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Author Topic: Pros and Cons of the Topbar?  (Read 16092 times)
Highlandsfreedom
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« Reply #20 on: May 10, 2009, 11:06:45 PM »

I too like that this thread got revived I am researching a tbh and like archiving things.
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« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2009, 04:22:45 PM »

Add my 2 cents:

Pro - Easy to assess hive strength. Especiall if using screened bottom.

Con - poor for cutouts. Traveling with clipped on combs and no propolis lets the bars slide off.
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Hethen57
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« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2009, 06:55:47 PM »

Can anyone chime in on this who has actually raised them in KTBH's for several winters, where the hives have survived?  They obviously are easier to build and less complicated, but are they really much different from going foundationless in a Langstroth?  Any suggested refinements to the typical plan if you have 0-30 degree winter months?  I've gotta admit...I am tempted to try it just to see how it works, but I also want to give my bees the best chance of surviving through winter...(I have two traditional hives, but this is just a continuation of my bee obsession..something new and different shocked)
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« Reply #23 on: May 15, 2009, 11:59:26 AM »

I would love to hear an answer on TBHs in cold climates, too. I'm in WI, where we can easily get sub-zero weather for a week or 2 at a time.

Pros so far for me: Very buildable. We followed plans, but I'm starting to see a person could quickly and cheaply build one of these from nearly anything!

Observation windows are wonderful. We have a trail worn out only 11 days later from our house to hives. Every family and friend who steps in our yard is dragged out to the hives to see what's up with the girls. Plus, I can't imagine having the patience to only get to watch what's going on every couple weeks!

Cheap. Even with free hive bodies, the frames and foundation alone start to add up.

Easy. I just pop off the lid to fill the feeder jar or mess with the bars. No stacks of heavy supers to lift around.

Cons: Nobody knows what on earth I'm talking about, no matter how long they have been beekeeping.

I have to try to convert information in books and online to my type of hive.
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Hethen57
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« Reply #24 on: May 15, 2009, 05:28:09 PM »

Luvin Honey...I'm with you...the best thing I did was put the hives right in my back yard, instead of hiding them behind my barn like I was thinking about.  Everyone wants to see them...and they have required more feeding and monitoring syrup than I would have thought...so they are best kept in a convenient place. 

But I can't tell if the whole top bar thing is a cult concept, or actually practical.  Since the bees are the most expensive part of the project, I have their interests at heart.  You hate to bee "penny wise and pound foolish."  Easy is not always best, and foundationless frames seems to provide the same natural cell size...if that is the issue.  I know Newbees love the TBH concept...are there any Oldbee TBH'ers who actually have seen measurable advantages (and quit standard equip)...or is ease of building the main thing?

One cool thing about TBH's is the observation window some have.  I know it's been done, but I'm thinking about adding a observation hatch/window to one of my hive bodies to show people the activity without disturbing the girls.
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« Reply #25 on: May 16, 2009, 08:11:42 PM »

I have heard not to get tbhs for the fact of cleanlyness and ths came from a beek of45 years so I'm really confused now
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« Reply #26 on: May 16, 2009, 09:31:01 PM »

What is he talking about with the cleanliness? Why would a topbar hive be any less clean than a lang?
Its simply a longer hive with natural comb.
I would actually think its cleaner since you crush and strain the combs and they constantly build new ones to replace them so you don't have combs that are old, black and ancient in your hives.
You never have to worry about chemicals in your foundation and virtually anyone of your new honey combs can be eaten as Pure comb honey on a whim.

If you want to be able to clean the bottom then put a trap door in as your bottom and open it to dump out debris.
Some people put in screened bottoms but I like the simplicity of the very basic tbh hives.
I have both langs and top bar hives and they both offer different learning experiences but I would not say one is cleaner than the other.

