Top bar hive maintenance

Discussion in 'Top Bar & other Alternative Hives' started by crowsong, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. crowsong

    crowsong New Member

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    We've read lots info. re beekeeping. We've built a top bar hive, but don't have bees yet. It's said that top bar hives require more maintenance than the Langstroth hives, but most of what we've read is about langstroth hives. I'm just not sure exactly what maintenance or how often for a top bar hive :confused:
     
  2. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    I run langs and have never ran a top bar. So keep that in mind. Just looking at topbars I think the maintenance would be on making sure they are drawing good comb on the top bars and not making a mess of the hive. One other thing I have noticed is top bars usually have a entrance near the top on one end. I would think the keep would have to help keep the floor of the hive clean of debris. But remember this is just an observation from a guy who runs langs that may have been stung to much :D
     

  3. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    glad to see this addition but truthfully I know almost nothing first hand about top bar type hives besides what I have read. I concluded some years back that the way I inspect hives and frames just wouldn't allow this idea to work for me. some old habits are impossible to break.

    I do see some interest around our bee club in top bar hives. two fellows have purchased an established hive in shallows from me and are attempting to covert this to a top bar hive.

    I would like to know what 'maintenance' referred to in the first post means.
     
  4. Charles

    Charles New Member

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    The maintenance I've read about say's you have to stay on top of the hives to keep the bees from building cross comb between the top bars and attaching comb to the sides or you'll have a big mess trying to pull them out.
     
  5. Barry Tolson

    Barry Tolson New Member

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    I keep one top bar hive and I don't think I'd say it takes more maintenance , but rather, it's just "different". Working it, to me, is very enjoyable. Wearing protective clothing is "usually" not necessary when working my top bar hive. Since I said that, I'll probably get stung tomorrow!
    Now, when they are first drawing out comb, you "do" need to watch that they don't make cross comb...and be sure to address it quickly if they do. I've had bee's in Langs build cross comb, as well, though. I use a follower board in my top bar hive, which I think helps. Still, I think it's just a different style of working the bee's...not necessarily more maintenance.
    As far as how much maintenance and how often...that will depend on the bee's!
     
  6. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    sounds like to me Barry what you are describing is more attention to detail towards the front end (of making up the hive) and after that not much difference from a traditional hive?
     
  7. Barry Tolson

    Barry Tolson New Member

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    For me the attention to detail up front is about the same. After that, it is different than Langstroth procedures. Same goals....just different "hands on" techniques.
    As with a regular hive, I am concerned about having a good laying queen, good brood pattern, incoming pollen and nectar, watching for disease or pests, raising an occasional queen, etc. My big difference is the manner in which things are manipulated. Exposing only one or 2 combs at a time is great...fewer bee's feeling the need to defend the hive...as opposed to taking the lid off a Lang and alerting "all" the girls. Checking for attach points on the combs before moving them makes you work a little slower with attention to detail. Handling a bar of comb so it doesn't break is different for me than handling a framed of comb from a Lang.
    Still, I find working a top bar hive is just "different" than working a lang. Same goals, just slightly different methods. I am certainly no expert, but I do think that working a top bar hive helps stretch your thinking about the bee's.
    I enjoy it a lot.
     
  8. Fuzzystuff

    Fuzzystuff New Member

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    I checked 2 of my KTBH's today and was expecting a mess because I had some cross combing started the last time I checked (2 weeks ago). I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bees had cleaned up some of the comb and dropped it to the bottom on the hive. I spent about 30 mins on each hive cleaning the sides and manipulating some of the bars. One hive is a cut out that a local BK installed for me. I still had 2 wires to remove from the TB's which has contributed to the cross combing since I could not keep the TB's tight. This hive has 19 bars 16"w and depth of hive is 10". The girls have drawn comb on 9 bars all full of capped brood and empty cells had larva in them. Feeling pretty good about this hive; I did spot one small hive beetle but the bees kicked it out before I could crush it. I did remove the bottom screen cover. I'm hoping they start storing some honey soon. The alfalfa field is starting to bloom so things should get better, but what do I know am new at this. The other hive is doing even better. These bees were a box I bought. The TB's on this hive are 18"w and the depth is 10". Although this hive is wider it is a little shorter with only 16 total bars. These girls have drawn the entire comb and have done a beautiful job. I had a little of scraping of the walls and edges of the bars, but that was it. They have drawn comb on 10 bars and I spotted the queen on the 7th bar dropping eggs like crazy. If she keeps lying like that I'm going to have to build a super for this hive. I did spot a group of drone cells that were capped, but the comb cells were bigger in this section of comb maybe the size of a large apple. Don't know if this normal or not. Did not see any swarm cells so I'm guess I should not worry. Sorry this was so long and I wished I'd remember my camera I need to share this fine work by the girls.

