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Top bar hives - ideal hive profile?

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Hi folks,

I'm a few months into using a kenyan style top bar hive. So far I'm pretty happy with it:

The bars are 17" long, but the comb length along the bars works out to be 15".
The profile of the box is sides sloped 15 degrees from vertical, and a diagonal length of the sides of 12".

Initially this worked out fine; they build comb fairly straight along the guides etc... but I'm thinking of how I could refine the design to deal with a few minor problems:

  • Bees are consistently curling the comb at the end of the bars, so I'm getting some cross combing. I've been correcting it as I go, but I'd rather not have to.
  • Full bars of honey feel a little unweildy - perhaps a bit too deep?


  • What I do like is that the queen seems happy to lay a really nice brood pattern on pretty much a full bar of comb, with just a small fringe of stores.

    I'm thinking of making the next hives with a slightly smaller profile - more like 14" of comb per bar, and a slope of 20 degrees from vertical along with maybe 11" on the diagonal side. I'll need a longer hive for the same volume of bees, but each sheet of comb will be that little bit smaller and easier to manage.

    Any thoughts?

    Mike
     
    David Livingston
    steward
    Pie
    Posts: 2581
    Location: Anjou ,France
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    I think a judgement has to be made about how much work you have to do ( cross combing , adding bars, removing bars etc ) and how many bars you have with a hive .
    Thre smaller bars mean more work. I tend to think of a natural wild hive ie a hole in a tree and how close am I to being like that
    Or you could build a warré or a perone
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    I know what you mean about more bars = more work, but if shorter bars means less cross comb that would probably lead to easier inspections. I don't like to go right through brood nests - just far enough to confirm the queen is laying usually.

    I've been thinking about Warre and Perone styles too. I have a warre-esque log hive built, but no bees for it at present.

    It looks like I'll be starting a beekeeping club at school though, so I need hives with moveable comb for teaching purposes. These won't be with my own hives, but it would be convenient to be able to swap bars around from time to time.
     
    jeremiah briggs
    Posts: 2
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    why not use an enclosed frame like in a Langstroth hive but instead of premade comb have empty frames where the bees will build the comb. it would make handling the comb a little easier I would think. fyi I have never kept bees so this is just an idea not something I have tried before.
     
    Cj Sloane
    pollinator
    Posts: 3646
    Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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    Michael Cox wrote:
    It looks like I'll be starting a beekeeping club at school though, so I need hives with moveable comb for teaching purposes.


    You can make moveable combs for a Warre.
     
    Todd Warner
    Posts: 10
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    It's great to experiment, so go for it. We have experimented with a number of hive types over the years and keep coming back to Langstroth. The bees like them, and the beekeeper likes them. Top-bar hives are a bit harder to manage, but their huge advantage is for those who can't lift at all. So, I recommend them to frail people all the time.

    Best top-bar hive producer I have run across is "Bee Thinking" out of Portland. http://www.beethinking.com/ And the worst is Kelly. At least the model they had a couple years ago. It works, but it is of very low quality. They may have improved it since then, but it doesn't look like it looking at their website.

    Anyway... keep experimenting. It's fun and educational.

    -todd
     
    Tim Eastham
    Posts: 52
    Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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    The curling can be stopped by straightening two comb and putting a new bar between the straight ones. They will maintain their bee space and draw the new one straight. Keep doing this checkerboard technique and continuing to move out the follower boards until the hive is built out. Anytime you harvest a comb for honey, place the bar between two comb instead of on the end.

    Any time you want to harvest old brood comb to reduce chemical load, move it on the backside of the honey wall and return in a week after they have hatched out the babies. Then, harvest the old comb and place a new bar between two bars with comb.
     
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