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beginning beekeeper: top bar hives?

 
Angelika Maier
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I thought that bees are a good addition to our garden. We want to start simple and not with a huge outlay and maybe the top bar hive DIY would be good.
Is it really good for someone to start beekeeping? The real advantage is I think that we can make one cheaply.
We are in Australia and everything is far more expensive than in the US.
 
David Livingston
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Have you tried looking at the forum on Biobees.com
Very good information on TBH.
I prefer the idea of Warré hive or even a perone hive as you dont have cros combing issues .

David
 
tel jetson
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I assume that you mean horizontal top bar hives. there are also vertical top bar hives, two of which David mentioned. those are also the two styles of hive I happen to use, and cross-combing is one reason I prefer them to horizontal hives.

which hive you want should really depend on what sort of beekeeper you want to be. if you want to take an active and fairly frequent roll in maintaining the hive, a horizontal top bar hive could be just right for you. personally, I like to put the bees in and leave them alone until harvest, which just doesn't work well with horizontal hives. the bees might very well thrive, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to harvest any honey. leaving the bees alone does work with vertical top bar hives.

of the hives I've built, Warré hives are the easiest. Perone hives are pretty easy, too, except for the comb guides. horizontal hives can also be built easily, but the top bars can get complicated. there are plans available for those three styles easily available on these here internets.

you might also consider using Langstroth equipment with top bars instead of frames. Lang boxes are pretty readily available and can be more affordable than other styles.
 
Patrick Mann
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I agree that Warre are the easiest to manage, with the exception that nadiring is very tedious. Fortunately you don't need to do it very frequently.
I prefer a horizontal top bar over a lang. You do have to check more often to ensure straight comb, but I find inspections are so much less invasive and stressful to the bees than they are in Langs.
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks for the answers! So you can build both these bathtub style hives and the warre hives yourself? The bathtub style looks easier to build without a table saw, but we might ask a neighbour. I read that the warre hives must be lifted around. What is checking often? Once a week? We would have the bees close to the house because our property is not that big. Is spring the right time to start?
 
Patrick Mann
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I've built both HTBH and a Warre with just a handheld circular saw. Not pretty, but functional. Yes, the HTBH is an easier build.

A HTBH requires weekly inspections at certain times (new hive, swarm season, nectar flow) ... but most times you don't need to do a full inspection. Warre can be as little as just a few times a year - if you don't care about losing swarms once in a while.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:Is spring the right time to start?


yeah.
 
Angelika Maier
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Then we have plenty of time, it is beginning winter here. It was actually my daughter who said I want a beehive.
My kids care for the chicken but I guess bees are a bit more complicated and scientific.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:Then we have plenty of time, it is beginning winter here. It was actually my daughter who said I want a beehive.
My kids care for the chicken but I guess bees are a bit more complicated and scientific.


probably worth getting some bait hives set up before the spring swarm season. actually, as I'm not familiar with your climate, I also don't know when swarm season is so I shouldn't have been so quick to suggest that spring is the best season to start. around here, spring is the best time to start, but things might be different elsewhere. as they say: all beekeeping is local.

if plants never go dormant where you're at, then there are likely to be swarms all year long, in which case you could get started any time you like.
 
Angelika Maier
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We are in the Mountains. That means that the temperature can go 5C below freezing in winter. Our climate is cool temperate.
Isn't it easier for a starter to just buying bees?
All in all do you recommend the top bar hives - I guess that is the only hive we can build without overstretching our abilities.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:
Isn't it easier for a starter to just buying bees?


depends on how you mean. buying bees is a more reliable way to guarantee you have bees at the beginning of the season, but it's expensive, and there's every likelihood that the bees you purchase will not be adapted to local conditions unless they were raised close by.

collecting swarms is fun and easy and a whole lot cheaper than buying bees. if you ever see honey bees in your garden, your odds of collecting a swarm are at least decent. if you put up several bait hives in suitable spots, you'll improve your odds. get yourself on any local swarm lists and get your contact information to local health/fire/police departments, animal control, hardware stores, exterminators, et cetera for when they get the inevitable calls about swarms.

Angelika Maier wrote:
All in all do you recommend the top bar hives - I guess that is the only hive we can build without overstretching our abilities.


I would recommend a top bar hive, specifically a Warré hive to start with. but that's just me. if you know somebody who has some Langstroth equipment they aren't using anymore, I would try to take that off their hands and build some top bars to operate it in a more bee-friendly manner.
 
