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Top Bar Hives vs health issues  RSS feed

 
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Someone I know is trying to entice me to the bee side of the world. He's doing a good job of it.
I was reading about top bar hives, and I hit a site Bee Keeping Like a Girl that was discussing the pros and cons of Langstroth vs Top Bar hives. The part I wonder about is:

My favorite thing about the TBH is that I don’t have to do any heavy lifting and I can place the hive at the perfect height for me to manage it by adjusting the legs. It will never grow taller or shorter. If you have any physical limitations, this hive is a great option for you.



I have chronic health problems, some days I am very strong, some days I can't pick up a plate. How accurate is her assessment of Top Bar hives being easier if you have issues? Does anyone have experiences with both Top Bar hives and illness? What is easy with them, what is hard? After reading her assessment, I am very inclined to build a top bar hive, just want to see if anyone has things I need to watch for with my health issues that I might not be aware of.
 
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I would say that is correct. With a langstroth you have to remove the whole top boxes to get to boxes under it. While many people remove an entire box to steal the honey, individual cells can be taken instead of the whole box. But it still leaves the boxes underneath to get to. Which gets to natural beekeeping vs snooping, analyzing, etc. Not sure if there is a real reason to access the lower boxes. So yes and no?

With the top bar hive all that can be removed is one bar at a time. No heavy boxes. Just one bar full of honey.

I started last year(not an expert). I did both styles. 1 of each. Im adding just tbh this year. I'm not in it to market and sell. I bar every few months is an adequate supply. If you go big, langstroth prob has better honey retrieval tools available.
 
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I just have to throw a wrench into things. One more time, it depends!!!

I don't have one, but TBH appears easier to assemble. But you could get the benefits of both by building one of these! A horizontal hive that uses deep Langstroth frames. Isn't it pretty?


http://horizontalhive.com/how-to-build/long-langstroth-plans.shtml

I am certain that you can build anything you set your mind to!
 
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For the most part I thought the article was accurate. I disagreed with the part she mentioned about being able to leave a roof over their heads because you remove only a few frames with TBH. One can do exactly the same thing with a Langstroth hive.

While it is possible to remove a single frame or two at a time from a Langstroth hive it is not time efficient or practical when working a lot of hives. So most keepers will find themselves lifting entire boxes. The weights are 40, 60, & 80 lbs for small, medium, & large 10 frame boxes filled with honey. Full 8 frame boxes are 20% lighter. There are also 5 frame boxes but those are rare & it would need to be a very tall stack of boxes for a full grown colony.

Let's do some math. A large hive box (called a deep) is 9.5" tall. A medium box is 6.5" tall. A stand is 3 or 4 inches. Plus 16" of cinder block or other type of device needed to raise them above skunks. A full sized colony requires two 10 frame deeps & a super full of honey for the bees. Perhaps required is not entirely accurate. It IS accurate if you want them to survive a long winter without additional feeding. Then add the height of any additional honey supers for harvesting. So, with a proper stand that comes to 45" minimum. A few inches for the top covers. That's 4 feet tall just for the bees. Most people use deeps for bees & mediums for honey so that's 60 lbs to move from 4' above ground level. And then back up if all you're doing is inspecting, rather than harvesting. Times X amount of boxes for Y amount of colonies. It can be quite a workout. I've seen hives with 17 supers. NOT typical but it's possible. They can be harvested as they fill so it's not absolutely necessary to lift to/from any higher than 4 feet. I harvest 3 or 6 frames at a time simply because 3 will fit in a 5 gallon food bucket. I can carry two buckets. Even that is heavy enough. A table or wheelbarrow near the hives to set boxes on is a big help. TBH can be done from a wheelchair.


For the most part I leave the lower boxes alone but there are times when they need to be inspected. There are times when they must be inspected by LAW. Which means a lot of stacking & restacking. This problem is even more common with Warre' hives because empty boxes are added to the bottom of those.

It is said among beekeepers that most people that get into bees do so because of the honey. It is also said that most people who get out of bees do so because of the honey. I personally don't think it's the honey ... it's the lifting of the honey.

I have no first hand experience with keeping a TBH. Quite a bit with Langstroth using no foundations. (or the wire supports in some wax foundation) In hot weather the wax gets very soft. It requires delicate handling or it will fall apart. My understanding is that it's a bit more of a problem with TBH. As far as being easy to reattach comb with rubber bands ... it depends. It's a pain at best. I usually just live with any burr comb or weird shaped comb until the bees vacate that piece. It can get out of hand very fast though. I imagine one would really need to stay on top of that with a TBH especially in the beginning. A bead of wax along the top bars will help the girls know where to start building. On the plus side ... combed honey sells for more than out of the comb. It's the customers assurance that they are buying real honey.