Here are a couple of reasons why I like tbh beekeeping in addition to my langs.
I really LOVE not breaking down the hives every time I want to do an inspection on my tbh.
I do not have to move or pry every super apart to get to the brood boxes.
I am not taking the entire "roof" off of the bees home and getting their ire up each time I want to inspect something.
Even if I have done my inspection on the lang but there is an errant comb I want to follow up on in a couple of days I have to take the roof off their house and maybe move several boxes to get to the one frame I want to check.
With my tbhs I can remember which number bar it is I want to check at my next visit and just pull that one out to check it.
All the other bars make up the roof of the hive so you aren't exposing the entire hive during an inspection.
You check one bar at a time and most of the bees go about their business undisturbed, I keep a follower to open up the hive more and more for them as they grow or to decrease it when necessary.

While I like my langs, the tbh hives I have are just a nice break to work the bees without so much... work.

For the person that asked about if there is really much difference in a thb than going foundationless in a lang.
Here is my take on it, keep in mind this is just my opinion and not everyone will feel the same way.
I have several langs that are all foundationless as well as a couple of tbh and the only real differences I can see myself are these:

I do not have to take the hive apart every time I want to check something.
For example, to check a brood frame in a lang it may would require me to move honey supers and maybe one or two other brood boxes depending on how many I have filled.

In a tbh I remove the outer cover and since the inner cover is made up of the topbars I can take out one frame at a time to inspect what I want to look at in the brood area of the hive.
I do not have to lift heavy boxes to get to it and I do not have to expose the whole colony to do so either.
No heavy lifting means easy on the back.

I do not need any equipment outside of the hive and bars itself and a feeder, thus making it much cheaper to operate and easier to maintain.
I never have to compile a stock of equipment, parts etc.

I find for myself that this type of hive is more conducive to teaching my kids and others about the bees.
I don't always want my kids around when I am going through a lang hive but with the tbh I can take out one frame at a time and discuss what is happening on each frame without so many bees in the air.
People also seem less nervous about getting up close to the bees in this situation as well since I am not exposing them to open boxes of bees. While obviously it does not mean there is no risk of them getting stung, it just seems less overwhelming to them.

I also feel like I can check on them more often without setting them back as much as I do when I take apart a lang to check on them.
When I installed new bees in my langs on foundationless frames I had to check them fairly often in the beginning to make sure they were not building crazy comb that would have been a mess to deal with later.
I would go in every couple of days to remove or maniuplate any combs that were not straight until they had several frames in each box built straight and I could let them go longer in between inspections.
Even though I wasn't doing a full inspection each time I was still disrupting the colony just by pulling a  box off.

In a tbh I can just pull out a couple of combs and take a peek into the area of the hive where they are working and not be as invasive and set them back as much as I do in the lang.
Once the brood comb in the lang is all built out I don't have to bother them so much, but in the beginning I have to bother them more than I want to so that I can stay on top of their comb building.
Now this is because I am doing foundationless and I realize if I were to use foundation I would not have to monitor them as much in the beginning.
However, I feel its worth it to be able to let them build natural comb.

As far as the question of overwintering them. This is my first year so I have not attempted to overwinter them but I do know a few people that have in my area and New England can get some bitter cold winters.

One thing that some people feel is a disadvantage to tbh or foundationless frames is that you cannot use an extractor but need to do the crush and strain method.
I have heard that if you let them get hardended enough or use wire to reinforce them that you can extract foundationless, it just doesn't appeal to me anyway.
I don't have the expense of having to buy an extractor, needing a place to store it or the hassle of borrowing one from the bee club and sitting in the basement of the bee association building for hours extracting honey frames.
So for me having to use the crush and strain method is not a disadvantage, as I prefer it anyway and can use or sell the extra wax, but what some people may consider cons your may consider pros.

As far as placing the hives near the house, I completely agree.
Mine are in my yard and I can see all of them from my kitchen and pantry windows.
They are close enough that I can see the bees going in and out of the hive.





