My Newer, Heavier Top-Bar Hives

I like to construct my top-bar hives from rough-cut cedar fencing. The bees like the smell of the cedar—even as I construct, the bees investigate—and they like to hang out on the rough-cut grain. And, unlike pine, the cedar ages so gracefully. Pine gets sort of dull as it ages whereas cedar patinas.

However, this year, a number of my top-bar hives constructed with cedar fencing toppled over in high winds. That is definitely not good. In a few cases, I’ve gone to some elaborate means to keep the hives upright. But I still worry about them when the winds pick up…so, I’ve got to figure out a way to reduce the likelihood that the hives will tip over.

I’ve tried anchoring some of the hives with bungee cords and stakes. Others I’ve weighed down with a million pounds of rocks. But I’ve got to find a better, more aesthetically appealing way (you know, Reader, although my hives are simple, they’re also beautiful to my eye…and that’s very important to me. I need things to look good).

The hives I built years ago of pine don’t topple…probably because those hives are heavier. I think the lightness of the cedar fencing is at the root of the toppling problem…so, when I had some free time yesterday afternoon,  I headed to Home Depot where I found heavier cedar. The new cedar lumber is gorgeous…it’s rough cut on one side and smooth on the other. It smells awesome. It’s thicker and heavier than the fencing, which will provide the bees with more insulation. Yes, it’s twice as expensive (still not enough to freak out over), but I think it’s worth it for the aesthetics, for the security it gives the bees, and for my own peace of mind.

 

 

Tink: A newly created top-bar hive

Live with Enthusiasm

Tink: A newly created top-bar hive
Tink: A newly created top-bar hive

The newly forming hive pictured above belongs to my friend Nicola. Her powerhouse hive is going gangbusters this year. When the original colony (a swarm we captured together in 2011) ran out of room in its current hive box, it began creating drones by the boatloads. When it set about creating another queen, Nicola set about splitting the hive in two.

I keep thinking that I’d like to switch all my hives to top-bar hives. If all the hives I manage were in my yard, or if all the hives were placed in locations closer to where I live, I’d probably drift away from the Langs. But many of my hives live far away. Which means I can’t get to them each week in order to inspect them. And that’s the key to managing TBHs: regular and diligent management.

To my mind, the only drawback to a TBH is that its space is limited. If the beekeeper neglects a TBH, the bees will soon outgrow their limited space, and they’ll likely swarm. And there goes hopes for honey. And I’m not ashamed to say that honey is a big deal to me. I want it. I don’t need tons of it, but I definitely want honey.

On the upside:  Limiting space also means limiting the number of  bees living in the hive…which makes for a more pleasant visit when it comes time to inspect.

AND…I have not yet lost a single colony from my four TBHs. Which is rather incredible.

Probably 30% of my colonies living in Langstroth hives die.

Some colonies that I’ve cut out from structures and placed in Langs abscond. When I’ve captured those colonies and put them back in their Lang hive, they abscond again. When I capture them again and place them in TBHs, they stay. And live with enthusiasm. I simply believe that the TBH makes for happier bees and happier beekeepers.

The minute I learned about top-bar hives, something drew me to them. And something keeps drawing me. I’ve learned to pay attention to such attractions, so this year I plan to double the number of  my TBHs. I’m building them like crazy. Sawdust is everywhere. So, if you ask for my suggestion, Reader, I suggest you begin keeping bees in top-bar hives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)

My First Swarm-Bait Box Is Now Hung in a Tree

You know, I wait all winter long…think all winter long…plan and build all winter long…and still I am late when it comes to execution. Well, maybe not late, but certainly not early.

I think it’s swarm season, and as of yesterday I still hadn’t hung my home-built swarm boxes in their trees.

So, yesterday I hung one box in a tree in my beeyard. I’m not sure it’s high enough, and I may have put a bit too much lemongrass oil in the little container, but it’s hung. And even though I painted it camouflage, Deb spotted it immediately when she got out of her car. “What’s hanging in that tree?” she said. Bummer.

Come on, my little swarmies.

 

20110415-070724.jpg
Swarm-Bait Box (fit with top bars for a Kenya Top-Bar Hive)
20110415-070738.jpg
Swarm bait box decked out with camouflage and duct tape!
20110415-070749.jpg
Swarm-bait box hung in the beeyard
My first Kenya top-bar hive

My First Top-Bar Hive

I know you want to see my first Kenya Top-Bar Hive.

I’ve already got plans for a wider, shorter one…one that will accept the frames from my medium-depth Langstroth hive boxes. I want the flexibility of swapping frames from any hives in my yard.

I learned, though, from Michael Bush (I think of Michael Bush as I the Walter Cronkite of beekeeping: the most trusted name in bees) on Beemaster.com., that the waxed-string guides aren’t much of a guide. So, on my next hive, I’ll use something else I have up my sleeve. Shit. I thought I had the perfect solution to a simple guide. I think I’ll leave the waxed string on this hive, though, and see for myself how the bees deal with it.

Also: I love the look and the function of the corrugated tin roof, but cutting it is a bitch. And I’m sure to get little slivers of tin in my hands whenever I inspect the hive. Either slivers or stitches. I gotta find a metal smith to help me cut it better.

My first Kenya top-bar hive
My first Kenya top-bar hive

.