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My First Hive Please Help me Not Make Mistakes

 
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Hi everyone. I am an almost bee keeper. I have all my supplies and probably with in a month I will have bees. I am located in Northeastern Indiana. We have about 2 acres of land and we are surrounded by farm land and woods. The bees will be kept about 7' into the wooded area. I have a top bar hive that I purchased second hand. I have put a line of bee's wax centered on all the bars. I have been reading everything I can but still feel like I have no clue what I'm doing. So my question for everyone is what can I avoid doing wrong? Please tell me what you would have done differently with your first hive.
 
Erin DuBois
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I forgot to add that we have a pond about 100' away from the hive area.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Erin - are you planning on catching a swarm? I trialled a top bar hive last year and generally liked it, but I had some trouble getting them to build comb straight.

Making sure you hive is utterly level seems to be important for minimising wonky comb.

One tip I saw that was rather neat was a guy who kept some 5 bar top bar nucs - the same cross section as his big hive - and he used them for drawing out comb. He'd take out a single comb from the nuc, leaving an empty bar with brood either side of it. The gap forces bees to draw out the new comb straight and true. He then transferred straight comb to his other top bar hives - especially to swarms that were just getting established, so that they had a nice straight piece to set their direction from.

Also, see if you can find the videos on beekeeping on Youtube... I think the channel is called "OutOfABlueSky" or something like that. They will be really helpful.
 
Erin DuBois
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So I would get a plastic comb and add it to the bars to help them attach the new comb correctly? Like I said I am super new so don;t laugh. I am getting the bees from a large bee farm near me. They are a place that trucks bees to various places. They always seem to have them available. I can pick up in person from them I was kind of concerned about shipping.
 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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No plastic comb - the point of top bar is to have bees build their own comb. Fixing any wonky comb early is the key. Once you have a few straight combs, the rest is easy. It helps to have a frame guide (like an abbreviated follower board) which you can slot in as necessary to constrain their comb building.

Top bar is fun because it's so easy to manipulate. You will learn quickly. Don't overthink - observe.
 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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I'll disagree with Patrick here...

Plastic foundation is a possible option here, at least to get them started building nice and straight. There are really no hard and fast rules. I've seen peopel use strips of wax foundation an inch or so deep to encourage the bees to build straight, and plastic could certainly help do the same job.

Regarding getting later bars built out straight... If you make a gap in the brood chamber, by moving bars up and popping a blank in, they will swiftly fill the space with nice straight comb (provided the brood comb either side is straight).
 
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Erin,
The best advice I can give is to recommend the best video and the best book I know of for beginning Top Bar Beekeeping. The best video is Back Yard Hive, Alternative Beekeeping Using the Top Bar Hive and The Bee Guardian Methods by Corwin Bell and the best book is The Thinking Beekeeper, by Christy Hemenway I believe both are available on Amazon. I know sometimes recommending certain books and videos leads to a discussion of other books and videos and their value. I assure you that having these two particular sources of information in your hands while you are starting your first Top Bar hive will make an enormous difference in your learning curve.
 
pollinator
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For top bar hives lots of Phil Chandlers stuff is free and they have a great forum over at Biobees dedicated to top bar hives

David
 
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Location: woodland, washington
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you have pretty extreme winters there in Indiana? my failures with horizontal top bar hives have been due to winter clusters starting in the middle of the hive with stores on either side. some shuffling of combs will almost certainly be necessary going into winter, which is why my hands-off approach really doesn't work with this style hive.

really, though, you're going to make mistakes. try not to sweat it. don't be careless, of course, but if you're thoughtful and careful, your mistakes will probably be relatively minor. you're using a style of hive that is conducive to learning a lot about the bees' habits without causing them undue stress, so you've already got an advantage over the typical beginner using a frame hive.
 
Michael Cox
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Also, following what Tel said - give yourself permission to make mistakes. You inevitably will make them, just make sure you do everything you can to learn from them! The bees will ultimately teach you what works.
 
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Location: Bayfield, WI
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Erin DuBois wrote:So I would get a plastic comb and add it to the bars to help them attach the new comb correctly? Like I said I am super new so don;t laugh. I am getting the bees from a large bee farm near me. They are a place that trucks bees to various places. They always seem to have them available. I can pick up in person from them I was kind of concerned about shipping.



top bar hives are designed to have bees make their own comb. there is no reason to add plastic comb. one good tip is to attach/staple a popsicle stick to the top bars (hanging down/perpendicular ).this will stabilize the comb. youtube is an EXCELLENT PLACE TO LEARN ABOUT TOP BAR BEEKEEPING. SO IS THE LIBRARY AND FACEBOOK. I belong to a couple of top bar facebook locations and everybody is very helpful. AND THEY WILL DO JUST FINE IN YOUR LOCATION AS LONG AS YOU PREPARE THE HIVES FOR WINTER PROPERLY.
 
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