The article mentioned removing the wax as a plus. Again ... it depends. A pound of wax is the equivalent of 8lbs of honey in bee energy. Removing the wax does help prevent pesticide build up. For that reason I replace half of my wax foundations each year. I use or give the wax away. Not current with wax prices but I do know if that is an intended market it's far more profitable to sell to individual candle makers & craftspeople than to sell it to beekeeping suppliers.

The article mentioned moving hives. NONE are really that easy to move. It's not as simple & straightforward as it might seem. Move one just a foot too far during flying hours & you'll soon see a huge cloud of bees looking for their home.

Hope this helps. Did that answer your question? Been prattling on about bees ... what was the original question again?
 
Mike Barkley
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Just to throw another wrench into the monkeyed up bee wormhole there's this top bar design ... what's not to like??? This WILL happen here!!!

BEE BED

bee-bed.jpg
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Mike Barkley
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OCD? Too much coffee? but but but some of these are soooo Pearl. Some are so not Pearl.
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Pearl Sutton
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I laugh, take away Mike Barkley's coffee at 2 AM...
As far as the pics, I don't wear stripes, but have been know to costume other people in bee suits on stage :)

The math: THAT is interesting. Makes a lot of sense. Mike: please look at the link Joylynn threw, Long Langstroth hive plans It's a horizontal hive that takes standard frames. Is this the best of both worlds?


I was amused by the bee bed :) If you anger the Mafia, you end up "sleeping with the fishes." If you attract the attention of the Bee Pimps, you end up "sleeping with the bees!"
More thoughts on bee beds in a few, need to get to an appt.
 
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I'm pretty sure the sixth photo is a bumblebee.   Too fuzzy for a honey bee.
 
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Thanks for those numbers Mike! We have been noodling around with the thought of bees.  Those weight numbers cause me to realize it is not realistic for this year as I am just finally able to lift about 10 pounds with my left arm.  

This year has plenty of other projects so the extra time will just help me plan better.  Thanks again.
 
Mike Barkley
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You might want to consider mason bees. No honey harvest but no lifting required.
 
Tina Hillel
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Mike, you are absolutely right.  We had thought about those, but then got focused on honey. It would bee😀 good to have an increase of pollinators though. Something besides the carpenter bees eating the woodshed anyway!
 
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Mike Barkley wrote:Just to throw another wrench into the monkeyed up bee wormhole there's this top bar design ... what's not to like??? This WILL happen here!!!

BEE BED



This will be one of my first projects this spring.  I LOVE this.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Back to bee beds...
Looks like the laying surface is right on the top bars? And a cover is required for the bees, right? If the cover is big enough for a person, does it mess up insulating the hive?
The idea of hanging out on the hives is awesome! Trying to figure out the tech...
I like the idea of putting something like this above them, it looks more comfortable to me.  


 
Mike Barkley
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The bee beds have no direct exposure to the bees except perhaps a stray as the user is entering or exiting.

If you look at that one horizontal plan you will notice insulation installed in their top cover.

Part of the reported therapeutic experience of the bee beds is feeling the vibrations & hearing the sounds & smelling the smells. Seems like the chair would decrease that effect.
 
Trace Oswald
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I was reading the plans, and you can keep this bee bed in your house.  Woohoo!  You just run tubes from the entrance holes of the hive out through a wall.  I can't wait to play with this.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Mike Barkley wrote:
If you look at that one horizontal plan you will notice insulation installed in their top cover.


So would a bed be over the insulation? Or just on the bars?
(sorry, my brain is chaotic today)

Part of the reported therapeutic experience of the bee beds is feeling the vibrations & hearing the sounds & smelling the smells. Seems like the chair would decrease that effect.
Ah, ok. I'm just looking at that box bed and thinking I'd spasm so bad after laying on flat wood I wouldn't be able to get out of the box :) I'd become one with the bees....
If the bed is just on the top bars, I could make the top bars slope in a pattern that makes a comfy chair.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Trace Oswald wrote:I was reading the plans, and you can keep this bee bed in your house.  Woohoo!  You just run tubes from the entrance holes of the hive out through a wall.  I can't wait to play with this.


