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Cie 

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I have around six months to research beekeeping before I take the plunge when the "season begins" next year. So far, so good, lots of books, joined the local group, booked a course, and had a local keeper to the house to check the suitability of my garden for keeping at home.

The next thing to consider, apart from searching for out sites, is which hive.

Now, I should say that I'm not interested in harvesting pounds of honey, I just want to keep bees. And so what I've read about top bars appeals. Of course, I can go to biobees.com and get all the info about them that I need. But what I don't think I can get there is a balanced view on the advantages and disadvantages of top bar hives.

I know that these hives have been discussed here before, and I've read the threads, all of which quickly descend into politics, which I have absolutely no interest in learning about here (I'm sure I will in time).

I'd like to understand why I shouldn't go for a top bar hive of some sort, and I'm sure this excellent forum can help.
 

Hivemaker. 

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No reason at all why you should not get a TBH,go and get one,or better still make it yourself,hope you enjoy beekeeping.
 

VEG 

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You will find that the bees dont really mind what type of hive you put them in. So take your pick of the hives. I dont use TBH simply because most in my club use nationals the club buys in nationals as well. The only problem that i can foresee is if you think the hive is queenless and you need to borrow a frame of eggs/brood from another beek they may be using a different type of frame to what you have. :cheers2:
 

Teebeeaitch 

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Depends a lot on your reasons for keeping bees and the way in which you wish to keep them. I have previously asked on this forum for opinions as to why frames and foundation are of benefit to the bee . I have not heard a good reason as to how they benefit the bee. As you have already noticed, it will just descend into a rant which will go off the point. I kept framed hives for years and never really questioned it. When I did, I could not justify them for my specific purpose and switched to TBH's and never regretted it. Its your choice, but please dont be put off by the inevitable negative response you will receive here.
 

Hombre 

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As you have already noticed, it will just descend into a rant which will go off the point
please dont be put off by the inevitable negative response you will receive here.
Decidedly a self fulfilling prophesy if ever there was one.

Frames are a convenience for the beekeeper. As were wooden hives instead of skeps, which had to be burned to recover the honey previously.

Top Bar Hives lack a framework that makes inspecting combs safe and easy, particularly in hot weather when the comb can easily become damaged.

I would actually like to observe a BI inspecting a TBH and observe the second phase of examining each comb, when normally the bees get shaken off quite sharply. This is likely to be a bit problematical from what I have seen of standard hives.

Anyone have a comment, preferably with experience about shaking the bees off combs in a TBH? Any problems with BI inspections of same?

If you feel that I have been at all negative, please tell me. :)
 

oliver90owner 

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Looks negative to me.

experience about shaking the bees off combs in a TBH?

What is wrong with a bee brush?

particularly in hot weather when the comb can easily become damaged.

Are the frames one needs to inspect (the brood) not fairly well 'air conditioned' or 'climate controlled' in any/every hive?

instead of skeps, which had to be burned to recover the honey previously

If I were to even smoke bees on honeycomb, the honey would most likely be tainted 'smoky', so I don't think they would burn them to extract the honey.

Old skeps would make good fuel for the fire after the bees had been killed off and the comb removed. They would be fairly cheap to replace too - just some straw and string (or nettle fibres). Quite a cottage industry, I would think.

A good way to prevent disease as well? New hives every year.

I have no TBHs but see few arguments against that form of beekeeping as long as the disease inspections and controls are adequate. They work in Africa where temperatures are regularly in excess of those we are 'tortured' with in the UK, so why should they be inappropriate here? Much less efficient is the answer, so no response required.

Regards, RAB
 

oliver90owner 

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RAB, are you saying that TBHs are less efficient

Yes, that is what I meant. Sorry, should have been more precise, but in the context of the reply I was comparing Africa (with TBHs) and the UK.

'Easily harvested' is not a phrase I would have used. To harvest a TBH you generally need more effort than simply spinning honey from super frames. Also generally the comb has to be replaced by the bees, which is an energy-intensive process, using bees which otherwise might be utilised elsewhere etc, etc. The overall eficiency is therefore reduced considerably, whichever way one wishes to consider it. One advantage is that new comb equates to less build-up of potentially old diseased comb.

Lots of fors and againsts.

Free choice for the beekeeeper as far as I am concerned.

Regards, RAB
 

Cie 

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Thanks for clarifying.. as you say, lots of fors and againsts, so this'll be a busy winter reading and hopefully seeing lots of apiaries so that I know where I'll be putting my effort.
 

JCBrum 

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It's my understanding (mostly from other people, - I've not tried a TBH) that TBHs only produce about 20% of the honey which would be available from say, Langstroth or Nationals.

The reason is that the bees have to make the wax comb first, which is a heavy consumer of resources (1lb wax = 5lb honey) and takes much longer to reach the capped honey stage. Whereas in Langstroth type hives the beekeeper provides 'super' boxes, already full of frames of honeycomb wax, which the bees may immediately use to store honey.
 

JCBrum 

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ahhh, sorry, posts crossed, ...... my slow typing again.
 

m100 

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It's my understanding (mostly from other people, - I've not tried a TBH) that TBHs only produce about 20% of the honey which would be available from say, Langstroth or Nationals.

