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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Top Bar Hive is Building comb - WHEW!!!

Today marks one week from the disastrous absconding top bar event. If you'll remember I scooped the bees up from the ground and then made some changes to the top bar hive. I covered the screened bottom with a board the length of the hive, I tied some old comb onto some of the top bars, and I made sure all of the available top bars closest to the bees had some melted wax on them.

Then I re-installed the bees, put a queen excluder over the entry and crossed my fingers.

When I arrived at Valerie and Jeff's house, the bees were flying in and out at the small hole at the front end of the hive. I haven't built a holder for top bars to use when inspecting them like a frame rack on a Langstroth hive, so I improvised by setting up the two empty packages I had in my car as a frame rest.

The bees appeared to be happily building comb. In all of the small beginnings on the seven top bars where they were building comb, there were eggs in the newest wax on the top bar. I didn't, sad to say, get a good picture of eggs on this trip. The sun was in the wrong place and I did well to prop the bar on the packages - didn't want to risk making another mess.

I did very little disturbing of the hive. I only looked at the six or seven bars at the end where they appear to be building comb. They were doing a little cross comb on the side of the hive where I was standing. I decided to let it alone this week. I know it can get out of control in a hurry, but if I interfere and they leave again, I just couldn't take it, so I am taking the risk.

The bees did look happy.  To interfere as little as possible and to help them feel at home, I didn't cut the cross comb and I did leave the queen excluder over the top bars where they are living.

Interestingly in studying for the test at Young Harris, I was taking a practice quiz and one of the questions was when in a nectar flow will bees in a hive not build comb.  The answer:  when the hive is too bright and/or when the hive is queenless.  I've solved the "bright" problem by closing up the screened bottom and we obviously have a laying queen so they are now off and running.

It's easy to inspect a top bar hive and less intrusive than inspecting a Langstroth. I lit my smoker but then didn't use it. I did discover a difficulty that I hadn't anticipated. In the Langstroth hive, the frames have bee space between them so sliding frames against each other doesn't involve the death of bees. I realized in sliding the top bars, that I had to watch carefully to make sure no bee was between the bars and thus in line for certain death. I guess I could have used my smoker or blown on the bees, but I just observed this time.

Like in a Langstroth inspection, I removed one frame - about the tenth from the front of the hive so that I could slide bars easily and that seemed to help. Even with the bumpy start, these bees only seem a day or two behind the Rabun County bees who were installed on the same day but started building comb right away.
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  1. Linda, I am having the same problem. I have collected my bees everyday since Sunday. I have some old comb hanging from the top bars and the bees have built new comb about the size of my hand, but the queen likes to walk out. They go about 10-15 feet (the neighbors yard) and stay in a pile in the sun. I am going to move my hive to a safer location away from people. I am also going to try the queen excluder at enterance. This is my first set of bees and I'm disapointed with what I have had to do so far. The good thing is I am getting use to bees buzzing all around me. What's funny is I bring the cardboard box over to the bees and they just start walking in like "sorry we left" attitudes wings tucked under their stingers.


  2. Linda,

    When it comes to putting the bars back together it'll get easier with practice. Depending on the quantity of bees on the bar and the size of the comb, I use both the "scissor" method and the "drop straight down" methods.

    With the scissor method I get one end of the bar up against the next bar and then gently "scissor" the bar up and down to get the bees out of the way. Once it's clear I close it up and move to the next bar.

    With the "drop straight down" method I line up the bar with the next bar, but a few inches above so I'm not crushing bees. Once I've got it lined up I can usually just slowly lower it down flush with the bar next to it and the bees below will be pushed down and the bees above will be pushed to the side.

    When moving bars in the top bar hive you will want to be sure that you keep the bars you're not inspecting flush. Don't leave gaps between the bars you've already inspected -- this way when it's time to put the hive back together you can pick up 4-5 at a time and put them back in place. It makes for much quicker inspections.


  3. Yay! Good news. Thanks for the update.

  4. Anonymous4:21 PM

    Is it possible to add a honey super on top of a TBH? If so, how would you do that, and is a queen excluder needed.Thanks Rick

  5. The top bar is entirely horizontal - the bees put honey in some of the comb and brood in other combs - if there is a surplus the beekeeper can harvest one of the honey combs


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