David Livingston
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I agree with tel local bees are best by a long way othrwise you end up loosing them come winter if you are not careful

David
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks, we're having winter now, enough time to start reading and thinking around.
Yes, we do have bees but I never saw a swarm. I think I must look at both plans the bath tub style top bar ones and
the warre hives to find out how difficult it is to build. It seems that there are more warre fans. The local guy here who gives courses
(nearly 500 dollars) uses them as well.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:It seems that there are more warre fans. The local guy here who gives courses
(nearly 500 dollars) uses them as well.


is that Malfroy?
 
David Livingston
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Does Tim Malfoy give a free hive and swarm with the $500?

David
 
Angelika Maier
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I have read a bit meanwhile and for me it seems that the more sensible hive might be the warre hive. First because it seems that the top bar hive yields only very little honey (however I could not find out so far how much is very little), second because it seems more difficult to manage for someone unexperienced. However the warree hive means a lot of very heavy lifting. Is it right that you have to lift the whole stack at once to put a box underneath? How heavy would that be? And it seems to be very unstable, maybe securing it with a star post on either side would be a good solution.
Is it advisable to join the next beekeeper association, even when they use the classical system? They might look strange at beginners who try to do something different.
 
S Bengi
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You only have to vist the warre hive at the end of summer. At which point you remove and harvest the top two box and leave the bottom two box for them to overwinter with.
Once you have emptied the top two, you then lift the two boxes that are left and put the two that you just harvested back at the bottom. They will do all the cleaning for you.
Each "box" hold 50lbs at most so maybe you will have to lift 100lbs of honey to until another 12 months. 100lbs is not featherweight but it is not particularly heavy esp if you have two people, and it is done once per year. Some folks perfer to harvest in the spring just to make sure that the bees have enough honey to over winter but whether you harvest at the end of summer or the start of spring warre hive are the best.
 
Angelika Maier
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Thanks, this seems OK but not light.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:Thanks, this seems OK but not light.


many folks build lifts that do the heavy work mechanically instead of with brute strength. designs range from very simple to quite complicated.


and on horizontal top bar hives: plenty of folks get very good yields of honey using horizontal hives by practicing progressive harvest of one or a few combs at once. that does involve visiting and getting into the hive much more frequently than is typical with Warré hives, but the potential for honey harvest is there.
 
R Scott
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Warres have big cleats for handles that work really well with two people and a pair of poles or lumber used to lift it like a stretcher. Third person to put the boxes under and line things up.

Yes, it takes 3 people--but it is only once a year.
 
S Carreg
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Sorry to jump on this thread, but it's exactly what I was looking for! I really want to start keeping bees, and I have been on an intro course with my local beekeepers association, but a) it costs so much money for all of that equipment and b) they're pretty insistent that you have to do hive inspections every 5 days for at least six months of the year. That is a huge commitment of time.

My motivation for keeping bees is to help the bees and to get honey, but I would be very willing to have a smaller honey harvest in order to cause less stress to the bees and make my job much easier.

I have registered on the biobees forum and I will ask on there, but since this thread is already going...

so do Warres sound like a good option for a novice beekeeper? I want to be able to get some honey, I don't mind hard work but ideally I don't want it to have to be every week, the less often the better. How easy is it to build Warre hives? One concern I have is that since all the beekepers in the association around here are conventional, there won't be as much support locally if I go down the Warre/top bar route.
 
tel jetson
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S Carreg wrote:
so do Warres sound like a good option for a novice beekeeper? I want to be able to get some honey, I don't mind hard work but ideally I don't want it to have to be every week, the less often the better. How easy is it to build Warre hives? One concern I have is that since all the beekepers in the association around here are conventional, there won't be as much support locally if I go down the Warre/top bar route.


in my opinion, Warré hives are great for beginners, which is sort of the point of the design. Warré actually called his design The People's Hive, and the idea was that most folks could easily build and use the hives. further, the Warré hive matches up very well with what you've stated you're after: they require very little intervention, but do provide surplus honey for harvest (supposing the weather coöperates).

and don't despair that no locals will be supportive. David Heaf is something of an authority on Warré hives and lives in Cymru, perhaps near you since he sometimes signs off from "wet, windy, wild west Wales." we occasionally lure him to answer questions here, but joining his yahoo group or e-mailing him directly are good ways to contact him. there's a link to the e-mail list at http://warre.biobees.com. you'll also find good plans there if you decide to build your own.
 
