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Top Bar Hives for Bees
October 1, 2010
12:32 pm
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CATRAY44
By a lake in S. Michigan
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LOL, I kind of figured that, but was HOPING you might say, sure, just do thus and so… Oh well, I will take the winter to learn and prepare.  I hope to learn a lot from you all, right here!

October 1, 2010
7:46 pm
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Angela P
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CATRAY44 said:

I am very interested in learning more about the Top Bar hives… been doing a little reading online about them.  Please fill us in on the basics of starting a TB hive… can it be started in the fall, or is it best to wait till spring?


 

Hey Catray, Yes its best to wait until spring. Start  building your TBH now over winter, learn, read and study all the plans and ideas. AND if your in the area of Kalamazoo my/our local bee club will be hosting Bee School Feb 19, 2011/ Check out the http://www.michiganbeekeepers.com  website. Steller apiaries will be there to do a segment  just on TBH.  If you cant make it, Ill do my best here to help you. I found out about TBH on the web. At the time my hubby was laid off, company was also on strike before that…need I say $$$$ wasnt just tight, it was scary! There was no way I was going to pay the prices for the traditional method of beekeeping. I waited and learned,  thats when I went with TBH! The more I read, the more I loved it! It was me, or I was  with it :)

TBH uses a long box, usually 4 ft long by 2 ft wide. Please not pressure treated…(You can paint and decorate the outside and you should! Bees see color and will orientate themselves by it!  The queen will even leave the hive to see her outside dwelling!) You'll use more of your wood and less waste. The top, in our neck of the woods should be pitched to shed water and snow. Gosh. I need to get a picture on here….tomorrow.  It can be the Kenyan(slanted sides) or Tanzanian ( think  rectangle)The name Top Bar Hive  comes from the bars at the top that the bees draw out their comb. The bars have a 11 to 15 degree angle cut so when they draw out the comb its slanted so they dont all jumble together and the honey stays neatly in the comb! How cool is that? Plus, since they draw out the combe to fit just their hive, no mites! Its truely a one size fits just that hive concept!

Its does require the bees to do a bunch of work. I do feed mine for about 2 weeks and notice whats in bloom at the time.  You should notice small combs in about a week or so. Keep feeding them.  They take waht they need. I use sugar water and local honey from reputable beekeepers. Theres other products you can use if you so choose. Once the blooming season gets going they are set! I do place a small dish ( plant base liner) of water with a sponge in it for them to drink from, all summer long.They yuckier the water, the happier they are.  If you have a local pond, just place some untreated 2×4 chunks for them to rest on while they get a drink! Other wise they will drowned :(

Voila! Your a beekeeper! The philosophy behind TBH is not to harvest honey until the following late spring, if you so choose. After the bees have wintered. After all whats best for them to eat than the honey they stored ;)  Some never take the honey. My hive currently has 13 combs of the creamiest white, and thick comb, filled with not only honey but propolis, and pollen! Im praying, crossing my fingers, toes, eyes and ears we make it through the winter! Thats the tough time. Start up and winter. By  July they have tripled  in numbers and are sometimes ready to split and make another hive….So you and hubby might want to make two TBH!

Best of Luck

Anghug

October 2, 2010
12:23 am
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CATRAY44
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Thank you so much!  I joined ” biobees.com ” and am hoping to find some good video examples, etc.  I will probably drive you nuts with questions.  I can't wait to get started!

October 2, 2010
10:04 am
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CATRAY44
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October 2, 2010
1:56 pm
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Angela P
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It looks nice but…. with the top bars resting on the frame what might happen is every time you lift off the top, poof! The bars slip. I think its best to have the top bars resting on the inside and the top over them…. I really think you could build one for less. I know its intimidating, but just think squares. I have seen them for sale for alot more too. I didnt see how much the shipping was???? Thas usually the whamie! However if you like it…its up to you. It is cutehappy-flowerBut…homemade is best…..

October 2, 2010
2:07 pm
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Urbanite
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Thank you for the information.  I've been thinking for a couple of years about beekeeping. My grandfather always kept a few hives and they made the best honey!

