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Beekeeping - where to start?

 
Rion Mather
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Where to start?
 
tel jetson
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pick a hive that you like, then build or buy one.

some to choose from (there are plenty of others):
Warré
Dadant/National/Langstroth (not all exactly the same, but very similar)
Horizontal Top Bar/Kenyan Top Bar
Oscar Perone
Skep

once you've got a hive, get some bees. my preference is to collect feral swarms. now is the time for that. you could also buy a package or nuc (nucleus hive). if you buy a nuc, you'll have to be sure that the frames fit the hive you've got. most, if not all, in this country will be Langstroth dimensions. either of those would likely have to wait until next year.
 
john giroux
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http://www.beesource.com/forums/forum.php

Good info. I started 2 hives this spring. Keep an eye on craigslist for classes, that is where I found out about mine. There is probably a beekeeping association in your area. Check out their web site. talk to some folks there. Look around your local area for hives you can see...I started noticing them all over once I knew about them. Advice from another newbee.. Get 2 of the same type of hive. I build a Top Bar myself and bought a langstroth. Got a nuc for the Langstroth and 3lb package for the Top Bar. the Top Bar died out, don't know why...but I had no way of recovering since the other hive had different frames. My garden is going gangbusters this year and I go 23lbs of honey too. Good luck.
 
tel jetson
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beekeeping associations can be good resources, but there can also be a lot of entrenched dogma to sort through. I would recommend not mentioning any of the less than orthodox ideas that we practice around these parts for a little while. you run the risk of having a disease inspector let loose on your hives.
 
Burra Maluca
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One thing I've never seen anywhere is a good intro, with photos, to the different types of hive and the pros and cons of each sort.

I grew up with Langstroth type hives, the sort with removable frames all set at just the right distance apart, and my other half is now experimenting building top bar hives, and wants to diversify into Warre and Christ types, but I still don't really understand all the virtues of the different types. Anyone feel like taking the job on? I don't really feel qualified, but I guess I could do a long-term thread as we experiment.
 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:One thing I've never seen anywhere is a good intro, with photos, to the different types of hive and the pros and cons of each sort.


that would be a great resource. it could probably fill several volumes, though. I like the idea of doing a basic comparison here.
 
Rion Mather
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I agree, Burra. There is so much info and different methods to sort through. I am super excited about trying this out and I want to do thorough research before jumping in.
 
Burra Maluca
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OK, I'll get the ball rolling...

Here's a photo of my other half setting up a Langstroth type hive.



The key feature of this type of hive is the easily removable frames, which allow the beekeeper to easily inspect and manipulate the bees. In the photo, the small 'nucleus' box has a recently purchased colony of bees on five frames, which are being transferred into the larger hive, which will hold up to ten frames. There are several variations in the Langstroth type, with different dimensions and numbers of frames, but the basic design is a set of stacking boxes, all containing frames. There is a long entrance at the bottom with a ledge for the bees to land on. The bottom box is where the queen hangs out, laying her eggs, and is known as the brood chamber, as this is where the brood is raised. Usually there is a grid placed above the brood chamber which allows worker bees to pass through but not the larger queen. This way all the eggs (and ensuing larvae!) are confined to the brood box.

Above the brood box there is usually one or more 'supers' - I think this comes from the word supra, meaning 'above'. This is where the honey is stored. The supers are easily removed when we want to collect the honey.

The frames are made to exact measurements, leaving just the right amount of space for the bees to work around them. Wax is provided as a pre-stamped sheet attached to the frames. The bees use this as a template to build their comb. The theory is that providing them with this wax template will speed up comb building and enable the bees to concentrate on making honey for us.



Pros and Cons

Langstroth type hives are considered the 'standard' for beekeeping in many parts of the world. In some places it is a legal requirement to have removable frames so that the bees can be inspected for disease. It is usually fairly easy to purchase this type of hive, if you can afford them, but they are not so easy to make as the dimensions are critical. They are great fun to learn with as it's easy to take frames out and see what the bees are up to. The bees might not actually appreciate all this handling though as they work hard to maintain their preferred environmental conditions within the hive and probably don't like us constantly messing with them.

