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Author Topic: TBHs and Swarming  (Read 3019 times)

Offline AliciaH

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TBHs and Swarming
« on: January 09, 2012, 05:14:55 PM »
I'm going to start two this year both for curiosity and fun.  Also because a new beekeeper friend started bees last year and found out she couldn't manage the weight of Langstroths.  She's going to try using a TBH, too, and I want to learn along with her to help.

For me, swarming isn't as big an issue because I have resources (extra equipment) to help manage that process.  But for her, it could be a potential HUGE issue.

Do TBHs really swarm that much more?  If so, can anyone give me an idea of how much -- 2x, 3x?  How do those with few resources deal with that?

One idea I had was to have her move frames with swarm cells to the other side of the follower board until she can get more equipment.  Then she'd have a backup queen.  But other than that, I don't have any ideas and even then, I'm not sure how well that would work in the long run.

Offline caticind

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2012, 07:55:45 PM »
Any hive swarms when it gets too crowded.  I think there are two reasons that people may have more trouble with horizontal hives swarming:

1) The hive box is just too small.  Think about the volume and number of combs you might find in a Lang at peak strength.  If your TBH can't hold that much, then they are going to get crowded.  Sometimes folks neglect to consider this, or forget about the volume that is lost in a KTBH compared to a TTBH.  If your sides angle in, you'll need to make it longer!

2) Failure to open brood nest in spring.  Lots of folks have trouble with swarming Langs after they plop a super of empty foundation on top of a box bursting with bees, assuming the bees will move into the space.  Sometimes they do, but often they ignore it and swarm.  Putting a bunch of empty bars behind last year's drawn combs is the same problem.  The first flush of honey will go into drawn combs closer to the entrance, before the bees have drawn out lots of new combs.  As the broodnest expands rapidly, it runs up against the honey area and the bees perceive it as congested.  Instead, feed those empty bars in among the honey and brood bars (try every third bar in the brood section to avoid chillbrood until it's warm at night).  And later, if you are running out of empty bars, harvest some of the honey so you can put the bars back in empty.

I do think that TBHs are more likely to swarm than Langs, but only if left alone.  Remember that the bees WANT to swarm, and that "hands off" beekeeping and preventing swarms are contradictory practices.  TBHs may need more frequent attention to be sure there is enough space.  But you make up some of that effort in less heavy lifting!

The best thing would be for your friend to have an extra TBH too, just in case.  Is there a particular reason that swarming is a much bigger deal for her?
The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2012, 11:45:13 PM »
>Do TBHs really swarm that much more?

If  you have a really small one, yes.  If you have one of manageable size, then it matters how well you manage the space.  Since you can't just pile supers on like a Langstroth, you'll need to harvest frequently and check frequently during a heavy flow.
Michael Bush
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Offline doug494

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2012, 09:26:19 AM »
Mike,

In your experience do you ever need to harvest uncapped honey?

Meaning is it possible for the flow to be so heavy they cannot cap it as quickly as it is stored and they run out of space prior to capping.

Offline AliciaH

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2012, 12:37:34 PM »
2) Instead, feed those empty bars in among the honey and brood bars (try every third bar in the brood section to avoid chillbrood until it's warm at night).  And later, if you are running out of empty bars, harvest some of the honey so you can put the bars back in empty.
....

Is there a particular reason that swarming is a much bigger deal for her?

Thanks for that!  I wonder, too, if freezer space is available, I could freeze the honey frame (if it was uncapped) to feed back later in the fall or winter?

The only reason I think swarming will be more of an issue for her is that she doesn't have extra equipment.  We are building the boxes to utililize standard Langstroth frame tops, which means I can pull a frame and put it in Langstroth equipment. 

She will only have the two TBHs.  She's starting with two packages, so both boxes are already busy.

Offline caticind

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2012, 02:48:34 PM »
Thanks for that!  I wonder, too, if freezer space is available, I could freeze the honey frame (if it was uncapped) to feed back later in the fall or winter?

The only reason I think swarming will be more of an issue for her is that she doesn't have extra equipment.  We are building the boxes to utililize standard Langstroth frame tops, which means I can pull a frame and put it in Langstroth equipment. 

