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Author Topic: Pros and Cons of the Topbar?  (Read 16149 times)
Anny
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« on: December 03, 2008, 01:38:58 PM »

I'm new, I am bubbling around the idea of a hive this spring. I like the idea of a topbar hive since it's easier on the bees and such, I was just wondering what some of the pros and Cons are of the top bar. And would you recommend a Top Bar for a beginner bee keeper? (I've never kept bees before AT ALL)

Any suggestion and advice would be amazing. Thanks.

Also where can you buy pre-made top bar hives?
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2008, 04:14:01 PM »

I'm not the best one to answer this question because I've not had any experience with a TBH.
I think, for the future, I'll be building a TBH, a variation of the Warre hive, and a round hive of my own design just to gain experience in those areas. 

One caution, the TBHs you can't go flipping the frame around like you can in a langstroth hive,  Like a foundationless frame the wax comb will bend until cured.  So until the comb is drawn to near the bottom of the hive and at least a month old, inspecting the frames requires holding the top bar of the frame at or above eye level and turning the frame to view bot sides. 
Nothing is more disheartening than watching the comb fall out/off the top bar from mishandling green comb.
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Anny
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2008, 04:19:45 PM »

Well, I have not heard from anyone yet on the pros and cons they have found on a topbar hive, but in my research I've found a few myself and I thought I'd post them here in case anyone else was interesting, and so I have a place to check back onto myself.

Pros of a Topbar beehive:
    * Facilitate natural beekeeping. Bees build the broodnest their way.
    * Disturbed bees move away from the beekeeper.
    * Less colony disturbance with minimal beekeeper exposure.
    * No heavy, repetitive lifting.
    * Inexpensive. Cost $30 versus $200 for a standard hive.
    * Produce the highest quality honey and wax.
    * No extracting equipment needed.
    * Self contained. No additional storage space required.
    * Facilitate comb rotation.
    * Easy to build.
    * An ideal educational hive.
    * An ideal urban beehive.
    * Won't break apart when dropped.
    * Weather tight.
    * Low center of gravity. Won't tip over.
    * Adaptable to local building materials, conditions, needs.
    * More beeswax – Crushing of honey combs to extract honey produces more beeswax than any other method.


    * Can't buy them. Must build them. (Althought I have found a few you can buy...)
    * Few local mentors.
    * Produce less honey on a per hive basis.
    * Can't be disassembled to reduce weight.
    * Not compatible with standard equipment.
    * No standardization.
    * Comb is fragile.
    * Take longer to work.
    * Hives must be level.
    * Not suitable for large scale, migratory, feed lot beekeeping.
    * Zero resale value.

I'll keep looking around for more info but if anyone thinks of good things to add please do, I have no idea what I'm doing really just researching.
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mtbe
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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2008, 05:44:28 PM »

* Facilitate natural beekeeping. Bees build the broodnest their way.

Ummmm...does anyone really think that making a box for bees is the 'natural' way, regardless of the type of box?  Plus, the bees are still being 'guided' as to where to build the comb, so they are really not building it 'their way'.

* Inexpensive. Cost $30 versus $200 for a standard hive

I just built 3 TBHs and the cost of the wood was about $40/hive.  But that was buying for 3 hives.  If you build just one, expect to pay a bit more.  Plus, the labor that went into it.  It took me about 4 whole days to build the first two.  But I didn't have all the tools.  Once I had all the tools, it took me one long day to build the third.  I used the BackYardHive plans from their website.  I by no means am handy with tools.

* No extracting equipment needed.

Not the traditional kind anyway.  You will still need to crush and strain which requires some equipment, although it can be pots and pans if you wish.  The crush and strain is very messy as well.

* No extracting equipment needed.

Depends on construction

* An ideal educational hive.

Oh ya!  I built a window in my hives.  Really neat!  Can't wait to use them in the spring.

* Weather tight

Again, depends on construction.  Could be a problem in winter when you do require ventilation.

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BBees
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2008, 06:17:16 PM »

Hi Anny,

I'm in the same boat you are. You look like you've been doing your research. One thing I'd add as a Pro is flexibility. The TBH's can easily (especially the Tanzanian) be built to accommodate standard frames. I'm building mine as we speak with dimensions to fit a 9 1/8" Langstroth type frame in case I buy some nucs or inherit or buy  someone elses classic deep hives.

What got me started was I bought an old abandoned farm where the bees had set up housekeeping between the floor joists. What they built is basically a TBH without researching these forums (LOL)!

Steve
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justgojumpit
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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2008, 06:38:17 PM »



I think the question about pros and cons was pretty well answered, but I would like to add that since you are working a hive without pre-made foundation, the bees can build their cells the size that they want, and you can help them regress to 4.9mm or even smaller cell size, which results in a slightly shorter development time for the larvae.  This means that the varroa mite does not have as much time to reproduce in the capped cells.  Small cell hives tend to be much healthier than large cell hives if left unmedicated.