Providing them with wax templates forces them to use the size cell we choose, which might not be in the bees best interests. It also means they are always raising brood on used wax, which might harbour disease.

OK, what did I forget?
 
Alison Thomas
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One of the best appraisals of the types of hives and their merits/downsides is actually in Warre's "Beekeeping For All" (downloadable pdf for free somewhere not to difficult to find - sorry short of time as always). He tried many different sorts amongst his 350 hives IIRC.

The top bar approach is supposed to be the most akin to 'natural'
 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:
OK, what did I forget?


some of the downsides of Langstroths are pretty much the same as the upsides. an easily removed frame is likely to be removed, which leads to a lot of intervention in a hive and a lot of disturbance to the bees. the ability to inspect a comb for drone brood can lead directly to destroying drone brood. the ability to easily inspect for swarm cells can lead directly to destroying them in order to suppress swarming. the beespace gap between comb frame and outer hive wall that prevents burr or bridging comb also creates dead air space that can reduce temperature and provide shelter for pests.

a Langstroth hive is designed to accomodate frequent and fairly dramatic intervention, which it does admirably. many folks believe such intervention is detrimental to bees' resistance to many forms of adversity.

one example to illustrate the idea: when a hive is opened, bees release panic pheromones to let the whole colony know that something pretty serious is going on. small hive beetles are also sensitive to these bee pheromones, and follow them right back to a beehive. so an intervention, perhaps to monitor small hive beetle, has the result of increasing the population of small hive beetle.
 
John Polk
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Here is one link to Warre's book in PDF format:

http://www.users.callnetuk.com/~heaf/beekeeping_for_all.pdf

 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:
OK, what did I forget?


another advantage of Langstroths: they handle really heavy nectar flows well. because drawn comb is typically reused in supers, a lot of honey can be put up in short order without risk of honeybinding.
 
Burra Maluca
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Tel - you make Warré hives, don't you?

Any chance of some photos and a run-down of how they differ from the Langstroth type?
 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:Tel - you make Warré hives, don't you?

Any chance of some photos and a run-down of how they differ from the Langstroth type?


I sure do, and I sure will. I'll try not to prattle on too much, but there's a serious risk of me getting carried away...

here's a picture from David Heaf's website that gives a good idea of the various parts of the hive:



starting from the top, the roof is designed to shed rain away from the walls of the hive, and to provide shelter from intense midday sun. the open design allows hot air to flow out at ridge vents rather than heat up the top of the bees' space. the two story roof also keeps heavy raindrops or hail from drumming directly on the hive, which is likely to be disturbing to bees.

one level down from there is the quilt. it's a sort of frame filled with an absorbent organic material and with a vapor permeable material attached to the bottom to hold the stuff in. this provides insulation from both cold during the winter and heat during the summer. the stuff it's filled up with (I use cedar planer shavings, others use moss or straw or leaves) is a moisture buffer. so it absorbs excess moisture to prevent mold, but doesn't dry the hive out too much which would be detrimental to the bees.

down from that is the top cloth. this is roughly analogous to the inner cover of a Langstroth. it's a permeable cloth made of hessian (burlap) or canvas or something similar. it's typically sized with wheat- or rye-paste to prevent bees from chewing through it. the advantage of the cloth over a rigid inner cover is two-fold: it's vapor-permeable, so the bees can add or remove propolis to manipulate hive moisture; and it can be peeled off gently rather than pried off with a hive tool so opening the hive is much less traumatic for the bees and panic/defense behavior isn't triggered.

next are the boxes. they're smaller than Lang boxes, which makes them easier on the beekeeper to lift. they're square, which is a more efficient shape for a bee cluster to maintain and better allows a spherical brood nest, which I'm told queens prefer.

using top bars instead of frames allows wall-to-wall comb, so there isn't any dead air space and fewer hidey holes for pests. it does add a step and some extra care to remove combs for inspection, but that's generally only necessary when the disease inspector stops by, or if individual combs are harvested for honey. because foundation isn't used, bees build cells just the size they want. left to their own devices, they end up building a fairly wide range of sizes for different functions and in different parts of the hive.

as many boxes as required can be stacked up, but four is pretty common, and six is the tallest stack I've heard of.