Patrick Mann
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What about swarm control in a Warre? In an urban setting that is more of a consideration than in a rural location. If you're being hands off you can't see swarm cells. Can you determine just by looking at the entrance activity whether a split might be necessary to prevent a swarm?
 
tel jetson
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Patrick Mann wrote:What about swarm control in a Warre? In an urban setting that is more of a consideration than in a rural location. If you're being hands off you can't see swarm cells. Can you determine just by looking at the entrance activity whether a split might be necessary to prevent a swarm?


personally, I think the need for swarm control in urban settings is a bit overblown. swarms happen whether there are beekeepers or not. many of the swarms I get calls about issue from long-term colonies in old urban buildings and trees far from any beekeepers.

that said, losing swarms isn't generally something most beeks set out to do, though not everybody considers it a total loss. and it's certainly nice to try to prevent honeybees from setting up shop in somebody's attic.

I believe the most appropriate (and effective) way to deal with a colony's tendency to swarm is not suppression or even close monitoring for swarm cells or behavior that suggests imminent swarming, but to put up a whole lot of bait hives. certainly not a guarantee, but then neither is pinching queen cells. the more bait hives spread around, the better the odds a swarm will end up in one instead of a wall. and if another colony isn't desired, there are generally plenty of other folks around who would be all too happy to take a new swarm.

it's nice, then, that two Warré boxes are rather close to the volume Tom Seeley suggests for bait hives. if extra boxes are kept around, used boxes can serve as bait hives before they're nadired again. purpose-built bait hives work just fine, too, though I would suggest building them to accommodate easily moving any comb that gets built before the new colony is discovered.
 
Angelika Maier
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I actually haven't got a table saw. While you can build a warre hive without one it is far faster. I think you could even use a jugsaw.
What I intend to do is to get some people together who want a hive as well and have all the timber cut, as it is the same work cutting timber for
twenty hives than for one. I'll ask someone round the corner to cut the timber and he might get a cheaper price on the wood too.
I saw even a press on the net to press the honey out, does not seem to be difficult to build either.
I wonder what and why Malfroys here changed the typical warre hive.
 
tel jetson
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Angelika Maier wrote:I wonder what and why Malfroys here changed the typical warre hive.


I believe Malfroy uses frames of some sort. could be that high temps mean extra comb support and dead air space around the exterior is thought to be beneficial. there may be other modifications, too. Tim Malfroy does post on David Heaf's yahoo list, so you might try asking there.
 
S Carreg
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Thank you, i will look up that guy, i'm excited
 
Todd Rhodes
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Question is feeding bees inside a top bar box good or bad if wanting to lure a hive to the box?
 
tel jetson
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Todd Rhodes wrote:Question is feeding bees inside a top bar box good or bad if wanting to lure a hive to the box?


bees might take the feed, but a swarm won't move in.

better options: old comb, propolis, lemongrass oil, queen mandibular pheromone. if you don't already keep bees or know beekeepers who will share with you, the easiest of those to get will probably be propolis and lemongrass oil.
 
Todd Rhodes
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tel jetson wrote:
Todd Rhodes wrote:Question is feeding bees inside a top bar box good or bad if wanting to lure a hive to the box?


bees might take the feed, but a swarm won't move in.

better options: old comb, propolis, lemongrass oil, queen mandibular pheromone. if you don't already keep bees or know beekeepers who will share with you, the easiest of those to get will probably be propolis and lemongrass oil.



Thanks tel jetson for the info so you recommend stop feeding and put a lure in the box right? Also should i wait till March or April or what would be the best time to put out hive lure?
I have order lemongrass oil & Citral oil
Thanks
Todd
 
tel jetson
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Todd Rhodes wrote:Thanks tel jetson for the info so you recommend stop feeding and put a lure in the box right? Also should i wait till March or April or what would be the best time to put out hive lure?
I have order lemongrass oil & Citral oil
Thanks
Todd


yeah. feeding isn't doing you any good for luring purposes.

when to put your bait out depends on when swarm season starts where you're at. around here, the very earliest swarms I've heard of were the beginning of April. I like to have bait hives out about a month before swarms are likely to start issuing so that early scouts can find them.
 
Todd Rhodes
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Thanks again tel jetson for the info. I live in Houma, Louisiana on the gulf coast. When would you recommend starting to bait the box?
(Jan. & Feb. are the coldest months at least for us down here.) LOL
 
tel jetson
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Todd Rhodes wrote:Thanks again tel jetson for the info. I live in Houma, Louisiana on the gulf coast. When would you recommend starting to bait the box?
(Jan. & Feb. are the coldest months at least for us down here.) LOL


couldn't tell you. I've only ever kept bees within a pretty small radius of right here. might be worth contacting a local beekeepers association. doesn't mean you have to endorse their program, but they might have the information you're after.

that said, putting bait hives out too early probably isn't a big deal.
 
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