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« Last Edit: December 04, 2008, 07:48:47 AM by Robo » Logged

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Michael Bush
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« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2008, 06:54:49 PM »

>>* Facilitate natural beekeeping. Bees build the broodnest their way.
>Ummmm...does anyone really think that making a box for bees is the 'natural' way, regardless of the type of box?  Plus, the bees are still being 'guided' as to where to build the comb, so they are really not building it 'their way'.

But not guided on what size cell to build.  So they will build comb their way.

>>* Inexpensive. Cost $30 versus $200 for a standard hive
>I just built 3 TBHs and the cost of the wood was about $40/hive.

But if you scrounge lumber from a construction site you could probably build it for free.

>>* No extracting equipment needed.
>The crush and strain is very messy as well.

As is extraction.
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atemp2
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« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2008, 08:52:15 PM »

Quote from: Michael Bush
>>* Facilitate natural beekeeping. Bees build the broodnest their way.
>Ummmm...does anyone really think that making a box for bees is the 'natural' way, regardless of the type of box?  Plus, the bees are still being 'guided' as to where to build the comb, so they are really not building it 'their way'.

But not guided on what size cell to build.  So they will build comb their way.

Tautz mentions that honeybees substantially the same as today's have been around 30-odd million years. This monkey man would never presume to tell a Bien how to build its comb; I think they've got it down by now, and don't need the "help" of embossed foundation -- I know I don't need the expense & bother.

That said, the Warré topbar with a little wax prompt is cheap, easy, and an effective compromise that discourages wavy comb which makes the state inspector raise his eyebrows.

Quote
>>* Inexpensive. Cost $30 versus $200 for a standard hive
>I just built 3 TBHs and the cost of the wood was about $40/hive.

But if you scrounge lumber from a construction site you could probably build it for free.

The initial capital expenditure for my Warré building was pretty high starting from scratch, but the per-hive cost is low. The greatest challenge was building with lower-grade cupped lumber that could have used a good planing, something I have no budget for at present.

Quote
>>* No extracting equipment needed.
>The crush and strain is very messy as well.
As is extraction.

I''ve found some cider or wine presses that might work off the shelf for small-scale work. Some have claimed (sorry, no URLs -- ban for this forum newbee is not lifted yet) that honey that has been flung against the side of a rotary extractor is inferior to that that has been crush 'n' strained.

But with a Warré we're not concerned with reusing comb -- something to think about with disease & wax contamination. Whack comb off the topbars, slap the 'bars back in place, redeploy box almost immediately by subbing ("under-supering"). No frames, no foundation ($$), no decappers (just a knife to cut out brood & pollen -- if desired) no fancy high-speed extractors.

Downside is that with Warrés it's presently DIY with higher capital costs because nobody makes optimized honeycomb crusher-extractors, and precious few offer Warrés off the shelf. Sure, a carpenter might be convinced to make a hive set, but one I RFQed wanted $300 in qty 12, and that was unfinished with butt-jointed fab; not a long-life hive compared to fingerjointed Langs et al.

So I made my own, adapted to US measures & lumber from the metric proto plans available online. Fingerjointed, sealed & traditionally finished w/ linseed-pinetar, nonmagnetic fasteners to avoid field gradients that disrupt comb orientation & navigation... been fun & totally different so far. Can't wait till this spring!
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2008, 08:26:57 PM »

I have a year of TTBH under my belt. We had nine standard hives when I was a kid. It's not the perfect comparrison as my dad did the work when I was a kid. But, my dad helped me this year (since he still loves bees) and these are also his thoughts.

I built my TBHs to take medium frames. I did this so I could install a nuc. I liked the idea of getting a nuc but ended up not likely frames in the TBH. I ended up cutting the wax out and tying it to bars until the bees connected it.

Pros
  • It is really nice to be able to take the top off and still have the bees totally sealed inside the hive. The only bees that can immediately get out are the ones right at the top bar I lift out. When they are angry this makes management of the situation much easier.
  • I like it that all of my frames are accessible at one time. No lifting supers or moving things to get to what I want to see.
  • I want to make things out of my beeswax and this method harvests the wax with the honey. Two birds with one stone.
  • I want to do more natural beekeeping and it seems easier to do that with a TBH. I guess it doesn't have to be but most of the others with the 'natural' philosophy feel the same way.
  • Last, but not least, this style of beekeeping suits me. It feels more natural. This isn't a scientific reason but it's still legitimate. I have more enjoyment out of this style of beekeeping.

Cons
  • The biggest so far is that the two main beekeepers with major experience I have spoken with told me I was crazy and that the TBH wouldn't work. Neither had ever seen one but were still convinced. I don't care if they want to use one or not but it's hard to talk about what's going on with the hives when no one will even listen. Luckily I pursue what I want to pursue and don't worry much about if it's the 'in' thing.
  • Probably not as much honey. I don't have enough data yet but I can see how that could be. It's not going to be substantially less especially since these hives are just for my use.
  • No standard equipment could be a con for some people. I do wish I could buy more things for the hive sometimes but overall I like making my own stuff so it's not a huge deal.