next is the floor. nothing too special about the floor. the landing board does allow some handy observation. and the floor is typically a couple millimeters smaller than the boxes so that it doesn't catch rainwater. some folks opt for mesh floors or sumps under the entrance, but the value of those additions is far from settled.

the stand isn't standardized by any means. I suppose that at least one person built one that looks like the picture. the main idea is to raise the hive off the ground and keep it stable, since it's got a fairly small footprint relative to its height. I consider roughly 18" off the ground the minimum, and 30" inches is much better. that keeps the hive away from ground-level moisture, the same way a stem wall keeps the wood parts of a stick frame house up away from splashes and ground water. that's particularly important in regions with wet winters.

that's about it for the parts, though there are plenty of variations. on to management:

current Warré practice heavily favors populating hives with natural prime swarms, though plenty of folks use packages and nucs, and cast swarms have also been hived successfully. a permies member in France (Alison, she posted above) recently purchases a Warré nucleus, which is the first I've heard of. the most obvious advantage of a swarm is that it is free. swarms are also pretty darn easy to hive (dump them in, gently), though a nucleus in a Warré box would certainly rival that. swarms more frequently issue from healthy colonies, so swarms are likely to be from healthy stock. they're more likely to be adapted to local conditions, particularly if a swarm issues from a feral hive of long standing. they're much more likely to have a naturally-mated queen, which brings the advantages of genetic diversity over queens reared in captivity and artificially inseminated with a single inbred drone's sperm. but all of that isn't specific to Warré hives, it's just more prevalent in that crowd.

Warré hives are typically opened only once or twice in a year: once to harvest whole boxes, and once to add boxes. sometimes those two are combined. this benign neglect allows the bees to do their thing without disruption. there's a funny and long German word (I think it's German) for the hive environment that the bees create for themselves. it includes scent, humidity, temperature, vibration, and probably some other things that I'm not aware of. Warré management seeks to avoid changing that environment. opening a hive changes all of those things, which leads to stress for the bees, and a metabolic cost for them to get everything back to normal. in the meantime, they're more susceptible to pests and pathogens. as I mentioned previously, alarm/defense pheromones also attract some pests.

because frames aren't used, centrifugal extractors generally require some minor modifications to extract Warré comb. more frequently, comb is crushed and strained. I use a sausage press, but there are plenty of other ways to go about this. because comb is generally not reused as boxes are cycled out for harvest, the comb in the hive is rarely older than two years. queens have been shown to prefer laying in new comb. constantly renewing comb does come at a cost (in honey) to the bees and beekeeper, but it also prevents buildup of environmental pollutants that may otherwise compromise the health of the colony.

and boxes are usually nadired, which is to say they're added to the bottom of the hive rather than supered/added to the top. this way the bees always build down, as they would in a natural hive. folks in places with real strong nectar flows do super Warré boxes to prevent honeybinding, but that isn't a common practice.

main differences from Langstroth:
smaller, square, top bars no frames, nadir instead of super, much less intervention

some advantages over Langstroth:
easier to manage and much less time involved, easy to build, designed with bee health in mind, cheap, comb is cleaner/healthier

some disadvantages:
more difficult to inspect, somewhat smaller harvest, bees have to renew comb, risk of unpleasant interaction with more conventional beeks, centrifugal extraction is more difficult, hardware not as readily available

advantages and disadvantages are, of course, in the eye of the beholder. plenty more could be added to both columns.

I'm going to stop now. there's always more, but that's more than enough for an introduction. brevity is clearly not one of my virtues.
 
tel jetson
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condensed version:

Warré hives are smaller, top bars instead of frames, natural comb instead of foundation, and the bees are mostly left alone. queen excluders aren't used, so queens have the run of the whole hive.

on to some eye candy:



it's nice to put windows in to spy on the ladies:



here's a screened bottom board with a drawer. may or may not help with varroa, depending on who is asked.



a top feeder/autumn feeder can help first-year colonies that might not have put up enough honey to get through the winter.



I don't have many good action shots, since I don't really open the hives, and I've only just nadired a couple of boxes with windows so there isn't much to see yet.

which hive is next?
 
tel jetson
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nestduftwärmebindung
 
Burra Maluca
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tel jetson wrote:nestduftwärmebindung


That's the word to describe the bees ambient air conditions? Can't someone come up with a more, er, understandable-if-you're-not-German one?

