Search This Blog

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Top Bar Hive 2.0

The new bees will be here on the 5th of April, so this weekend getting the old hive in shape was imperative.  Except that there was no getting the old hive in shape.  The mold inside was terrible, and I decided that I just couldn't reuse it.

It was obviously a very bad design on my part.  From the appearance of the top bars, it looked as though bad ventilation was the culprit. I learned a lot from the video seen here on top bar hives and being a bee guardian, even though it's merely an excerpt of their full length DVD (which I am going to buy).  Last year, I fretted every time I got into the hive because try as I might, I could not avoid crushing bees. It was also really hard to get into the hive; I had it up on a high stand in case of skunks, who are notorious bee eaters and who have also been known to traverse the yard.  This necessitated climbing up on a step ladder, which made getting into the hive a little precarious, which only added to my stress levels.

This year will be different:  I put a solid bottom in the new hive, with a large entrance at the bottom, and a very large landing board.  I plan on feeding them on the landing board, which I've seen done in videos with conventional Langstroth hives.  It also looked like they did that in the video.

I'm also putting in a window, so I can see what's going on in the hive without opening it up. I got really lucky in this department because I had leftover plexiglass from making chicken coop windows, and I found some channeled wood from a previous owner in the garage, which I used for the frame.  I'll still need to get into the hive to check on the queen periodically, but I'll be able to see the bees' progress without disturbing them.  The new hive body is nearly done- I just need to cut some ventilation in the sides near the top.  I also plan on coating both the inside and the outside with melted beeswax- the outside will have some raw linseed oil or salad oil mixed in it.

Next weekend I make the top bars and affix the last corrugated panel I have to the roof of the old hive, which I'm reusing.  Then the hive can go on some stacked up concrete pavers in the back yard where I can keep the girls a little cooler during the summer and I'll keep it low enough that I can check it out sitting down.

It's too bad that the first colony had to die to teach me all this. Hopefully, this year things will be different and they'll do a LOT better.


Jenny Debeaux said...


Have you checked that the colony collapse was just from lack of food? I'm struck by the mould on the inside of the hive and wonder, even at this late stage, if the collapse was from something like Foul Brood or some such thing. If so, you need to burn the hive so as to get rid of any spores etc.

Are you going to take a beekeeping course this year? They can be great fun!!

Good luck....

jules said...

Good luck with it this year, Paula. It will be interesting to follow the progress.

Paula said...

Hi Jenny-

I actually took a class a couple of years ago, but it was more geared toward conventional beekeeping with Langstroth hives and medication. I like the thought process at, so I expect to learn more what I need to know from their DVD. As I mentioned in my post, I learned a great deal from the short excerpt from the longer version DVD they have, which is why I want it.

I don't suspect that it was foulbrood, because it didn't stink and I understand foulbrood smells pretty bad. They either didn't get enough to eat, which will be easier to monitor by feeding them outside the hive, or, as the girl I talked to at Ruhl bees where I bought them said, the queen may have died. Since the brood combs for the most part were empty (the picture was one of only two with brood in them) I suspect that she was right. I can re-queen the hive as late as September, which is when they get the last of their mated queens, but I want to see what BYH says about that first.

At any rate, the hive is going in the trash, which is why I'm building a new one.

Jenny Debeaux said...

Thanks, Paula. I'm very drawn to the top bar hive way of thinking, too. I can't keep bees right now though because of where we live and had to throw the last of my hives away recently, as it had rotted for lack of use!

Not that I mind because I can now buy top bar stuff. Have you read Philip Chandler's book on keeping bees this way? I haven't yet but it's on my list - and he also has a website you may have encountered. I think it's something like

Glad all is going well!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Good luck with the new hive! I know the heartbreak of losing a colony (many times over!), and I'm so glad you're getting back on the horse. My beekeeping skills are not such that I have any constructive comments -- all I can offer is moral support.