Natural beekeeping in National Hives???

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Peterbee 

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I have been a "conventional" beekeeper for 20 years - albeit before retirement I couldn't spend as much time on beekeeping as I wanted. I have always used Nationals or WBC's.

I recently collected a swarm which I passed onto a newbee Warre beekeeper. I had not really seen a Warre before and it got me thinking. What would happen if I put top bars into a National and left the bees to do their stuff? Would it be a simple case of letting the bees develop their honeycomb or would there be other issues? What would happen if say I used foundation for the brood but top bars for the honey supers? Could I have some honey supers of foundation and some top bar honey supers ?Presumably it would still be possible to separate the queen and brood from the supers. Harvesting top bar honey would also present challenges for someone used to a honey extractor.

I hope that I don't appear too naive in asking these questions but I would appreciate any insights that people may have.

Thank you.
 

oxnatbees 

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Hi Peterbee,

Short answer: use foundationless frames

Long answer: Top bars' feature is that they are cheap and easy to make. Great for poor 18th century cottagers, people in remote Africa, people with no woodworking skills (me) etc. But the comb is fragile. Most advanced natural beeks make 3 sided semi frames (reinforcing rods down sides) or full frames. You have franes, may as well use them 8) makes inspections much easier. Give the bees a starter strip of eg foundation 1cm wide at the top, they will usually make straight comb and eventually attach it to the sides and bottom. To harvest, spin slowly.

PM me if you want more info

Hugs'n'stuff (it's legal now), Oxnatbees
 

hemo 

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I'm playing about with my bee set up at the mo with BS. Nat, though not with top bars. Using std frames gradually going over to foundationless frames mostly in name with only 20mm starter strip and additional horizontal monofilament wiring and no QX. More work for me and less honey likely expected (and with the current weather may be none at all at this rate ).
Interspersing F/L frames every other one between old combs or new drawn out F/L combs, one will see a large increase in drone cell size occurring as well (as noticed last year), not a bad thing as it means one can flood their locality with own good bee traits and varroa checking may need to be better as chance of increase in load may be greater.

Q for now has freedom to roam and lay until hopefully combs are back filled.

Vertical keeping with only top bars could be very messy with wild built comb all over the shot.
 

hemo 

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I would never call it natural, just a different management approach then conventional teachings.
 

bingevader 

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Totally agree that it's not natural to put bees in a box.
However! What you are trying to do is let the bees act as naturally as possible or practical.
We've a couple of Warre hives and really enjoy them and just use top bars, no side frame or rod.
We still inspect when necessary, treat and split for swarm management or to make increase and take honey when there is a surplus.
We run our Nationals in a similar fashion.
We use frames, but without foundation in the brood box and without a Queen excluder.
We still use foundation in the supers, because it is easier to extract.
 

Peterbee 

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Thank you for all your replies.
 
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