I think that the Warre hive has a very similar cousin called the Christ hive - here's a link Warre Hive and Christ Hive Compared

From what I can tell, the main difference is the height of the boxes. Christ boxes are only half the height so when they are full of honey they are only half the weight, which might be a consideration. A major draw-back, from my point of view, to both types is that the 'nadiring', ie putting fresh boxes at the bottom of the stack, seems to involve and awful lot of lifting!

Here's a video of someone using a hoist to add a box to his Warre.


 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:A major draw-back, from my point of view, to both types is that the 'nadiring', ie putting fresh boxes at the bottom of the stack, seems to involve and awful lot of lifting!


it is potentially a problem, but it's also fairly easily circumvented: add all the necessary boxes at the same time as harvest. it's common to harvest all but the lowest two boxes, at which point the stack isn't terribly heavy. the quilt and roof are removed for this, which lightens things up, too.

another option is to use a lift, as pictured in Burra's post.
 
Andy Sprinkle
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Tel or anybody...how much space do you need to have to start a small hive? We have a .40 acre urban lot with a creek at the rear of the property. I have a bunch of lilies, bee balm, blanket flower, clover and annual veggie gardens that draw tons of bees. Plus just planted dwarf peach and apple trees, blueberries, rasberries near the rear of the propery. I think I would want the hive in the rear near a huge beebalm/wild flower patch bordered by peach tree guilds. It would be ~100 from the house and ~120 from neighbors house. Is that doable or would I be inviting trouble?

Also chicken coop would be ~20 ft away and dogs would be near it. Neither my wife or I are allergic to bees.
 
tel jetson
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Andy Sprinkle wrote:Tel or anybody...how much space do you need to have to start a small hive? We have a .40 acre urban lot with a creek at the rear of the property. I have a bunch of lilies, bee balm, blanket flower, clover and annual veggie gardens that draw tons of bees. Plus just planted dwarf peach and apple trees, blueberries, rasberries near the rear of the propery. I think I would want the hive in the rear near a huge beebalm/wild flower patch bordered by peach tree guilds. It would be ~100 from the house and ~120 from neighbors house. Is that doable or would I be inviting trouble?

Also chicken coop would be ~20 ft away and dogs would be near it. Neither my wife or I are allergic to bees.


maybe 10 square feet ought to be enough. bees will forage close to home if good nectar and pollen sources are close by. if need be, though, they'll travel four or five miles to find those things. there is no need to try to provide all their food for them on your own place, since they aren't going to stay there during the day anyway.

keeping bees in urban areas is easier in a lot of ways than in rural areas. folks tend to plan landscapes so that there is something blooming most of the year. they do it for eye appeal, but it also provides nectar and pollen through a long season rather more reliably than most edible gardens or rural areas. and they water the landscaping, so drought is less likely to reduce nectar flow.

I'm not sure where you live, Andy, but the only things I see on your list that I might not count on honey bees to pollinate are the apples and peaches, which can bloom before honey bees are very active, depending on the weather at the time. Osmia species are more reliable that early.

my chickens don't seem the least bit interested in the bees. and most dogs aren't an issue, either. some friends' dog likes to chase bees, but he never catches them. their hive is in a small fenced garden, so the dog can't get to the hive. the few times he's sneaked in, he hasn't bothered with the hive at all.

some jurisdictions require notifying neighbors of plans to keep bees before a hive is brought in, but I have never heard of that being enforced. there are also frequently requirements that hives be placed away from public rights of way if possible. again, I've never heard of any trouble along those lines. if you're noticing a lot of honey bees in your garden anyway, there's very little chance that even your closest neighbors would notice an increase in the local bee population.
 