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luvin honey
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« Reply #27 on: May 16, 2009, 11:34:24 PM »

But I can't tell if the whole top bar thing is a cult concept, or actually practical.  Since the bees are the most expensive part of the project, I have their interests at heart.  You hate to bee "penny wise and pound foolish."  Easy is not always best, and foundationless frames seems to provide the same natural cell size...if that is the issue.  I know Newbees love the TBH concept...are there any Oldbee TBH'ers who actually have seen measurable advantages (and quit standard equip)...or is ease of building the main thing?

I tend to get a little cynical about this sort of thing. I know what you mean about easy not always being best, but I also notice that often what is promoted most is what puts money in someone else's pocket. The Langstroths are the only commercially made hives right now...

I just wonder if top bars might take the path that organic food has. It was the way it used to be done, then we had commercial agribusiness, and now organic is coming back somewhat and seen as the new-fangled thing.

Organic food and top bars don't make businesses much money. Just a thought...

Cell size is one part of it. Low cost, ease of building and manipulating hive, and industrial chemical-free hives are a few things that had me perking up and paying attention.

I have VERY little experience, so this is just my opinion. It would be quite interesting to see who has been doing top bars the longest. So far, it has been fascinating to watch the girls pound out the wax, pollen and nectar!
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annette
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« Reply #28 on: May 16, 2009, 11:37:11 PM »

Wow Natalie you are getting me interested again in perhaps trying out a TBH at some point. I had heard the bees swarm more readily in TBH, so I am asking you if this is true??
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Wojtek
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« Reply #29 on: May 17, 2009, 12:24:47 AM »

Natalie.   It was my pleasure to read your post. This is what I have been doing and enjoying for 4 years, this will be the fifth, except I am not doing anything with langs. (KTBH only. )Well, not quite the fifth because two weeks ago I had to remove my bees from my backyard (city ordinance).
This means the end of my beekeeping at least in the form as I like it.
Similarly as you I had 2 hives and two nucs a few feet from the door of attached garage other are no farther then 50 feet from back door, and back windows. One of hive by the door of garage was very frequently used as a table for some small manual works. There was no incident of stinging anybody, except me, but it is different story.
All hives are with widows and a lot of persons were able to see bees from very close distance. (initially with fear, initially only.
I don’t use smoke, veil very rarely. Certainly no any chemicals and no bothering with counting varroas
Cleanness? I which this guy to have his home as clean as bees keep their home.
Regarding honey harvesting, it is as clean as someone do it. I developed specific way of honey extraction (required some work) but it is efficient, fast (except filtration), clean. No any honey on hands or anything except a knife to cut combs off from bars.
Over wintering?  I think but only on a base of these 4 years that there are surprises. Bee families installed late, and so small that according bee literature didn’t have a chance to survive the winter survived, and other almost sure to survive, didn’t. One of a things but the most surprising, - it astonished me when I saw how little honey bee family needs to survive a winter. It is absolutely not what I found in beekeeping literature.
Certainly just 4 years is not a foundation to do any generalization, especially when experimenting with different sizes of hives, but these 4 years was enough to convince me that this is a kind of beekeeping I like and I want.
This is truth that TBH needs relatively frequent attention. especially after installation of a new family and during intense activities of bees. Some regards this as a negative thing. For me it is something positive because it is my pleasure.
The only bad thing is that city controller cut it completely off as something against ordinance of the Village of Norridge IL. Wee can only keep here cats and dogs.
Wojciech Wlazlinski
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Hethen57
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« Reply #30 on: May 17, 2009, 02:11:37 AM »

Thanks for the insightful response Natalie...I am definately interested in giving it a try...I think I will start building one tomorrow and find out for myself how it works in this area over the winter..rolleyes
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Natalie
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« Reply #31 on: May 17, 2009, 12:01:02 PM »