!!! That would keep the bees warm too!
Oh hey, now that just totally interested me....
Although... If you wanted to harvest honey, you'd end up with loose bees in the house. This might not be good.  
 
Mike Barkley
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Although... If you wanted to harvest honey, you'd end up with loose bees in the house. This might not be good.



Mount the whole thing on mag lev bearings & rails & just slide it all outside to harvest. Dream big! The interweb has some cool pix of bee bed & breakfasts. They're becoming popular in Europe.

My semi-educated guess ... if bees are kept too warm they won't decrease their numbers before winter. Then you'll have to feed them & have wimpy bees unadapted to your climate. Those will eventually swarm & the new swarming colony will likely die unless you can capture them. Then what? Another indoor hive?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Mike Barkley:
Oh. Hm. Damn your logic!! :D
foo.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Trace Oswald
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:I was reading the plans, and you can keep this bee bed in your house.  Woohoo!  You just run tubes from the entrance holes of the hive out through a wall.  I can't wait to play with this.


!!! That would keep the bees warm too!
Oh hey, now that just totally interested me....
Although... If you wanted to harvest honey, you'd end up with loose bees in the house. This might not be good.  



I think I'll just let them "bee" and harvest honey from my perone hives. They can just live out their lives while sharing a space with me.
 
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If you are going to make your own hives, I have built both the Long Langstroth hives designed by Dr. Leo referenced above, and a Kenyan top bar hive. The Kenyan top bar was much, much easier to build. I would recommend Michael Bush's design http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm or Sam Comfort's Dimension X design, which uses only 1x10 boards (you could use 2x10, which are cheaper) http://anarchyapiaries.org/hivetools/node/17177

Your hive type should also depend on your goals. If you didn't care that much about harvesting a ton of honey, but just wanted enough for you and your family, you could easily keep bees in single Langstroth deep boxes, which are actually about the ideal cavity size that bees prefer in the wild (about 40 liters). One box per colony would mean you would not have to lift boxes. You could take a frame or two of honey during the peak honey flow (about 10 pounds of honey per frame) and have more than enough for yourself. Your bees will likely swarm in this scenario if you don't split them. Swarming is not inherently bad, but rather a healthy part of the bees' life-cycle. Even if you wanted to harvest a little more honey, you could use a single deep Langstroth hives with a single shallow super on top of that. A fully loaded shallow super is about 40 pounds worth of honey, and you could remove a few frames at a time during harvest or just pick the whole box up. This approach lines up very well with the most recent research on how to keep bees in a way that aligns most closely with their natural nesting conditions (https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/darwinian-beekeeping).

Now if you really want to maximize honey production, however, you should go with a long-style hive such as a Kenyan top bar, Long Langstroth, or Tanzanian top bar hive based on the health concerns you raised. No lifting boxes, and the bees will have enough space to build out comb and hopefully fill it with honey. If you don't want to move a lot of equipment, I would again recommend a top bar hive (specifically a Kenyan top bar, which has sloped sides, as it is easier for beginners), because there are no frames, just bars you lay across the cavity for the bees to attach their comb to. The easiest method of making bars that I've found thus far is buying 2inx2in furring strips from Home Depot or elsewhere and cutting them to the right length. The actual width of these strips is 1.5in (make sure of this before purchase), which is within the width you would want top bars to be. Some people say that you want the top bars for the brood nest to be 1.25in and the top bars for honey to be 1.5in, as the bees tend to build thicker combs for honey storage when left to build natural comb. This is true, but as long as you are keeping an eye on how they are building things, I've seen people use all 1.25in or all 1.5in and be just fine. If you are really worried about how the bees will space their comb, you can also buy some quarter round trim and cut it to length (3 or 4 inches shorter than the top bars at least, so they don't interfere with the bars sitting on the hive). Then, nail or glue the guide pieces to the top bar with the angle centered on the bar. This will give the bees a guide, and they are more likely to construct the comb on the trim, thereby keeping the spacing you would want. The beauty of top-bars is that you can build them from just about anything. I built one out of scrap 1 3/4 inch flooring boards that I glued together once. I would use Michael Bush's design as a guide in terms of how to construct it, and salvage what lumber you can get your hands on to make it. Also, I would try to make my top bars 19in long, and adjust the angle of the hive sides accordingly. This would allow you to transfer bars from your top bar to a Langstroth hive. By cutting off the sides of a frame and trimming the comb on it to the right shape, you could also accept brood or honey from another beekeeper's Langstroth hive, or a Langstorht of your own. Just gives you more flexibility.
 
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