Andy Sprinkle
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Thanks Tel! I live inside Lexington, KY. I found another older conversation on here about growing bee crops...will be the next growing adventure on our property! I only discovered permaculture back in Jan of this year after stumbling across Pauls huegelkulture info page. Since then we now have 8 small hugel beds, peach and apple guilds started, two laying hens, perennial veggies to add to our established asparagas and loads more enthusiasm geared towards self-sufficiency and respecting nature. And now that loads of stuff is in full bloom my wife and I are amazed at all the bees which we hadn't seen in previous years! Which led me to this post and the thought of...why can't we have bees too!! After serving our country in the Marine Corps my attitude towards local codes/rules is not exactly the best...my standard half joking line about people who question if I am allowed to do something is "This is America and I'm gonna do what I want"

I watched a bunch of videos about tranferring swarms today...crazy! Unfortunately I have never seen one myself. I will follow advice given in post about getting more info on starting our own...once the wife is on board of course!! We are already the crazy neighbors with "burial" mounds in our front yard and chickens in the back! But now that those mounds are exploding with clover, wild flower, horseradish, rhubarb, onions, garlic, thyme, squash, carrots, and 20' long pumpkin vines almost reaching the side walk people are looking in awe instead of being critical!
 
tel jetson
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sounds good, Andy.

since you've already got a lot of bees visiting your yard, I would recommend setting up one or more bait hives around your place. have a look at this pdf for some recommendations regarding bait hives. the main idea is that you may persuade a swarm to move in on its own without having to capture and hive it yourself.

(fixed link. thanks john.)
 
Andy Sprinkle
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awesome...thanks...but the pdf link didn't work. This might be ignorant but...how do I tell if the bees in my yard are honey bees? I think they look more like bigger bumble bees than the smaller honey bees I saw online.
 
John Polk
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Andy Sprinkle
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Thanks John!
 
tel jetson
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Andy Sprinkle wrote:awesome...thanks...but the pdf link didn't work. This might be ignorant but...how do I tell if the bees in my yard are honey bees? I think they look more like bigger bumble bees than the smaller honey bees I saw online.


if they look like bumble bees to you, I would bet that you are seeing bumble bees. that's no problem, though, as they can all coexist quite well.

bumblebees and many other bees, wasps, and flies turn out to be more efficient and effective pollinators than honey bees, at least on a per capita basis. honey bees, however, have the obvious advantage of, well, honey.
 
tel jetson
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anybody want to tackle a general description of horizontal top bar hives and their management?
 
Burra Maluca
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Can I do a quick post about cork hives?

These are the traditional hives in Portugal, where I live.





They are very, very basic. Just a large piece of cork which usually just curls around onto itself, is roughly joined together, provided with a lid, a base and a small hole somewhere for the bees to get in and out. The locals generally set these out in the spring to catch a wild swarm, then when everything starts to dry out for the summer they 'get rid' of the bees using smoke or chemicals, cut the comb out and squeeze out the honey by hand. The hives are cleaned up and placed out again to try to catch another swarm. Some people manage to cut out the top, honey-rich comb and keep the colony alive, but I don't think it's a very common practice

These days, it's getting harder to catch wild swarms and many of the old folk are either giving up or turning to Langstroth type hives, but the cork hives are still very common. I think it's fair to say that it's fairly 'natural', but not exactly 'bee friendly.'

Here's a video of honey being harvested from cork hives in Sardinia. Sorry - it's in Italian and I can't translate, but it's interesting to just watch.

 
tel jetson
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Burra Maluca wrote:Can I do a quick post about cork hives?

These are the traditional hives in Portugal, where I live.


no. I mean yes.

those are great. well, likely not that great for the bees, at least when it comes time to get rid of them.

I think it would be fairly easy to adapt a cork hive to more permanent colonies. instead of one piece of cork, several pieces could be used in a way analogous to more modern hive bodies. laying some branches horizontally between each layer would give support to the comb so that individual cork layers could be harvested.

anyhow, it's fun to see traditional hives like that still in use, even though the bees suffer some pretty rough music.
 
Burra Maluca
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tel jetson wrote:nestduftwärmebindung


How about 'am-bee-ence'? Or is that too many 'ee's in the middle...

I'll have a go at a description of top-bars later. Might need some help with the management stuff as we haven't got any up-and-running yet, but I'll give it a shot.
 
Burra Maluca
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Finally, as promised, here are the photos of the top bar hives my other half has been making. This type of hive was designed as a simple-to-make, low-cost hive for the people of Kenya. It uses rough-sawn timber and requires a minimum of carpentry skills, which you can probably pick up as you make your first hive.

