Starting a top bar hive

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Fish 

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I have one strong colony of bees (fingers crossed) in a national. And my son has built me a great new top bar hive. For two years now it's been empty and this season I'm determined to get it started. What is the best way to start? To buy a nuc and then what? I haven't found anyone selling top bar hive nuts so if I bought one on a national how would you recommend I best transfer them to the top bar and when. Any help as detailed as you like would be gratefully received

Nick, Dorset UK
 

Boston Bees 

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I have one strong colony of bees (fingers crossed) in a national. And my son has built me a great new top bar hive. For two years now it's been empty and this season I'm determined to get it started. What is the best way to start? To buy a nuc and then what? I haven't found anyone selling top bar hive nuts so if I bought one on a national how would you recommend I best transfer them to the top bar and when. Any help as detailed as you like would be gratefully received

Nick, Dorset UK
Catch a swarm and tip it in? Maybe with some drawn comb cable-tied to one of the top bars to give them the idea? I admit this relies on catching a swarm.
 

Fritillary 

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Yes you can transfer from National format but it is a bit of a pain. - There's already I think a fair bit of advice on here on previous threads about how to do it. But I would ask about now for top bar keepers to see if someone will give you bees on top bars from a split later on when they're needing to avoid swarms - or for a swarm as Boston Bees says.
 

BugsInABox 

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Yes you can transfer from National format but it is a bit of a pain. - There's already I think a fair bit of advice on here on previous threads about how to do it. But I would ask about now for top bar keepers to see if someone will give you bees on top bars from a split later on when they're needing to avoid swarms - or for a swarm as Boston Bees says.
I started 3 years ago by tipping in a package and queen in a cage. I put a queen excluder accross the entrance too for a couple of weeks. It worked for me. Apparently if you can tip them in around some brood comb it helps them coalesece if the package is multi hive sourced. This is how I started so no comb at the time - I attached about an inch of foundation accross 5 bars.
 

domino 

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I guess sometime in the spring you'll have to do a split on your existing hive, why not split it into the TBH? Move the old queen in and shake some bees in, lock them in for a few days.

Good luck, always fancied trying a TBH but I'm too lazy.
 

Fritillary 

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If you can I would choose bees which were known not to be very prolific, as top bars are not that big.
 

pargyle 

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Its not that difficult..make a divider so that you only have five or six top bars for them to access to start with. You will have to give them some sort of guide to work from .. a strip of foundation stuck to the underside of the initial topbars with some melted wax will usually be enough to stop them being too creative. Once they have a few frames drawn move the divider and insert another topbar next to the brood nest... as they draw more give them more... but if they have empty space they will draw what they want ~ not along the top bars ~ and that can get very messy. You will be surprised at how quickly they draw it out...you will need to make make a feeder ... theres a thread on here somewhere about top bar feeding...and give them some 1:1- they will need that until they start foraging - and comb drawing will be even quicker.

It doesn't matter where your bees come from... you need a queen and a package of bees... whether it's a swarm, a Nuc you start from a split or a bought in package... tip them into the TBH and let them get on with it. If they come with frames of brood donate that to your other hive. I would not lock them in ...if theres a queen in there they are unlikely to abscond.

Best of luck... they are not ideal hives for use in the UK..If he's made a 3 foot one they are very small and you will have to watch for swarming...if it's a 4 foot then that's better but you will need to think seriously about insulation....madasafish is your man for things top bar... I've played with them but to be honest ... my long deep hive with frames was a lot easier to deal with and perhaps you should get your son started on an LDH as a next project...
 
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Mistake I made when setting up a TBH was to cut brood comb to the shape of the sloping sides

As an experiment using Italian/Buckfast type bees... moved a whole colony over....... I have never had so many queen cell... Mr Millar would have been proud!

Gave the TBH to a community bee project in Plymouth as sat unused for a few years.... I think there is another one in parts never assembled in the back of the shed somewhere!


Chons da
 

madasafish 

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I chopped and cropped a nuc to fit a tbh and attached bars to TBH bars with cable ties.

If you are into DIY and organised it is easy, if messy.
As Pargyle says, do a search on forum for chop and crop.

If not into diy, chop and crop requires a lot of cutting so shake bees and queen into a TBH.
A 3foot long TBH is too smalll and will swarm. 4 foot is btter. End entrance is easier to manage in my view.
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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It doesn't matter where your bees come from... you need a queen and a package of bees...
well, errm maybe not the best statement to make at present..................................
but we know a man who may have a few packages to spare - wrapped in brown paper obviously 😁
 

pargyle 

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well, errm maybe not the best statement to make at present..................................
but we know a man who may have a few packages to spare - wrapped in brown paper obviously 😁
I should think some nice hardy welsh bees from Ceri Morgan might be well suited to a TBH .. from past experience with TBH in the UK the bees will need to be used to being cold and wet ...sone of the ones I've seen didn't need an entrance - the gaps between the planks you could get your finger through with a bit of tarpaulin for a roof ! Hopefully the OP has the deluxe version ....
 

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Use any bees you can get hold of and use the "shook swarm" technique (look on Dave Cushman's site). April through to July is the best time. Make sure you have enough bars, for the number of bees you are shaking in, ready that have a trickle of melted beeswax or a starter strip.
Plenty of information around look at Phil Chandlers "barefoot beekeeper" site. You should be OK down in Dorset but I have found in Mid-Wales that they survive but not thrive with minimum intervention. The TBH was developed for far sunnier climes.
 

greenmeaney 

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I built my own TBH three years ago and whilst building second one a swarm moved in of it's own accord. baited with some wax and lemon grass oil just a drop on abit of kitchen roll. If you can get a local swarm they will be more suited to their area than bought in bees. My second hive was filled with a local swarm. last year I did two splits now have third hive and gave son inlaw three hives one from split and two from local swarms all have come through so far with no interventions. If you can find local honey for sale some sellers put their phone number on the jar thats how i got my swarms. Nick /Norfolk
 

madasafish 

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Use any bees you can get hold of and use the "shook swarm" technique (look on Dave Cushman's site). April through to July is the best time. Make sure you have enough bars, for the number of bees you are shaking in, ready that have a trickle of melted beeswax or a starter strip.
Plenty of information around look at Phil Chandlers "barefoot beekeeper" site. You should be OK down in Dorset but I have found in Mid-Wales that they survive but not thrive with minimum intervention. The TBH was developed for far sunnier climes.

I don't live in sunny climes but my insulated TBHs survived quite well.Including 2011-12 winter's -16C
 

pargyle 

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I know of one such wacky beekeeper who has used and upcycled the odd chest freezer as a TBH... she never gets much in the way of honey!
The crops of honey from Top Bar Hives are rarely as good as those you get from framed hives ..

I've never understood the reason for this .. you get a few combs in a good year but they don't seem to produce the crops that you get from a framed vertical hive.

My long deep hive on 14 x 12 frames produces huge colonies of bees and will provide a surplus crop of honey but .. despite there being perhaps 10 or 12 seams of bees in there they will only produce about 20 to 30 lbs of surplus - compared to significantly more than that from my vertical hives. The LDH is a triple wall heavily insulated hive and the bees love it - low varroa levels, rarely swarm, happy bees that are nice to handle ... but they just seem to stop producing honey at the point where they have enough ...

They back fill the frames as Autumn comes along and they always have enough to see them through without feeding but less than a super of honey by comparison ... perhaps it's the horizontal nature of these hives ? Harder for them to store and ripen honey when it is alongside the brood rather than above it ?

Perhaps someone has a better explanation ?

They are great as donor hives though - they make masses of bees.
 
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