The reason is that the bees have to make the wax comb first, which is a heavy consumer of resources (1lb wax = 5lb honey) and takes much longer to reach the capped honey stage. Whereas in Langstroth type hives the beekeeper provides 'super' boxes, already full of frames of honeycomb wax, which the bees may immediately use to store honey.
There have been reports that bees that build 'wild comb' off starter strips do so much quicker than they would on foundation alone, certainly I've seen bees that despite a significant flow, or supplementary feeding, completely refuse to draw foundation that smells and looks ok. In addition I've heard (maybe on here?) of very rapid comb building when just the centre area of an old brood comb is cut out rather than cutting the entire comb back to the frame.

I struggle to understand the reasons for this but it has been suggested that multiple wax chaining across many frame spaces enables better distribution of heat within the core of the hive by radiation and conduction rather than convection.

I have done some weighings, and calculations and determined the 'loss of honey' due to wax production from drawing foundation to fully drawn comb amounts to approximately 7lbs per 10 frame national super, or around 33%
 
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David P 

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If it were me I would start with a standard national and then move onto a top bar hive afterwards.
Having said that I suppose i better justify my thinking.

If you start with a british national (get a cheapish one off ebay) then in your first year when you are learning your craft then you have a standard set up that is easily compared to both what the vast majority of books say and what the vast majority of beekeepers use. Then in your second year you could start a TBH hive off (maybe using a nuc split off from your now 1 yr old colony). This now lets you learn how to use your top bar hive, whilst maintaining an insurance colony. This also gives you a comparison of the two systems. Then in your third year you can make a fully informed decision of what works best for you.
To my mind this gives you the best of both worlds it allows you to develop you skills with a system that others around you use and understand and you can then adapt those skills for your TBH.


David
 

Finman 

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I have done some weighings, and calculations and determined the 'loss of honey' due to wax production from drawing foundation to fully drawn comb amounts to approximately 7lbs per 10 frame national super, or around 33%

Here they got -50% http://www.honeybeeworld.com/diary/articles/fdnvsdrawn.htm

And as money profit the % is something else.
One reason is a bigger number of drones which do not forage
http://www.apidologie.org/index.php...articles/apido/abs/2002/01/Seeley/Seeley.html
 

Somerford 

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The point raised earlier that TBH work in Africa is primarily due to the fact that the wax is seen as a far more important crop than the honey, which is secondary.

Therefore, if you wanted to extract, you'd need to melt the comb down or press it as there isn't enough strength to survive a modern extractor.

My personal belief is that TBH are a step backwards - they have been designed for a climate/economy that is truely cottage industry, hence they don't require lots of extra tools to do the job (Extractor, frames, foundation, expensive hives). They suit the purpose there. In the UK we moved on from TBH or equivalents years ago, and standardisation is the key to success in beekeeping. In addition, we have designed the hives around the kit and vice-versa. I agree with the point about how to transfer bees between differing hive designs - a time consuming problem for anyone who has ever tried it.

However, if you merely wanted to observe a hive, keep bees (as long as you treat them for varroa etc) and not worry about honey production too much, then a TBH might be the solution (although you could do the same with a National!) If you decided to be a true 'let alone beekeeper' then you could do this in any hive, but expect swarms and caste swarms every year. In that case your colony wouldn't become much more than a feral/wild one.

If you want to learn about bees, best join your local association or get a mentor, but be sure that your choice of hive is what you really want as your success or otherwise can come down to that choice.


Our local association is running TBH in a separate apiary. Experience so far is mixed and I'll be able to report back more info next season, particularly after the local Bee Inspector has visited !!!

regards
 

Cie 

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Thanks for that Steve,

I saw that the group was planning to have a bash at using tbhs but have seen nothing more than the initial "announcement".

I'm up in Swindon on one of the courses next month, with a bit of luck I'll get up close to the main apiary then.
 

Finman 

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Our bee specialist has been in Somalia and he says that they have not electrict or table saws to make modern beehives. That is why they make simple systems.

Tob bar hive is a stepp of 150 years back to history.
 

oliver90owner 

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Somerford,

You appear to have missed the main content of the original post on this thread.

...I'm not interested in harvesting pounds of honey, I just want to keep bees. And so what I've read about top bars appeals. Of course, I can go to biobees.com and get all the info about them that I need. But what I don't think I can get there is a balanced view on the advantages and disadvantages of top bar hives....

Apart from your personal beliefs, I think the rest had been adequately covered in replies on the first page.

The obvious fact, that most bees in the UK are on Nationals or some other 'framed format' hive, is irrelevant to this thread. TBHs are perfectly adequate for purpose. Now if someone were to be wanting to regress 150 years and keep bees in a skep, that would be a different situation altogether.

Regards, RAB
 

JCBrum 

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Here is an extract from the report that Finman referenced in thread #15

>With a forty pound crop, the bees on foundation would not even pay expenses, at normal honey prices, and the hives on drawn comb would make over three times as much honey -- 120+ pounds -- and a good profit. The hives on comb were also much easier to handle, with less coddling required to ensure they did not starve.<

So it seems that it's actually less than 50%, and in fact less than 1/3 as efficient, in this particular study.

However I'm not sure that this matters to the OP as he is principally interested in pollination it seems.
 

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