    Fuzzy
     
  9. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    fuzzystuff writes:
    I did spot a group of drone cells that were capped, but the comb cells were bigger in this section of comb maybe the size of a large apple.

    tecumseh:
    (speaking from what I know of langstroth hives) drone cells should appear around the outer edges of the brood nest and not so much at the center. this suggest that the drones are not so essential for survival as are the workers. it is not uncommon for small fist sized clumps of drone cells to be made at the very bottom corners of lang frames in the brood nest.
     
  10. Fuzzystuff

    Fuzzystuff New Member

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    Thanks Tecumseh,

    That is a better way to discribe them about a fist size and down toward the bottom of the comb. I was not to concerned, but thought I would ask.
     
  11. dmacmtb

    dmacmtb New Member

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    Generally speaking you will "work" your TB more frequently than a lang. You pull honey by frames so typically you would pull some out more frequently rather than waiting for multiple supers to fill up as you would on a lang. If you let a TB sit for an entire season you'll probably end up with some cross-combing/comb attachment issues.

    Going out to work the langs is much harder work. It's much simpler to just slide some frames around on the TB rather than pulling off supers just to get in to do an inspection.

    I'd say that TBs are easier to manage if you only have a few hives and they are at your home where it is convenient to get to them. Langs have definite advantages for remote sites & commercial production.

    That said, I've run into challenges getting TBs going. Once you get one going strong where you can do splits its all good. But it has taken me two seasons to get to that point. Compared to langs where you can buy nucs and do splits on those the day you bring them home there is really no comparison.

    One unscientific tip - I have yet to get a TB with a screened bottom running successfully. I have screens on the bottoms but have taken to covering those up when attempting to establish a TB hive.

    -dmacmtb
     
  12. Fuzzystuff

    Fuzzystuff New Member

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    Well this was the weekend to check hives and it rained and rained and then it rained some more. We did get some sunny weather today and I managed to get out to the hives. It was late in the afternoon and it looked like rain was coming again. The 1st hive I openned was full of bees and they were not happy and they let me know, so I closed them back up and will check them out later in the week. The 2nd hive I openned the was a lot friendlier and did not mind me checking them out. I have included some pictures.[attachment=2:16ws39oh]IMG_0483.JPG[/attachment:16ws39oh][attachment=0:16ws39oh]IMG_0480.JPG[/attachment:16ws39oh]
     

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  13. kenny61

    kenny61 New Member

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    I disagree with the maintenance issue of a TBH..ive kept bees in TBH's for yrs and there is minimal maintenance required compared to a langstroth hive..plus i dont have tons of old boxes laying around collecting dust
     
  14. Fuzzystuff

    Fuzzystuff New Member

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    Check out these pics[attachment=1:be26zlbq]IMG_0496.JPG[/attachment:be26zlbq][attachment=0:be26zlbq]IMG_0497.JPG[/attachment:be26zlbq]
     

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  15. madasafish

    madasafish New Member

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    I started with two TBHs this year. Once they start straight comb, maintenance is just checking the new ones and leaving the older ones. As the new ones are next to a follower board, a 5 minute job.
    Smoke? What's that..? I use a water spray..
     
  16. topbarmaker

    topbarmaker New Member

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    I'm with madasafish - if there is a cross comb problem and it's corrected early then the only other "maintenance" is preventing the honeybound condition by keeping an empty bar next to the brood nest. Other than that it's the same as any other hive - watch for and treat pests and diseases. The advantage of the top bar is that because it is so easy to inspect - no heavy lifting - inspections are more frequent and problems can be caught early.
     
  17. Fuzzystuff

    Fuzzystuff New Member

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    I agree with topbarmaker; I was following the every 2 weeks, but moved to once a week and my cross comb problems have gone away. It is amazing how fast they can build that comb.