Annette,
it is true that bees in a tbh have to be monitored more closely for room so they don't get crowded and swarm.
In a lang you can just add on supers pretty much until the honey season is over but in a tbh you need to pull out bars of honey to make room in the hive if it starts to get crowded, or if the brood nest is congested you can just slip an empty bar into the middle to open it up.
All bees want to swarm anyway no matter what hive they are in, you just have to pay a little more attention to the space in a topbar hive.
Its really not hard at all and your bees are located close enough to your house and you check your girls fairly often I don't think you would have a problem with it.
You stay on top of things as it is.
Knowing how interested you are in the workings of a hive and how you lalso ike to observe your girls I think you would enjoy having a tbh.
I like that if you need room and they have enough honey you just pull out a bar and cut off the comb and stick the bar back in.
Comb honey for desert after dinner!
I was told to leave one comb of honey for every comb that the bees cover and you should be good. I figure I will take some but leave them most of it this year and see how they do.
I can always take it in the spring when they don't need it anymore.
I have read that some tbh keepers are leaving all the honey in the hive until spring and then doing their harvest, opposite of when we do it in the langs.

Wojtek,
thank you for your kind words. I do wish you were able to keep your bees at your house.
You have alot of insight into this method of beekeeping and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
Beekeeping is good of the soul isn't it?


Hethens,
its worth a try. You don't invest alot of money in building these hives so if its not for you then you won't feel like you wasted money on it.
Its a different way of doing something for us but there are people in other countries who have only ever done this method of beekeeping and are quite successful.

I feel more involved in the hives that are living in the tbh as I am able to observe more.
As far as winters, people have been losing record numbers of hives over the past couple of winters in langs so my feeling is that it doesn't really matter what type of hive the bees are in.

There is no guarantee that the same colony that dies out in a tbh would have lived if it were in a lang.

I don't think tbh keeping is a cult or fad, its just that you don't hear about it from all angles like you do with langs.
Langs are a standardized hive that can be mass produced and marketed.
You need alot of different components to make up one complete hive and all of those components will eventually need to be replaced or increased.
You will need to order some more frames,a few more supers etc.
Suppliers can count on you coming back again and again to order more parts.
If they were to produce a topbar hive you would be done with them forever.
There aren't any parts to a tbh, its the body and the bars.
The one company that I have seen offering topbar hives are charging a ridiculous $400.00 for them.
Why? Because its their only chance to make the money off of that hive.
I think thats the reason there is no promotion of these hives.
Its not that the hives don't function well but suppliers could not justify what they would have to charge in order to make it worth their while to produce this type of hive.

To address your question of an experienced beek (I don't say old beek only because my feeling is that just because they have been doing it along time doesn't necessarily make them all that experienced with other methods, alot of these oldtime beekeepers are just that old time and they don't switch over to tbh because they would never try anything else anyway so I would not use them to measure anything)
however,there is a commercial beekeeper that keeps thousands of topbar hives in Florida and New York.

He claims that he has seen amazing results in the health and productivity of all his hives since making the switch over from langs to topbar hives and having them on natural comb.
That makes alot of sense to me.I am actually picking up some of his bees this week to add to my yard.
He has some intersting things to say about all aspects of beekeeping.
Here is a link if you want to check out what he has to say.

http://anarchyapiaries.org/hivetools/node/32

In Europe they produce and use 3 or 4 types of hives and they all work.

I think there is a place for topbar hives in our beekeeping world.

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« Reply #32 on: May 17, 2009, 11:36:35 PM »

Thanks for the reply Natalie.  Yes I had read it just takes a bit more intervention, but I certainly can do that.  I am going to treat myself next year to one of these hives, I hope, I hope.

Annette
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« Reply #33 on: February 20, 2010, 02:02:50 AM »

I think another pro to TBHs is the fact that one doesn't have to lift a lot of heavy equipment...which appeals to us ladies very much!  I've read much on the topic and intend to read more but, alas, one of the cons of this type of beeking is very little information is available.