This is the main hive body - it looks remarkably like a donkey-feeding trough.



This hive has a wire mesh bottom which is big enough to allow varroa mites to fall through.

Instead of providing the bees with wax foundation attached to frames, the bees are allowed to build their own comb from scratch, using just the top bar with a groove down the middle. This is usually filled with bees-wax to act as a guide, but we haven't done that bit yet.

The only crucial measurement in the whole hive is the width of these bars - the rest is open to considerable interpretation and experimentation.




The entire top of the hive is covered with top bars. In some climates, this might be all the 'roof' needed, but we alternate between incredible dry heat and torrential rain, so we decided to take a few extra precautions.



First an insulating sheet, cut to size.



And then a roof, shaped to allow the rain to run off easily.



The entrance is simply a series of holes drilled in the side wall. We have had problems with mice and huge beetles squeezing into our Langstroth hives, so we made our entrance holes a bit smaller than usual. We also put a closeable 'door' so we can shut the bees in if we ever want to move an occupied hive.



And finally, a coat of linseed oil and beeswax to help weatherproof and preserve the outside of the hive.



There is a free downloadable book available on how to build a top bar hive, written by Philip Chandler, aka 'the barefoot beekeper' - click on the link below.

How to Build a Top Bar Hive by Philip Chandler

He also has a website, biobees.com, with a load of info, including a load of articles and downloadables.

We don't have any bees in our top bar hives yet, but here's a useful video to give you an idea of how they work in practice.









 
tel jetson
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Phil Chandler seems to be a great chap and tireless advocate of sensible beekeeping, but that video made me nauseous. it's not the content that's lacking, but rather the, um, cinematography... I think Phil's a friendly enough fellow that he could find a pal to operate the camera with two hands while Phil does the inspection with his two hands.

other than that, I'm reminded of my primary objection to horizontal top bar hives: fussing. my personal experience with them is lacking, because the one htbh colony I started last year didn't make it through the winter. but my impression is that they're opened up a lot, and comb and bees get shuffled around a lot, and they're generally fussed over a lot.

for folks who like to interact with their bees in that manner, this won't be a disadvantage at all, and may even be seen as recommending horizontal top bar hives. there are many, many folks who love these hives, and I don't see any reason for them to not go on loving them. from the bees' point of view, all that fussing might be a bit stressful, but there are many other bee-friendly aspects to the hives that make up for that.

I would be interested to hear a brief synopsis of the management involved, if anyone has experience to share.
 
Peter DeJay
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I hear that "perspective" a lot from beekeepers, and I find it somewhat grating. I don't see how anyone who has ever seen a top bar hive with bees in it would come to that conclusion, unless they were trying to reassure themselves. In a lang hive, when you take the lid off or pull off the super, you instantly bathe the lower box in harsh sun, dilute the queen's pheromone, and I'm sure send alarm bells ringing to guard the new entrance. THEN, you remove a frame or 2, slide the others to new locations, etc etc, then replace everything. What beekeep can kid themselves into thinking thats not disturbing??

With a top bar, when you take the roof off nothing has really changed for them. I always start with one of the end bars, slowly pry it up noticing if there is resistance to indicate comb or propolis, the remove it completely. Then I usually remove the next one or 2 bars, which gives me a view down inside further. At this point you can then decide to remove one of the more central bars to note the types of capped comb.

Not that I am against lang hives at all, I totally see the benefit of having a standardized hive that makes it easy to get into bees. I fully recommend beginners to start with a lang, as it allows beginners to be "on the same page" as far as communicating with other keepers. I just think it's disingenuous to pretend like one is using a lang for the benefit of the bees.

