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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Checking on the Top Bar Hive

Yesterday I went through all my hives to see how things were going. I drove to Valerie and Jeff's house to check on the top bar which I haven't looked at in 10 days.

They were doing really well for the most part. They were building comb on about eight of the top bars. The comb is beautiful for the most part. Here's an example:

The queen is wasting no time in laying eggs. You can easily see eggs in almost all of the cells on the left of this picture. Isn't the new wax lovely? I love letting bees build their own foundation - it's always beautiful.

Where I had tied in old comb to welcome them to the hive, they are doing interesting things. Below you'll see an old comb I tied in. It had large cells so they are using it (the old comb) for nectar storage and have attached brood comb to either side. They definitely don't like the string in their hive and have made each piece I looked at fuzzy by picking at it with their mandibles.

Early in the hive there were a few examples of cross comb. I hadn't interrupted this the last time I went in, so this time I worked on it to give them the idea that they are to build their comb straight. I exposed brood in this process and hated doing that but these bees need to build comb in parallel with the top bars.

If you'll look closely at this picture, you can see the each bee in the line extending her proboscis to collect the fluid leaking from the broken cells.

I'm still using the two empty packages to prop up top bars to look at them.  Setting the crooked comb top bar on them, I tied the now-broken comb onto the bar, pulling it more in line.

This is an interesting picture to look at because Don's bees are small-cell bees.  You can see the contrast between the cell size on the old comb and the cell size of the brood comb that the bees have built next to it.

Here are some of the other combs - notice the string and how they have managed it.  And notice how they have built around the tied-in-comb.  If you click on these pictures, you can view them larger.:



My daughter Valerie took all of these pictures.  I was so proud of her.  She threw on a veil and a pair of gloves but even though I brought a bee suit for her, she didn't wear it and wasn't worried.  I wish I had taken a picture of her - I will the next time.

I think this hive is going really well now.  It certainly has been a learning curve.  I am going to name the hive Topsy for Topsy Turvy - which is certainly the way it has gotten started in a topsy turvy way!

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  1. Wow! I am so glad to have stumbled upon you blog. I just started beekeeping this year. I am using a top bar hive and working with them completely naturally (which also in my case, means no protective gear).

    I installed the bees in the hive about 4 days ago and just checked the queen cage today - it is empty. Of course, I forgot to remove it ... I saw your post on the queen cage getting embedded. Anyway, I have a lot to learn and will be perusing your blog. Thanks!

  2. Linda - can I ask what type gloves you're wearing in these pictures? I'm a new beekeeper, still wearing gloves when I open the hives, but finding mine are restricting my ability to handle things easily. I'm looking for a better option before I try going gloveless.

  3. I'm thinking of starting a hive myself, and was wondering if you can get bees shipped through the mail, ups/fedex or if you have to drive and pick them up.

    Great Blog Linda, glad I found it! Any tips for someone thinking of starting out that you wish you did when you first started?

  4. Been following your blog for a couple of years now, and we're about ready to dive in. Had actually planned on having bayberry plants for candle wax, but found out they are invasive like mint. Plus, bees give us honey and pollination. So... will be looking into getting started. Hoping we can do that mid-summer because don't have the funds right now.

    Thanks for a good read! Vikki at http://vikkisverandah.blogspot.com

  5. Glad you got it up and going, I'm still apprehensive of trying it again after two failed attempts.

    PS Congrats on your Master level!

  6. Fascinating post. Who would have guessed that bees could be so fussy or that they could even be "trained." Your tackling the learning curve is appreciated! Plus, congratulations on becoming a Master Beekeeper!

  7. Congratulations on your status as Master Beekeeper. That's wonderful!

    The photos of the various configurations of comb are fascinating. The bees don't seem to like the string much, do they?

  8. Anonymous9:43 AM

    I started using guide sticks on my top bars and they build pretty straight comb with them.

  9. These top bars all have glued in popsicle sticks - and they didn't start building well until I moved the bars to the bee end of the hive that had popsicle sticks that had had a wax bead run down them. And they aren't building straight comb.

  10. Anonymous6:54 PM

    What tool do you use to separate bees building across three top bars? What is the method or technique to getting the bees to build across one top bar straight across?


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