Author Topic: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...  (Read 630 times)

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Offline Zweefer

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Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« on: February 15, 2017, 06:17:42 PM »
Looking to get a top bar hive as I have some members in our association that want to start using them...   Was doing some research, and came across this: The Cathedral Hive 
Anyone with TBH experience want to weigh in?  They make it sound good, but wondering if it is worth it or not?

Thanks!
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Offline Perry

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2017, 06:33:52 PM »
My "town limit" yard is owned by a couple whose son John built one similar, the hexagonal shape, but has regular straight top bars running across the center of it. I sent him a link to this one as the vaulted ceiling adds much more space, something he found problematic with his.
I'll take a picture of it next time I'm there.
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Offline riverbee

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2017, 07:43:16 PM »
zweef we also have a member here that built his own top bar hives, blueblood, and did use them.  hope he sees this thread and chimes in.

if not i will send him a pm...........he's a busy fellar............. ;)
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Offline Robo

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2017, 07:58:40 PM »
Can I ask why you are looking at TBHs?

Generally they aren't the best options for colder climates.  If you think about the origin of TBHs,  they come from very warm climates, which are usually resource constrained counties.  It is unfortunate that a lot of proponents of TBH see "more primitive" = "more natural" which is a misnomer.   

Just think about feral bees living in a tree and what their natural tendencies are.    They work in a vertical manner, starting at the top of the cavity in spring and continue through the summer storing honey above and driving the brood nest down.   Come fall,  the cluster is at the bottom of the comb with all the winter stores above them.  As winter progresses,  they slowly consume honey as they work their way up the comb.  In moving in such a manner, they heat they give off pre-warms the closest stores above them.  But most importantly,  they never need to break cluster the get to new stores.  I'll save the insulation values for another discussion,  but I will say most folks have no idea how warm a tree keeps bees.  There is some current research that indicates feral bees in a tree may not have to cluster until ambient get as low as -40. 

Now think of a TBH which forces the bees to move horizontally.  During winter when they run out of stores on the comb they are on,  they need to move horizontally around the empty comb to get to new stores.   In order to make this move, the weather has to allow them to break cluster.

If you want to work with top bar hives and let the bees built their own comb, I would strongly suggest a Warre Hive which is a vertical hive design.   I found horizontal TBH not very practical, unlike my Langstroths, they would grow just so big and then just stall for the rest of the season.  Also not as good wintering.   On the other hand,  I have had very good success with the Warre hive.  Full disclosure, I only have 1 Warre hive,  but it has survived 4-5 years at a time with no treatment or feeding.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison


Offline neillsayers

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2017, 11:26:27 PM »
Looks very similar to a frame Dadant described in one of his books. Said the bees liked it but it was a construction and management headache.
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Offline Zweefer

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2017, 05:28:44 AM »
Perry, Thanks brother! 

Robo,
I am looking at doing a top bar as several of our new keepers in my beekeepers association are going that route.  I would only have one, so I could figure it out, and be somewhat knowledgeable with TBH when it came time to discuss / help.  I have no intention of transitioning away from my langstroths, this would be a one and done kind of proposition for now. 
As for wintering, I know of a few in my area that claim better wintering results using TBH over langstroth, but that is one of the things I want to discover for myself.  it appears they address this very issue on the site, and that is part of what I am asking... does this design offer any improvement over the standard design?  For those that have them, I am sure they know the drawbacks, and could tell me if this would seem an improvement or not.  If I had the desire to move to TBH, I'd just build one or two of each and call it good, so I could compare and contrast myself (still may over the years, who knows).
At the recommendation of a friend, I just finished reading Keeping Bees With A Smile by Fedor Lazutin, and the pro top bar propaganda is laid on pretty thick, I found myself wanting to see if there is anything to it.

So, to make a long, rambling answer short.  Curiosity, knowledge, and interest in a different way of doing things are the three main reasons I am looking at a top bar.

As for letting the bees build, 90% of my frames in my hives are foundationless, so got that covered in the langstroths.  :yes:

Offline Robo

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2017, 12:10:41 PM »
Just to be straight forward,  I'm not saying that Langstroth are a superior hive,  but what Langstroth has for it is that it is the "standard", which can not be easily discounted.  It allows for the vertical movement that bees need, but one could argue they are too wide.  You can easily get woodenware and easily get resources (brood, etc.) from fellow beekeepers when in a real bind.  Also there is a wealth of beekeepers with knowledge of Langstroth. 
Secondly I have no issues with Corwin, in fact, I have a podcast on my website that I did with him in 09.  I total respect his approach to beekeeping, even though I don't necessarily agree with him on all his methods.  He tends to try to commercialize at a higher level than I, but that is his choice and let the market bear what it will.
I will give my thoughts on the "super Highway" for wintering.   Not clear what the size of the hole is, but it is clear that the cluster can not pass through the "super highway" without breaking apart.   3/4" pine gives you about a 8-15F delta above ambient (double deep Langstroth).  So best case,  if your ambient temp drops below 25F, the bees will be clustered and have a very difficult time passing through the "super highway".   Even if they do,  what do they do?  do they start at the top of the frame and eat downwards (unnatural)?  or do they just continue along the "super highway"  eating off the tops of all the frames?  Either way,  they are progressing to cold honey,  which can be equated to providing cold syrup, and we all know how well they take that.