I notice a couple of you advised against dampness.  I live in a damp, cool climate. Does anyone know if there are special precautions to avoid problems caused by dampness?  Thanks!

October 2, 2010
9:44 pm
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hershiesgirl
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You can find plans and instructions here: http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/how-to-build-a-top-bar-hive/6288193 written by the Barefoot BeeKeeper 

 

I think his website is biobees(dot)com

October 3, 2010
6:03 pm
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Angela P
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Urbanite said:

Thank you for the information.  I've been thinking for a couple of years about beekeeping. My grandfather always kept a few hives and they made the best honey!

I notice a couple of you advised against dampness.  I live in a damp, cool climate. Does anyone know if there are special precautions to avoid problems caused by dampness?  Thanks!


 

I live in SW Michigan. It can be damp  and  cold here too. Codensation in the hive is a big  concern. It can lead to mold growth in summer. Keeping the air flowing through out the hive is a must. For my area, dampness is more of a concern with the upcoming winter season. Winterizing the hive, most people wrap their hives with plastice or tar paper, cutting down the air flow, drafts/coldness. Trying  to keep it warmer basically. I like to think of the hive like a chimney. Air flow a must! Up and out :)     Even during winter Bess will do some housekeeping , on gorgeous sunny days,  so they have to have an access to the outside. I have about 8 openings for summer and will be going to just 1 for winter. And that one opening faces south east. Majority of our winter storms come from the north/west. And east for the sun to warm the hive first thing.

For dampness, keep your hive more elevated if your doing langstroths and if your doing TBH  they are already elevated. For langstroth you could drill some more access holes through out the hive, supers and brooders. And use  some shims to prop open the top. TBH, Id go for a pitched roof, would eliminate the worry.  Try to get them placed in a spot where they will get a few hours of sunlight. Bees do make their hives in the woods too. Going back to the flow of air….  Without being too nosey, or specific  about where do you live?

October 3, 2010
8:14 pm
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Urbanite
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Thanks for the good information, Angela.  This helps a lot!  I live in Seattle.  We don't often get heavy rain or really cold winters, but it drizzles frequently and is cloudy about 2/3 of the year.  Summer temps are typically in the 70s.

There is a fairly strong movement for sustainable living here – lots of community gardens and many people have a backyard garden. Hens are legal (but not roosters). So I've been reading the posts about chickens with close attention.  For now I've decided that I'm not ready to take that on – although the caramel colored hens with cream undersides are certainly gorgeous!

Bees would have the double benefit for me of providing some honey and helping with pollination.  I plant a moderate sized vegetable garden every year and I have a miniature orchard (a semi-dwarf cherry, a semi-dwarf plum, a couple of semi-dwarf pears, a dwarf orange and 6 colonnade apples).  The pears don't self-pollinate and I haven't been having much luck with them since the honeybee die off started.  Hence the interest in beekeeping.  My other alternative is to get out my little paintbrush in the spring and do the pollinating myself!

October 4, 2010
9:38 am
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NorthCountryGirl
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Hi!  I've been reading your posts and I've always wanted to keep bees.  I'm interested in the Top Bar Hive.  We have humidity in the summer and dampness in the winter so I would have to have more air flow.  The bees would be great for honey, of course, but also for pollination.  I want to start a small orchard next year and they would definitely help with the pollination.

October 4, 2010
11:05 am
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holly
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October 9, 2010
9:32 am
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Angela P
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You will love BEEing ( bee humor)  a beekeeper! And so should your neighbors. Your bees will not only pollinate your orchard but everything around you with the exception of corn and wheat. I appreciate corn and wheat but I really appreciate all the other yummies the bees pollinate too. Beans, apples, pears, berries, squash etc…It really makes you look at your food in a different way. Best of luck to ya and keep your findings, question, thoughts posted. Thats what we are here for. Encouragement!yes Now get to work junior beekeeper! You have TBH to build…hee! hee! sunsunsun

October 9, 2010
12:00 pm
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LK
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We have been toying with the idea of keeping bees. We got a link from a Mother Earth News email advertising their big gathering down south. We found this subject and this particular guy's philosophy quite interesting. He does sustainable beekeeping, never feeds his bees anything but their own honey, and never treats them. He says that this way they become a stronger, more efficient unit.

