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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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Monday, June 25, 2012

Top Bar Hive Troubles

I've pretty much been gone for the last two weeks.  First I went to Key West with my youngest daughter and her family for the second week of June.  I was home for two days and then left last Wednesday to go to Norfolk, Virginia for a psychology conference that lasted until Sunday.  So my bees have not had attention for two weeks.

Before I left I checked all of the hives, somewhat giving them each a quick once-over, but not a deep inspection.  I didn't look at the top bar beyond watching to see if bees were flying in and out….which they were.

Today all the hives had bees flying, but not the Top Bar.  I flipped off the top and found absolutely no bees…..no bodies, no larvae, no bees at all.  Every cell was empty and the wax moths were already going to work.  I pulled out all the bars and set them in the sunlight so the wax moths would not thrive.

This hive was tiny.  It started from a small swarm I captured in Decatur and then recaptured in my front yard.  I installed it into the top bar on March 25.  By March 25, the nectar flow here was almost over and they never built up well.  These combs are all they had built.

In the photo above I can see a few left capped cells so I'll look at them tomorrow.  What I imagine happened was that the hive failed to put up enough supplies and absconded out of desperation as bees sometimes do here in Atlanta in August….but this year August has come sooner.

I am currently teaching communication skills to the doctoral PT students at the Emory Med School.  Every year I tell them that it's important to be aware of whatever biases or judgmental thoughts they may bring to their relationship with patients because it will affect how they care for the patient.  I tell them that if they have a negative sense of who the patient is, maybe they'll realize it because they'll find that they are giving less good care to that patient or attending to that patient less than patients whom they like/respect more.

I should listen to my own lesson.

I have had a bad feeling about the top bar hive.  Once again the bees built crooked comb and I felt a little angry and betrayed that here, my second attempt to have a successful top bar hive, I was failing again.   I had said that if I had only had the hive in my own yard last year instead of at Jeff's, perhaps the hive would have done better.

Well, this hive was in my own backyard, but I treated it neglectfully.  I hadn't really opened it in about a month and didn't enjoy working on it, so it often took a back seat to the other hives.

How would I have managed it better had I inspected to see about the state of the hive?  Maybe if they were without stores, I would have fed them.  Beyond that with only one top bar hive, I really didn't have many other choices.  I couldn't move a frame of brood and eggs into the hive to increase the worker force without another top bar from which to borrow; I couldn't share honey from another hive since the rest are all Langstroths.

I do hope they didn't leave and die somewhere (which is highly likely), and all I can do is vow to try to be a better beekeeper for the rest of my tiny charges.
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  1. When I first started beekeeping, someone told me that every hive has its own personality. It didn't take long to see that she was right. And I started to have favorite hives, just like I have favorite people. And not-favorite hives. You're right about being aware of our biases. So true.

  2. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Dr. Dzierzon's Twin-Stock was probably a better TBH.

    Page 76

  3. Anonymous12:32 AM

    I have two top bar hives here in south GA. So far they are doing well, but they both started as packages. The cone in the photos were definitely not straight which as you already know is a problem. If the cone is straight, the TBH is a pleasure to work. I think that your guides maybe too short. It looked as if the cone was straight until it extended past the guide and then everyone too on the natural wave. It looks neat, but is a real headache for us beekeepers. Try extending your guides to the width that you want you cone to be.
    Also I use a hack saw blade with a knife style handle to release any attachments. So far my cone is mostly straight and very little attachments.
    Also the position of your hive may affect the tendency to create cross-cone.
    If you are interested, when you come down to the Sowega Beekeepers Club you can come by and take a look at mine.
    Don't give up

  4. what is top bar? my hives ? my hives have bottom entrance.


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