helping bees to stay alive, healthy and in abundance, Then I consider it a successful hive regardless of how old the method is.

There you have it. enjoy the bees.

Big Bear
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Great explanation BBO. Thanks. I'm seeing a different way of interacting w/ the bees here. Dare I say a more Zen type of beekeeping. A more enjoyment/bee beneficial way, perhaps. I love the idea. I may be seeing a cpl of TBHs in my future.

Yes, I am aware of all sorts of ancient methods of, shall we say, low tech methods of beekeeping and beehives. When we start seeing beekeepers climbing the face of Clintch Mtn on ropes to harvest honey from cliff dwelling honeybees, well, that's definitely where I will draw the line. :)
 

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Dare I say a more Zen type of beekeeping.
That would bee a very good way of looking at it in my opinion.

The way I look at it, I don't do things to be miserable. if whatever it is I am doing is causing more stress or "trouble" than enjoyment and feeling success then something is not right and it's time to head back to the drawing board.

To me, this applies to working with honey bees as well.

Big Bear
 

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I think that your interaction with bees is very much dictated by the type of hive and equipment you use. I am using tbh's at the moment. When I visited my Dad, his are in a lang.

I have limited experience, but I can say that I find the tbh to require a slower, more careful process. There is less imposed structure, which is both positive and negative depending on how you look at it, and what your personal desires or tendencies are. It's nice to see combs, hanging there, completely shaped by the bees - but they are more delicate. It's nice that the top bar structure maintains temperature and limits the number of bees exposed at a given time - but it's a slow process to close up the hive and squeeze those bars together without killing a bunch of bees. Your environment will also play into what works best for you.

I don't see the tbh as any 'threat' to the Lang. I also think its very unlikely that many people would do large-scale commercial beekeeping with top bars in North America. I don't think it's inherently more 'natural', especially if you're going foundationless in your lang. I think its just another way to do things.

Give it a shot and see if it works for you.

Adam
 

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3) I am of the opinion the bees are benefiting from having fresh drawn comb which is cycled out of the hive more frequently thus removing and reducing possible harmful contaminant buildup in said combs over time.

4) I get the feeling I have a better interaction with the bees in a tbh, could just be me, but I think the tendency to move slower and take more time with each comb to prevent comb damage to that which is newly built and similar aspects of these types of hives enables one to take a less 'commodity' perspective toward the bees and affords them a bit more respect. again, might just be me.

5) and perhaps more importantly..because I can. I will run the type of hives I want to run much as the next guy can do the same. As long as I am helping bees to stay alive, healthy and in abundance, Then I consider it a successful hive regardless of how old the method is.

Points 3 and 4: Can be done in lang as well.
 

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I have one TBH which I built last winter to see what all the hype is about. I enjoy working it, but its not its not as efficient time-wise for me, but that may be because Im used to langs.

I like it because with the design I have, no bees ever get crushed or trapped. They seem more relaxed, I have never been stung working this hive. And no bending or lifting sure makes it more enjoyable on a hot day (my tbh has legs).

But this will be my first winter with it, so I guess that will be the true test.
 

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Points 3 and 4: Can be done in lang as well.
maybe they can be, but from my interacting with most lang users, they aren't. especially point 4 seeing a frame makes people think of it as more stable whereas no frame at all , you don't get that false feeling of security.

Big Bear
 

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I keep top bar hives because we have a vendor here in Maine selling them as a "more natural, healthier" way of keeping bees.
see here: http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/

As the "open minded" master beekeeper here in Maine, I feel it is my responsibility to keep up with what is available and interesting to the beekeepers in my area. So I am giving the TBH a try for the second year, this year I have three.

(last year I had one and they died of starvation in January with 70+ pounds of honey in the colony that they couldn't access. In the same yard I had a 5 frame medium nuc successfully winter...)

I also have a number of 8 frame medium hives including several that I am running foundationless and that is my favorite so far for the hobbyist who is willing to go without foundation. 8 frame medium foundationless is great fun and lets the bees do what they want, and the bees do great. 8 Frame hives 4 high winter beautifully here in Maine.

Still keeping an open mind, I have to admit when I was dating my husband (20 years ago) he called me the "hippie chick"

all comes around.
Best to you and your bees,
-E.
 

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I'll throw in the perspective of a complete newb.

I've been moderately interested in beekeeping over the last couple of years. I've been reading up on it and really wanted to give it a try but I was hesitant to lay out the cash to buy a lang setup. In particular I was afraid of laying out a lot of money only to discover that I hated beekeeping.

Then, in my online research, I discovered the tbh. I had all the lumber necessary to build it, and it's simple design was something that even I could build.

My primary reason for trying my hand at beekeeping is curiosity. Second is the warm fuzzy feeling I get from helping a species that is beneficial to our environment and undergoing a serious decline. Productivity is of minimal concern to me.

Now that I'm up and running, and have discovered that I enjoy keeping bees, I will likely try a couple of langs for the sake of comparison next year.

All that said, I can see that if one were to keep bees on anything much larger than hobby scale, langs would make more sense.
 

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"... the TBH was being used to transition the beekeepers there from traditional basket like long hives, which couldn't be inspected for disease, to modern hives w/ frames..."
The way I heard it was that TBHs were an alternative to expensive lang hives for which the locals did not have the materials or the infrastructure so they'd be forever dependent on expensive shipments from western Europe. I have a feeling that inspecting bugs for diseases is low on the priority list when you don't have a hospital for your children.