My brother kept hives and did the conventional bee-keeping, and we thought that there should definitely be a better way. There are so many problems and unnecessary expenses, etc. doing bees that way.

Here is the link. I think that we will build our own hive (just one at first) and use this new-to-us method when we try. I love that he has videos and a forum to explain everything too…

http://beelanding.com/bee/

I just wish that we knew where to get a source of local natural native bees. I can't remember what this fellow called them, but basically, they are bees that haven't been drugged or treated and are accustomed to the local climate. I know of no one else in our area who practices this kind of beekeeping.

BTW, I bookmarked all of the sites previously mentioned in this thread for our future use. Thank you so much! sun

October 9, 2010
8:08 pm
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Angela P
SW Michigan
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Yes!!!      Please do try to build one. You can do it!    Amazing how expensive things are now a days…ouch!  Im frugal to a fault…

On locating the local/ natural bees maybe first do a search for ” local bee clubs ” and then go from there. They should have nucs or packages for sale this spring.

If you dont mind me asking, what state are you in?

Best of luck to ya, keep us posted. I cant wait to see photos of your bee's  hive. wave

October 9, 2010
10:50 pm
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LK
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We are from Manitoba, Canada, which is located just above North Dakota & Minnesota.

I am not sure if we will do one this spring or not, but the idea still is fascinating to us. If we do build, I will let you know.

Funny thing is, we had been talking about maybe trying to make handmade hardwood coffins to sell and were researching them…yes, you heard right…and then we got this email. My first comment besides “Neat, you have to see this!” to my husband, was “Kinda looks like a coffin…especially on a stand…what would people say if they saw this in our back yard?”  laugh We enjoyed that so much. Either way, I like the way these are set up.

October 9, 2010
11:21 pm
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Helen
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I everyone wave  Here is a stupid question…is there any way to get honey out of the combs without an extractor?

p.s.  I would love to keep bees, but yikes bug-eyed, the expense of some of that equipment!

George Orwell - 1984
- Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

October 10, 2010
1:09 am
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CATRAY44
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You can crush the comb in a sieve (over a bowl) and just let the honey run out.  I am just starting to learn about top bar hives, but from what I have read, most people with them do not use and extractor.happy-flower Another part of the beauty of Top Bar hives!

October 12, 2010
8:37 am
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Angela P
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So true. Catray you rock!!!! You cant use an extractor with a TBH. The combs wouldnt fit. An extractor is designed to use tradtional longstroth frames.  Savings for TBH !!!! Another option for getting the honey would be to use a fork and gently uncap the comb and let it drain into a food grade bucket. The bees could reuse the wax comb with a little adjusting that is. The beauty of TBH! You gotta love em.

October 12, 2010
10:51 am
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hershiesgirl
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Helen said:

I everyone wave  Here is a stupid question…is there any way to get honey out of the combs without an extractor?

p.s.  I would love to keep bees, but yikes bug-eyed, the expense of some of that equipment!


Yes BUT…. all of that fancy equipment has been created in the last few/several decades and is made to suit our 'easy, fastest' desired methods we have adopted along with machinery and technology.  Beekeepers since the beginning of time, have done it without that fancy expensive equipment.

Who'da thunk it would be 2010 before people wised up that some of the “old fashioned” tried and true methods were better for us…for us, AND for us as stewards of nature. :)

October 12, 2010
11:28 am
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Helen
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I know, because that's what I've been thinking, too…those old timers kept bees and used honey and bee's wax, and they didn't have fancy extractors and all that stuff.  I imagine that their honey yields might have been lower, but I wouldn't think that an extractor is necessary to get honey out of the combs.  My interest in keeping bees has more to do with the wax than the honey…I have a “thing” for beeswax…and I love beeswax candles, beeswax hand cream, etc.  Its the scent…for some reason, I just love the scent of beeswax.

George Orwell - 1984
- Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

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