Sure, you can freeze whatever you harvest for feeding later and just insert a new empty bar.  Just remember always to let frames of stores come back up to ambient temperature before putting them back in!

Good idea to use standard dimensions for your top bars.  If you keep any Langs, or want to be able to share brood or produce nucs, it's best to make sure your frames are minimally compatible.  :)
The bees would be no help; they would tumble over each other like golden babies and thrum wordlessly on the subjects of queens and sex and pollen-gluey feet. -Palimpsest

Offline AliciaH

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2012, 03:31:57 PM »
Good idea to use standard dimensions for your top bars.  If you keep any Langs...

Oh, I'm keeping all my Langs!  I'm starting a couple TBHs because I'd like to gain experience by trying something different, see how they work, and also support my friend.  It's always more fun to utilize the buddy system!  And I'm starting two for the same reason as starting two Langs, easier resource transfer.

Thanks for the vote about keeping to standardized top bars!  We wanted to keep the process simple for my friend, who doesn't have access to a wood shop.  She can order tops as she needs them without a lot of fuss.  When I thought through the potential for me and my Lang equipment, it just seemed like a bonus!

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2012, 12:09:11 AM »
>In your experience do you ever need to harvest uncapped honey?

I never have.

>Meaning is it possible for the flow to be so heavy they cannot cap it as quickly as it is stored and they run out of space prior to capping.

Maybe.  if it did they probably swarmed and I probably didn't catch it.  :)  But I don't remember seeing that.
Michael Bush
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My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen

Offline luvin honey

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 02:34:53 PM »
All my topbars have swarmed every year. And I've watched them pretty closely (I thought) to feed bars into the broodnest or split them to prevent swarming.

The only time they didn't swarm was when I mistakenly did every other bar empty in the broodnest, and they developed a brood disease, then got taken out by bears.  :roll:
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
---Emily Dickinson

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2012, 01:40:49 AM »
>All my topbars have swarmed every year.

How big is you top bar hive?
Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen

Offline luvin honey

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2012, 03:11:36 PM »
>All my topbars have swarmed every year.

How big is you top bar hive?

Four feet.
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
---Emily Dickinson

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2012, 01:08:39 AM »
What kind of bees?
Michael Bush
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My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen

Offline luvin honey

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2012, 11:36:24 AM »
The first year Carniolan and Italians. This past year I believe it was Italians with Kona queens, but I'd have to check my notes. My memory is appallingly bad.
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
---Emily Dickinson

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2012, 01:30:16 AM »
Just curious as some races build up explosively after a bit of hesitation in the spring which can be misleading and cause swarming if you're the least bit slow checking them...
Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline VeggieGardener

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 03:53:47 PM »
One of my top bar hives swarmed last year but I think that it was due to my mistake of overfeeding to the point that the hive was honey bound even though I did have more space to open things up and move the follower boards further apart. It was my strongest hive, but at least I got to watch them leave and say goodbye... awesome sight!

Another suggestion would be to build a small top bar nuc or two and keep that on hand to create a split if necessary. I agree with the idea to use the same size bars to share/spread resources between you and your friend, or even help someone else to get started.

Be sure to add a window if you can, it was the best thing that I did in constructing my top bar hives... I've learned and seen things that wouldn't have been as simple to do with my lang. Michael Bush talks about beginners starting out with an observation hive, and a top bar hive with a window comes close to that in some ways.

Offline Adam Foster Collins

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2012, 11:03:39 AM »
A window is a great thing to have in a tbh. It allows a person to look in on them a lot more often, without causing much disruption. I tend to look at mine in the night, using a small LED light.

Adam
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Offline luvin honey

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2012, 02:14:27 PM »
Just curious as some races build up explosively after a bit of hesitation in the spring which can be misleading and cause swarming if you're the least bit slow checking them...

Which races are known for this most? If I remember correctly, Carniolans are....
The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.
---Emily Dickinson

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: TBHs and Swarming
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2012, 02:37:27 AM »
Carniolans, Russians, Caucasians, AMM... the Italians are the only ones who rear brood at a fairly constant rate.
Michael Bush
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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"Everything works if you let it."--Rick Nielsen