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gardening-girl

Top bar hives.

Are they any good for a complete novice bee keeper?
Any pros/cons?
Lorrainelovesplants

Tavascarrow is your man - he does a lot with Top Bar Hives
Tavascarow

Pros.
Cheap to make & maintain.
No frames or foundation to purchase & dimensions of the hive aren't critical.
If you make hives with viewing windows you can get to know your bees without disturbing them & without having to suit up & have a smoker permanently lit.
Which means you will look more often & learn about the workings of the colony quicker than someone worried about hurting the bees & getting stung.

The bees do seem more content & able to cope with the vagaries of the climate.

There's a wealth of information & expertise on the natural beekeeping forum to help the beginner through the first season or two.

With the horizontal TBH, because you don't have to remove the top storeys of the hive to get to the queen & brood, they don't react as defensively when you physically inspect the hive, & for most manipulations a water spray is adequate to keep them calm & you will have more time to really look & see what's going on.

Cons.
Finding local mentors to hold your hand for the first few inspections is difficult, although there are local groups being formed.
Finding bees already on top bars to populate your hive is also difficult or expensive.
Most nucleus hives are still produced on frames so your options are cutting frames to fit (chop & crop) which is daunting for a beginner, or hoping to catch or be given a swarm.

Top bar combs require gentler handling than frames, although this is often more a problem for those already used to handling frames.

Sometimes the bees will decide despite starter strips or comb guides, to build their combs at an angle to the bars & cross comb.
Effectively joining bars together making manipulation more difficult.
There are remedies to this & once you have a few straight combs they usually carry on fine.

IMHO as someone who has kept bees for many years, but only recently taken to top bars the answer is yes they are suitable for the beginner & if you find keeping bees isn't your thing at least it wont have cost you a fortune.
gardening-girl

Thanks,just the info I needed.
Hairyloon

What do we expect to pay for a TBH these days?
Tavascarow

If you buy them ready made they will probably be comparable in price to a national, but it will still work out cheaper IMHO, as you don't need all the other kit to go with them.
To make, the cost of timber, wood screws & a bit of wood glue.
The two I made cost me about 15.00 each using kiln dried 4x1 soft wood.
Someone I know near Liskeard bought locally grown western red cedar boards at 12x1 & it cost her about 40.00 per hive including timber for the roof & bars.
(Mine still has an old sheet of coru galvanise & a couple of bricks for a cover).
Embarassed
Hairyloon

Did we decide if spruce was any use?
RichardW

Did we decide if spruce was any use?


Or

is Ash worth a bash?
Treacodactyl

Did we decide if spruce was any use?


Or

is Ash worth a bash?

Or Scots Pine worth the time?

(I wonder if there's an easy method to get some usable timber for a hive out of my ash trees?)
Hairyloon

(I wonder if there's an easy method to get some usable timber for a hive out of my ash trees?)
Ash cleaves pretty well. Chop some up and bang it together. Let us know how it goes...
Should look proper rustic, which is no bad thing.
Treacodactyl

(I wonder if there's an easy method to get some usable timber for a hive out of my ash trees?)
Ash cleaves pretty well. Chop some up and bang it together. Let us know how it goes...
Should look proper rustic, which is no bad thing.

Cleaving some rustic planks should be easy enough, it's the trimming of them to minimise gaps. Ideally I could trim on a bandsaw but not having one that's a bit tricky. I do have a couple planes and spokeshaves etc so could trim them I suppose, but I don't want the gaps between the planks to be too big.

Probably wandering a bit too off topic as well.
Tavascarow

Hardwood's like ash would make a fine hive & probably more durable than softwood, but they will weigh more if you want to move them around.Did we decide if spruce was any use? IMHO seasoned spruce would be no better or worse than what I'm using.
Isn't a large proportion of commercial softwood sitka spruce?
Hairyloon

[quote="Treacodactyl:1301394"]Should look proper rustic, which is no bad thing.

Cleaving some rustic planks should be easy enough, it's the trimming of them to minimise gaps. Ideally I could trim on a bandsaw but not having one that's a bit tricky.
I suppose you don't have a table saw either... You could put a circular saw in a box?

Quote:
Probably wandering a bit too off topic as well.

If we are, then it is clearly my fault, so don't worry about it. Wink
Hairyloon

Did we decide if spruce was any use? IMHO seasoned spruce would be no better or worse than what I'm using.
Isn't a large proportion of commercial softwood sitka spruce?
Yes, I've got stacks of it. Wink
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