Its been a really interesting experience to be able to observe 4 different hives that all live right next to each other. Its amazing to note the ways in which the bees differ just by the type of hive they are in. We have a 2 box lang, a (rather shoddily built) top bar, a warre and a hastily built too large warre type single box. The lang bees are so much more faster and busier, but its almost palpable that its bordering on stressful. they have a higher pitched buzz. I liken them to office workers in a high rise. They efficiently get the work done, but they arent as happy as they could be. They always need smoke when you check them out. The opposite end are the top bar bees, who are so slow and mellow, they remind me of a surfer stoner vibe, just cruising. The warre hive has been doing the best overall. I've noticed from another top bar I built how the bees really respond to quality workmanship in their hives. Seeing the difference in the 2 top bars, even though the better built one was a month later in establishing, larger size, and in a more dank placement, they did way better then the poorly built and too small top bar, that they ended up building comb diagonally. This year's top bar that I'm building, alas too late to occupy it, has an observation port, which I think will benefit everyone involved. Stay tuned for photos!
 
tel jetson
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Peter, I think you misunderstood my post to mean that I favor Langstroth hives over horizontal top bar hives. I can assure that that is not the case.

my own preference is for much less disturbance than a horizontal top bar hive involves. right now, all my hives are Warrés, and I've got a new style built that I have yet to populate. I open them once a year at most just to harvest. the hive is open for less than ten seconds at that time.

peeking at combs sounds interesting, but it's just not my style. I also don't want to have to shuffle the winter cluster to one end of the hive or another so that they don't leave reserves in the other end and starve. again, I think horizontal top bar hives are great for the folks that like them. in my experience, those folks are a conscientious bunch who really try to be good to their bees. for myself, I prefer to observe the bees outside their hive and leave them their privacy inside.
 
Burra Maluca
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Peter - that's really interesting about how the bees in your different hives all behave differently. That's something I'll be looking out for when we get our top-bars populated! I'm also curious about how they seem to prefer the hives with better workmanship. Any chance of some photos to show us what counts as 'quality' and what counts as 'shoddy', from the bees perspective?

I'm hoping someone is going to offer some info about the Perone hives - I think these are basically a big box where the brood is raised on totally 'free form' comb, and then supers are added for honey. My other half tried to explain to me about how the natural curved shape of the comb they produce makes it easier to maintain the 'ambience' inside, but it would be good to hear from someone with actual experience.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share this photo of yet another type of bee-hive. I've no idea what it's really called - we just call them 'Spanish hives' as they arrive in great numbers from neighbouring Spain every spring, not to pollinate, or make honey, but to gather pollen from the pine and eucalyptus plantations, which is then sold as a health-food.



They are a box, set on a stand, with a small, easily closed entrance and a hinged lid, designed for easy transportation as the hives are moved around following the pollen flow. Most of the time, the entrance is fitted with a pollen trap which collects about half of the pollen the bees try to bring into the hive, scraping it off their legs as they squeeze through. I think the hives are fitted with large frames, but I don't really know much anything about the management of this type of hive, except that the pollen has to be collected every day or two, and the traps have to be removed some of the time to allow the bees to get enough pollen in to feed the brood.

I'm thinking of buying a pollen trap to fit on our Langstroth type hives next spring, just to see what pollen is like as a food. Has anyone here tried it?


 
tel jetson
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I've got a Perone hive built, but I may have missed my opportunity to populate it this year. there was a late prime swarm in the top of a pine tree here a few days ago, but it was just too high and tangled up to get it. for a while it looked like they were going to head into the bait hive I put underneath them, but it wasn't to be.

as far as I can tell, Oscar Perone's main idea is that a really big colony is both more productive and better able to handle pests and pathogens. because the brood chamber is so large, multiple queens are able to hang around without attacking each other. a couple of sticks are placed in the brood chamber to help support the large combs. I think the internal dimensions make a 57-cm cube, which is right around two feet. that's big.

the large brood chamber also contains enough honey reserves for the bees, so the honey supers can be harvested whenever they're full, supposing the weather is amenable. the volume ratio of the brood chamber to the honey supers is 5:3, which I believe is the golden ratio. Perone seems to think that's important, which doesn't seem excessively crazy to me.

Oscar says that the hive would ideally be populated with a prime swarm because they build more vigorously, but some folks have reported success uniting several smaller cast swarms. and the honey supers need to be on within three or four days of hiving the bees. the idea there is that the queen sort of sizes up the space pretty quickly after the bees move in, and she sets out to lay enough eggs to populate just that much space and not any more.


that's about as much as I've been able to gather so far. I'm more than a little disappointed that I didn't get bees in mine this year, but I'm very excited for next year, and there's still a chance I could get some bees in there. either some late swarms, or I might try putting a cutout in it, though that seems a bit of a gamble.


on pollen traps: I'm told that they're rather rough on the bees physically. they have to squeeze through a too small space, and they frequently tear legs and wings off. there may be gentler versions, though, that I'm not aware of. there is also the issue of drones clogging them up and blocking the entrance for foragers.

my suggestion would be to pull a comb out with some pollen in it and try that. if there's extra comb from a cutout, I typically eat any pollen or honey contained therein. pretty tasty stuff.

the Spanish hives are interesting. do they feed them, or is there nectar around, too?
 
