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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 16th year of beekeeping in April 2021. 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
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Topsy Turmoil

The last two times I've checked the top bar hive, one top bar has come off from the top bar as I've tried to lift it. The comb attached (or not) is all full of honey.  The comb appears to be attached to the bottom of the hive.  I haven't really had any idea what to do.

The last time I was in the top bar hive, the brood bars were full all the way up to this honey.  I didn't want the honey to make the queen feel honey bound and influence the hive to swarm.  The only choice was to undo the stuck comb.

I have not enjoyed the top bar hive.  It is so much more difficult to work with than the hive box.  I can't see what is going on and I tend to create destruction as I did today.

With a regular frame, you can shake the bees off of it.  This comb could not possibly be shaken, nor can any top bar comb.  I wonder how in the world you harvest honey without making the mess we did today?

I put all of the mess on a slide show.  We killed at least 500 bees in the process and may have destroyed the queen as well, although wet with honey bees all look like queens because their bodies are so shiny.

First Jeff and I slid our hive tools down the side of the hive to loosen the comb from the hive.  Then we reached in and gently pulled the honey comb up from the bottom of the hive (and at least 500 bees).  Bees died from being squashed.  Some died from being coated in honey.

We put the comb in a large roasting pan and tried to brush the bees off....OMG what a mess!  Suddenly Jeff said, "Oh, no, there's the queen!"  He's really a good queen spotter but I'd prefer to think that I'm not sure it was the queen.  We took the questionable bee, covered with honey, and gently put her back into the hive.

We put some of the cut honey back into the hive in front of the follower board on some aluminum foil.  I took the rest home and was heartsick as I cleaned tons of dead bees off of the remaining comb into my kitchen sink.

At least we did see brood and eggs so they have the resources to make a queen if we have destroyed her.  I am so sad about this.  Makes me not want to open the top bar ever again.  I certainly won't build another one.  Here are the problems I've had:

1.  Hard to keep bees in the hive - lost one swarm, lost and recovered one package
2.  The only way to keep the bees in the hive was to put old comb on the bottom and close off the screened bottom board.  The comb on the bottom was the source of the problem today
3.  If comb is crooked or breaks off, there's no easy way to tie it into the hive - you can use string on the top bar, but it doesn't really do the trick and bees get tangled in the fiber of the string.  Rubber bands can't be used.  Below this list is a picture of how bees get caught (and die) in the string
4.  Any problem on the bottom of the hive is invisible until you tear things up to get to it......grrrr.
5.  I can't imagine harvesting - how do you get the bees off of the comb without using smoke and without shaking the comb?

Picture below of bees entangled in the fibers of the kitchen twine (dead).

Anyway, here's a slide show of the mess:


  1. To harvest from my TBH, I have tried brushing the bees off but I find this agitates them. I've also set the combs aside in the shade and waited for the flying bees to return to the hive. (Having only one hive, robbing has not been a problem.) I don't use a smoker, so it takes a good 15 minutes for them to fly off. Then there are just the younger non-flying bees to brush off. Unfortunately when the flying bees take off, they usually poop, too, and the beautiful comb can get dirty. My most successful harvest was when I supered so was able to use an escape. Not one bee to brush off and no poop to wash off. I'm kind of a lazy beekeeper, so I highly recommend supering your TBH and simply leaving the honey combs in the main hive for the bees. It's just easier for everyone involved.

  2. Anonymous5:43 PM

    “… I didn't want the honey to make the queen feel honey bound and influence the hive to swarm. …”

    Well, it is quite easy. You turn the whole TBH around, 180° .
    The hole position must be unchanged. It means you close the old hole and make a new one.

  3. Melissa9:55 PM

    Have you seen gardenhive.com has a repair/cut out frame for top bar hives. I haven't tried it, but maybe it will help in the future.


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