I will be building my very first TBHs this spring from a blue barrel, such as Robo exhibits.  I think another thing folks are missing with foudationless frames in a Lang hive is the fact that bees seem to like building comb in a chain formation.  Not a square or rectangle.  There must be a reason for this configuration....not that I care, but I would like my beeking experience to be as natural as possible.  The perfect half moon of comb in the pics Robo shows of his barrel hive was inspirational....I loved the symmetry of it all. 

I read a book recently that showed placing a captured swarm in a large, square-topped plastic flower pot with top bars for transporting purposes.  I loved the fact that this type of beeking can be done with repurposed items and not having to conform to a pattern or anything typical. 

I can't wait until folks ask about what I have in my yard!  No one has this type of hive around here and I love the fact that I may be the first.  I think, if one is to save the honey bee in the US, one is going to have to take a good hard look at the current accepted methods of bee husbandry.  As with all things that have become very commercial in this country, things start to go awry along the way. 

I recently attended a bee conference and not one drop of information was imparted about top bar hives.  I asked one of the organizers about it and he acted like he had barely heard of such a thing!   Undecided   They all wanted to point a finger at pesticides as the main reason for colony collapse but were not even considering that generations of breeding bees that are dependent on chemicals to stay alive or moving hives from one commercial crop to another may be factors. 

Of course, I'm not saying TBHs are the answer but I think folks need to be looking at old, sustainable methods for keeping bees healthy and thriving.  If  the first step in moving away from a boxed, manicured, processed, chemicalized and otherwise manipulated beekeeping style is a TBH, then I'm on board! 

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results!   Wink 

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« Reply #34 on: February 22, 2010, 02:26:16 PM »

Since this thread has been revived, I would love to hear from Natalie about how the TBH did so far this winter.  My concern in a cold weather climate is that the bees would not be able to move up onto the honey stores, but would be forced to move laterally, which may not be possible in sub 30F temps.
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« Reply #35 on: February 22, 2010, 03:10:41 PM »

Here is some info from my website. I mention both pro and con, and also the movement of bees. Hope this helps....

http://www.bjornapiaries.com/top-bar-hive.html
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« Reply #36 on: February 22, 2010, 03:46:19 PM »

Thanks BjornBee...that is one of the more realistic assessments of TBH beekeeping that I have seen...most seem to read like a fairly tale  grin.  I may still try one this year.
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« Reply #37 on: February 22, 2010, 04:51:58 PM »

I am using one this year for the purpose of learning something new - I'm looking forward to it. 

I already have foundationless frames in all of my hives and do crush and strain for harvest so I'm not doing it for those purposes - just to try something different. 

I also like the idea of not lifting boxes and was fascinated by the lack of disturbance to the hive of just pulling one frame at a time in an inspection.  Of course Sam Comfort is Sam Comfort and his peaceful bees may be because of him and not the TBH!

Linda T in Atlanta
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« Reply #38 on: February 22, 2010, 07:17:09 PM »

I am one who strongly believes in the pro and con of things.
What I don't under stand is how any one can go either way if they have not been there done that.
I am going to go to TBH's and long regular frame type boxes this year.
One reason for the long regular is for less lifting. I can go out and take out five capped medium frames and place them  in the five frame box I plan to make, called "the harvest box". I don't have to stand on something to take a 10 frame box down from head high. Plus if you accidentally get a 10 frame deep above waist high,----- well, do I have to say more. I just turned 68 and have Arthritis in my back. Not fun. I think any one story  building is easier to maintain than a multi story one, regardless of size.

In the end no size or shape of  a box to house the bees in will not matter if we do not do our part.
The only thing that has bothered the wild bees, that we can put a finger on is the poisons we have put out there. Not only honey bees but other things as well.
We don't know what kind of an effect mites and disease have on them in the wild, we have not been able to monitor the situation.
Guess I am just rambling now, I'll hush, kinda.  :)doak
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« Reply #39 on: February 23, 2010, 02:43:19 PM »

So far so good. I have been observing them coming and going from the hives on the nice warm days.
I peaked in last week and they are clustered on a couple of the bars.
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