Peter DeJay
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My statement wasn't directed at you exactly, Tel, it is just such a common statement I felt compelled to respond. I agree that Warre hives are an excellent working hive, a perfect blend of top bar and Langstroth.

Here are some random photos of my experience.


Not the best shot, but these are some mason bees that are living up in my eave. They "swarm" their home around dusk, as it seems like everyone comes home from a long days work.


This photo and the one below are shot inside the Warre hive. We had taken out several bars when we dumped the wild swarm that I caught in, and we never replaced the bars, so this is the free form comb that the bees drew.



This photo is the swarm I caught that I transferred to the Warre


Here is the "shoddy" top bar I threw together, just before introducing the bees.


Here is the inside of the well built Top Bar hive I made. I sold it to a guy but I was able to check it out, and even though this hive was in a location that didnt get enough sun and got too wet (there is surface mold on the bottom) it was a very prolific hive.


This is the modified Warre I built that was too big, and below is me transferring the swarm. It was too late in the season and these bees ended up leaving.



Here is the drawn comb on the modified Warre.


Finally here is next seasons Top Bar. Observation window, custom milled port orford cedar top bars with pointed bottoms. i'll take more pics as I complete it.


Here is a close up of the top bars, showing the spacing. Just about 1/32nd shy of 1 3/8 inches, the recommended "bee space".
 
tel jetson
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great pictures, Peter, though a couple are a bit large...

the Warré pictures look very similar to a hive I looked at in a chimney this spring. it's interesting to me that bees build those beautiful convoluted combs in square spaces. all the hives I've cut out of walls were made of completely straight comb, even when there was plenty of space for the wavy shapes.
 
Rion Mather
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I am bookmarking this thread. There is so much to learn!
 
Claire McHale
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So I know this is somewhat late, but I just stumbled upon this thread today. Info about Perone hives:

Tel's got the right idea - the hive is bigger than other types because the idea is that when bees have a large amount of space (280 L Perone says) they can perform at their maximum potential. My husband and I are part of a network of friends who have Perone hives here in southern chile and we also know Oscar Perone personally. About the hives, Prime swarms are ideal, but we've also experimentally transferred nucs and a Langstroth into the hives because out of the 11 occupied hives in our network, only 3 attracted swarms. Our hives are currently going through their first winter, (we've got a northwest USA like climate) though we have friends further north than us around Santiago who are in their third year of using Perone hives with success. (no CCD, no Varroa) The Perone is designed to be non intrusive; that's why there are two parts: the bees' part (for the brood and the hive's reserves) and the beekeeper's part, which is harvested once a year at night by a red light, red, because the bees cannot detect this color. The Perone hive is more of a long-term investment; you usually won't get honey harvests until your second or third season, though some people do have some really incredible yields their first year.
One of the most important things about building a Perone is making sure that you accurately space the top bars so that there's 33 mm from the center of one bar to the center of the next. The bars are 24 mm wide with gaps of 9 mm in between. Perone believes the spacing of the bars is key to temperature control; since the centers of the comb will be closer together (than in other types of hives) the bees can cluster closer together in the winter to generate heat. Another thing Perone utilizes in PermApiculture is the placement of beehives on telluric crosses - points where electromagnetic lines such as Curry or Hartman Lines intersect. There are various beekeepers who believe bees naturally locate their homes at such points because the electromagnetic energy there benefits them and plays a role in their formation. Again, I know some beekeepers who swear that their hives do best when placed on these crosses. Our hives here in Chile are also located at such points.

For pictures, videos, and some more info you can check out www.peronehive.com

or you can go straight to this introductory video that my husband and I made:


Nice to have found this site. Tel, I hope next year you get a swarm for your Perone hive.
 
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