...So, my question is: Why do you want to use TBHs? What are you getting from them? What is the allure? I am curious about this.
That's just it: curiosity. And, for me, that whole hippie thing: start-up price, esthetics, idealism, against the main stream. (reinventing the wheel?!?) :) Give it a try, you'll either love it or hate it. With your experience in beekeeping, I'm sure you'll see faster and a lot more than I do.

...Where in your tbh do you start your col? Middle? End?...
I've done both. I think if you start them in the middle they build both directions right off the bat. When winter comes the cluster stays sort of in the middle of the hive and starts moving one direction or another. You have to move the bars of honey to the far end of the cluster.
If you start them at one end of the hive, they tend to build out from there but they keep the brood nest closer to the end they started from. Maybe 2 or 3 bars of stores at that end. That's for the first year. Easier to manage but they build slower, I think.
 

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What about your design keeps bees from getting crushed or trapped?
First I should clarify that bees can still get crushed between the bars. Though I am careful to avoid this, which may be one of the reasons it takes longer for me to work than a lang.

But what I did, which may not be unique or new, is to put a rim around the bars, this rim leaves about a quarter inch space between the end of the bars and the beginning of the rim (it is attached to the hive on the ends). Also the top has spacers in each corner raising it off the bars by about 1/4 inch. So I never have to worry about bees coming out or walking around on top of the top bars, I can close it up when I am done and the bees are free to leave as they please.

Here are some photos:
http://www.hipbeehoney.com/photos.html

You can see the spacers in the corners of the inside of the lid, and in the picture with the feeder you can see the gap between the bars and the outside rim. Again, for all I know this may be common practice, but I have never heard of it before and it has worked well for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
The way I heard it was that TBHs were an alternative to expensive lang hives for which the locals did not have the materials...

And, for me, that whole hippie thing: start-up price, esthetics, idealism, against the main stream. (reinventing the wheel?!?) :) Give it a try, you'll either love it or hate it. With your experience in beekeeping, I'm sure you'll see faster and a lot more than I do.
That's what I thought that I knew to be the reason why also, and maybe in part it was. But I heard the perspective of at least one of the people who had boots on the ground in the 1980s, in Tansania, in the Peace Corp, whne the project was being implemented. I don't think he would mind my saying that his name is Mike Griggs of NY. President(I believe) of the Finger Lakes Beekeepers Association.

Oh, yeah, I lived through the 60s and 70s and that's probably why I got distracted and forgot to finish replying to the "whole hippy thing" thing. :) I'm 57. I didn't completely out grow the movement, just matured somewhat.

Peace,love and understanding. Man. :)

Or should I jump back into the present and say "Been there, done that."?
 

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I was told by a TBH keeping hippy, that it was better for the bees than a lang. Her primary reason was because she believes that foundation is full of chemicals. This she says make my lang bees unhealthy. Her TB bees only ever have clean wax. Only problem I see is wintering, over 90% of her healthy bees are dead (about 10%made it through the winter) while my unhealthy bees living in an un-natural box on contaminated wax are all doing great.

So would you rather be healthy or alive?
 

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Well, she isn't completely wrong in her opinion. There will be less pesticide residue in her comb, because it is young. But Dr. Maryann Fraser of Penn State told us last thursday that even if one starts out w/ virgin wax, eventually it too will become contaminated w/ pesticides that the bees encounter and collect in effect from the environment and there isn't anywhere where you can go that this isn't true.

Just thought you'd like to know. Happy beekeeping.
 

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I had an unsuccessful try transitioning from a nuc to my TBH. I put them in a lang to let them get ready for winter. I feel good about that decision but can't wait to try my TBH again next year.

I felt much more at ease and in tune with the bees when I was working the TBH. No stacking/un-stacking confusion for the bees. No staring into an entire box of bees who are wondering why I am there. :eek: Also, it was very easy to gently lift the bars compared to trying to get a grip on a frame with my clumsy fingers. "Zen" is a good way to put it. That is how it felt.

I also like the idea of them drawing their own comb, the size and way they want it. Of course that can be done with foundationless and Warre too.

I think that I would like to have one hive of Lang. Warre and TBH types just so I can learn and compare. (Well, maybe two of each would be better ;) )
 

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When KTBH has an opening on one end, they will work towards the other end. Putting honey in last of those newer combs they've built away from the brood. They are all screened on the bottoms that I leave open all year(I live in TX).

As far as working time goes, there is no way the KTBH is slower to work than say an equal set-up in a lang. Look at 2 brood boxes and a super. Start the clock. By the time, and physical effort, that you've got the lower brood open to inspect, I'm nearing the end of my KTBH inspection! And, I don't ever have to lift the weights that langs make you lift!!! Proper top bar management is not hard to learn. I rarely smash a bee! Some learned technique is in order, not to be discussed here, to handle the bars. I prefer top bars with a T design as it help keep the comb in place. And, the whole **** hive isn't looking at me when I open the top of the hive. It keeps the bees more docile, less upsetting on inspections.

There are two main weaknesses to TBH. They are not designed to use an extractor for harvesting honey. They are not suitable for transporting to and from pollination fields. They cost less and are EASIER to work the bees!!!

I don't have to store, clean, haul, repair any equipment or frames!!! The KTBH design lets me cheaply build them for relocating swarms and cut-outs. I couldn't afford the expense, etc., to SAVE the bees if I used langs.
 
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