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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2008, 12:31:47 AM »

Anny, that's a good list. You've got a few more pros & cons than what I compiled for myself before deciding to start with a KTBH next year.
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2009, 12:58:19 AM »

Anny,

The perfect hive for you is the one you have fun with  cheesy  Which ever way you go in your first year you will have some fun and be hooked for life.  Beware.....

Bees are a blast, leap in, have some fun and keep everyone at Beemaster in the loop.

SH
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annette
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2009, 12:39:09 PM »

I'm new, I am bubbling around the idea of a hive this spring. I like the idea of a topbar hive since it's easier on the bees and such, I was just wondering what some of the pros and Cons are of the top bar. And would you recommend a Top Bar for a beginner bee keeper? (I've never kept bees before AT ALL)

Any suggestion and advice would be amazing. Thanks.

Also where can you buy pre-made top bar hives?

I have not myself seen any pre made top bar hives except for one website (bear with me as I will have to go and find it), but they were so, so expensive that is why I never ordered one. Still the concept really appealed to me also. Perhaps one day I will try one.

I also think there is a forum just for tbh somewhere. I will also try to find that as well.

Good Luck
Annette
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Natalie
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« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2009, 12:56:19 PM »

This is an old thread, 4 months ago was the last time she was on this forum.
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annette
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« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2009, 05:21:09 PM »

Wow, you are correct. I wonder why I answered this one. It came up somewhere where I thought it was new and never checked the date.
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Beaver Dam
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« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2009, 10:37:12 PM »

Nat: I'm glad it was started again. I hate going back and looking thru the arc's. I serf this thing at least once a day and twice a day if time permits. I'm glade to see items brought back up. What makes me mad is when I go to items on a site that haven't been updated in a year or more. Seems to me a moderator would archive that stuff. Just my humble opinion tho.  But now I'm off my box, looking forward to packages coming this week and 3 more later on. Going to do my first split here in NC Texas after this cold snap this week.
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Natalie
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« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2009, 10:44:02 PM »

Yeah it is good to revive some of the older threads, maybe even especially at this time of year when everyone is getting their bees.
I just didn't want Annette to go crazy looking for the information she mentioned if the person wasn't here anymore.
You sound excited for your bees to be coming, I think we all are.
Enjoy them and have fun.
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« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2009, 01:38:05 AM »

I incline to the position of Slaphead, # 10

I don’t see any negative sites of my hives and that is why I have those kenyans, not langsthrots, and enjoy them. I have what I want. Bees seems to be happy too because they don’t sting me. Well, sometimes some disoriented bees don’t recognize me but it happen rarely and these are probably youngsters so there is my full forgiveness. When I irritate them too much in the nest, sometimes, I like their defensive reaction because I know that bees are not so degenerated as so called temporary homo sapiens by a mass media and completely defenseless against “global agressors”
Wojtek
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« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2009, 09:59:47 AM »

I'm glad this thread was revived as well. I am exactly where the founder of this thread was...I'm just running late. I've spent the past year or so getting into bees, showing videos to my students, lots of reading, and intro class, etc. I really want to start this year, but realize that the time is running short. Many of the suppliers are out of bees for the season (!!). Now, into the mix comes this whole other world of the TBH/Warre style of beekeeping, which totally appeals to me for the reasons others have mentioned. Eventually, my goal is to gain some experience on my own so that I can approach my principal to pitch getting bees on the roof of our school (an urban school with no good outdoor space where hives could be located). So now the timing issue is also there. I'm pretty handy with power tools, so I think I could build one of these relatively quickly. Maybe I should just order the bees (assuming I can still find some), which would force me to burn the midnight oil building the TBH.

Steven
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Natalie
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« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2009, 06:31:34 PM »

If you are serious about getting bees this year you better get crackin.
TBH are easy to build, the bars are more complicated than the hives.
I would start looking for bees right now, most of us ordered them back in February and there appears to be a shortage in some parts of the country right now, from what I am hearing local beeks can't get enough packages.
I think its a great idea to educate kids about bees and the issues surrounding them but I would be surprised if a school allows bees (unless its an agricultural school)  when there are kids who could die from a bee sting.
My son can't even eat a peanut butter cookie or anything that contains any peanuts at snack time because of another child's allergies.
Good luck with your endeavor, I hope you can pull it all together and get to keep bees this year.
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« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2009, 11:03:43 PM »

  But now I'm off my box, looking forward to packages coming this week and 3 more later on. Going to do my first split here in NC Texas after this cold snap this week.
Is this anywhere near Abilene??  Thats where I am from.
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