As far as Lazutin,  I also think he brings a lot to the table for discussion.   I don't like the way he has to manipulate them to one side for winter or his super long entrance.   I do like his use of super deep frames though,  he is giving them the vertical space they need. I like his concepts, but believe there is an easier, less intrusive manner to achieve the same thing.

With new beekeepers, we have struggled for years with folks wanting to get involved but wanting to try some hive that was "over sold" on the internet or in books.   We have seen too many of these folks get into issues, have no one to support them and eventually drop out after loosing bees and money over a couple of years.   We have started a new program where we bring them into a training apiary every two weeks for the entire season.   They get first hand exposure/handling bees BEFORE getting their own bees.  Too many new beekeepers first experience is when a package arrives and they need to get them into a hive.  We teach them what to look for during inspections,  how to handle bees,  how to treat, etc.   We also teach them how to make nucs and each new beekeeper takes home two double hive poly nucs that they made and cared for over the season ready for their first winter at home.
Not sure about your area, but we are constantly fighting people bringing in package bees from the South and diluting the low progeny bees we are trying to keep in our environment.   With providing new beekeepers with the first hand training/experience and good quality low progeny bees,  we are giving them the best start for success.

As far as top bar hives,  I would highly suggest Warre hives first followed by Layens/Lazutin.  I would discourage folks from Kenyan style TBH.

Just my 2 cents from my experience.

Bees are survivors,  but there is a difference between surviving and thriving.......
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

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Offline Zweefer

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2017, 01:42:36 PM »
You make many good points Robo.  I will stew on this a bit more.

Offline Bakersdozen

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2017, 03:37:28 AM »
zweef we also have a member here that built his own top bar hives, blueblood, and did use them.  hope he sees this thread and chimes in.

if not i will send him a pm...........he's a busy fellar............. ;)
I don't want to speak for blueblood, but last week I was chit chatting with him.  As I recall, I inquired about his TBHs and his said he was down to one.  I got the impression that he was phasing them out because of low honey production and mice issues.

Offline CBT

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2017, 06:40:41 AM »
We know folks with TBH's. We have one. Have trouble over wintering it. Still want a frame type TBH.

Offline kingd

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2017, 06:44:08 AM »
A few years ago I too was sucked into the hype of top bar hives, I built 2 of them using 2x12 lumber.
I got a mentor and ended up not using them,Went langs.
  I gave one to him to play with and they have survived the winter so far and I might set up the other one to see what happens.

 My thoughts are,if you are brand new into the game,Losses can be high and then you add a TBH to it.

Offline Perry

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2017, 04:14:59 PM »
Went out to Town Limit yard and got the pic. The "top bars" are actually along the lower half of the hive, the space above them is just empty.

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Offline riverbee

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2017, 06:17:07 PM »
perry is that your tbh?
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Offline Perry

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2017, 06:45:22 PM »
No, I'm not a big believer in TBH's. This is John's, the son of my Town Limit yard owner. Rachael is John's sister, the one who took the swarm pics that are awesome!
John designed this as something of a lark, but believe it or not, there are bees still in there. It is too small by far, what with the top half just empty space, but I forwarded him the link at the beginning of this thread.
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Offline Zweefer

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Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2017, 07:04:05 PM »
Thanks Perry!  Hope it wasn't too far a trip, and that I wasn't the only reason to go.  It is very much appreciated!
« Last Edit: February 17, 2017, 10:52:55 PM by Zweefer »

Offline Perry

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2017, 07:32:57 PM »
Not a problem Zweef buddy. The town limit yard is 5 minutes from my house, I drive by it most days.
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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2017, 09:36:45 AM »
Zweef, cover it up had tbh he made with lang. plastic frame cut at an angle. Like CBT he had a hard time overwintering. So i suggested supering , so we tried that and it work for overwintering but that spring the bees absconded. We did have honey to spin but no bees.






Online Mikey N.C.

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Re: Innovation or reinventing the wheel? TBH help requested...
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2017, 09:41:45 AM »
We also built this but have not used it yet. We'll try it thisyear.