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Top Bar Hive inspection frequency (Solved, thanks to Norm)
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 3:19 pm    Post subject: Top Bar Hive inspection frequency (Solved, thanks to Norm) Reply with quote

I have gone through a fair number of posts in this forum, searching for information on how often a TBH could/should be inspected.

I see the typical discussion of 6 to 8 times a year. I also see a fair number of posts that, while not numbering their frequency, intimate that they are going in more often.

I have further read the observations that due to observing only one bar at a time allows far less heat to escape and that it is less stressful/disruptive to the bees, thus a tendency to be more calm.

Furthermore, I read the observations that TBH require more direct attention and manipulation in order to make sure space is utilized adequately, not allowing them to become honeybound, etc...

Is it because of these things that people feel entering the hive more is more tolerable? Does it make that big of a difference?

My own background helping another beekeeper (using Lang hives) was that it is best to open the hive only when absolutely necessary for basic inspection, collection and treatment. So, 6 inspections over a season could be overdoing it in his opinion.

The last thing I want to do is make things worse. I do want to foster a learning environment for new beekeepers and work to build the strongest, healthiest colonies possible at the same time. How to make the two goals work together is my concern. New beekeepers can learn a lot more by hands on experience in my opinion and that means access to the hives.

I do plan to build several with observation windows, so as to help minimize the need to open the hives themselves.

any ideas, suggestions, thoughts on this?

Big Bear


Last edited by bigbearomaha on Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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biobee
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Big Bear,

Observation hives are great for allowing people to see what is going on with minimal disturbance.

Otherwise, it all depends what you mean by 'inspection'.

You can learn a lot about the current state of a colony by observing bees coming in and out of the entrance: is food coming in; are there drones around; is it likely to be queen-right, etc.

If you want to know more, with a TBH you can move the followers and see both ends of the colony and get more information, again without disturbing bees: how much food do they have stored; are they building comb; how big is the colony, etc.

Only if you have a particular reason for doing so do you need to go through it bar by bar. For example, you have reason to suspect that they are queenless and you want to check for brood.

Unless your bees are genetically predisposed to extreme tetchiness, you will find that any level of inspection of a TBH is less disruptive than the equivalent operation on a Langstroth hive.
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Gary
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Show me where on this site it reccomends inspection 6 times a season. Inspections can be unintrusive such as just pulling a sticky board out and replaceing it with a clean one. Don't get confused about what we are saying inspect.
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You don't have to be defensive. I was not making an accusation or anything.

There are a number of 'types' of inspections, as you say yourself. ranging from looking at bottom boards or follower boards. A glance to see general population expansion/growth or all the way to a full, bar by bar inspection.

While I mentioned the numbers 6 or so, I also mentioned there were unspecified mentions that could approximate 6 or more per year.

Also, some of the posts and thread s I am seeing this type of information is on other forums and sites as well.

In fact, many places will tell first year beekeepers to inspect on a weekly basis. But, not specifying to what degree of an inspection.

I have seen mention in places suggesting inspections, again, not specifying the type, in frequencies of every ten days to once a month.

My question, as it stands and answered well by phil is how often do people suggest 'inspecting' a TBH relative to those more experienced with Lang hives?

As I mentioned in my original post, I did observe that the very nature of TBH reduces the level or intensity of intruding or stressing the colony y examining only one bar at a time.

My curiosity is, does this lead to TBH keepers feeling more comfortable in inspecting more frequently than they might a lang?

Big Bear
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Gareth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My curiosity is, does this lead to TBH keepers feeling more comfortable in inspecting more frequently than they might a lang?


I certainly feel very comfortable as a beekeeper going through a TBH, much more than when I kept Lang type hives. But that does not lead me to open the hive up more; in fact, less. But as the previous posts have said: what is meant by 'inspect'? With a TBH, one can learn far more about a colony with very little disturbance; a moved follower will tell much more than removing a crown board and with far less disturbance.

The important thing is to have a clear question in ones mind: 'what am I really trying to achieve with this inspection?'. Answer that and you tell yourself what sort of inspection is needed. Bringing in pollen: check the entrance. How much stores: heft the end of the hive. Needing space: peek behind the follower board. How many bars of stores as compared with brood: gently move a few bars apart and peer down inside, with maybe the odd bar being partly lifted. Looking for queen cells: a more detailed inspection.
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slodrone
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't even inspect some hives this year. Took a comb or two of honey from the back from time to time and all seems good. Going quite strong into the winter.
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gareth wrote:
Quote:
My curiosity is, does this lead to TBH keepers feeling more comfortable in inspecting more frequently than they might a lang?


I certainly feel very comfortable as a beekeeper going through a TBH, much more than when I kept Lang type hives. But that does not lead me to open the hive up more; in fact, less. But as the previous posts have said: what is meant by 'inspect'? With a TBH, one can learn far more about a colony with very little disturbance; a moved follower will tell much more than removing a crown board and with far less disturbance.

The important thing is to have a clear question in ones mind: 'what am I really trying to achieve with this inspection?'. Answer that and you tell yourself what sort of inspection is needed. Bringing in pollen: check the entrance. How much stores: heft the end of the hive. Needing space: peek behind the follower board. How many bars of stores as compared with brood: gently move a few bars apart and peer down inside, with maybe the odd bar being partly lifted. Looking for queen cells: a more detailed inspection.


Thanks for the detail.

Top bars hives are not Langs and I think sometimes a discussion about working with TBH can become a bit vague, leaving one with experience in one type (lang, in my experience) to wonder what the specific variations might be when looking into the other type.

Big Bear
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Neukirchen
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:23 pm    Post subject: Hive Status: nearly full Reply with quote

Greetings all! I'm a new-bee.
This looked to be a good forum in which to inject my inquiry.
I built a HTBH before I discovered this site: 36"long, 12"deep, 10" across the narrowest, with bars about 25" long; roughly 88.5 litres, at least. I put bees in it this last April; my first hive.
I opened it up once, in the Spring, to prevent cross combing. Now, after peering up through the wire-mesh bottom, it looks as though it's almost full, with the bees still bringing in forage on this rather sunny, cool, windy autumn day; just finishing off the last 3 bars out of 30.

It's been my idea to wait until Spring, just after the bees start to forage again, before I change out bars, thus ensuring that they'll have plenty to eat throughout the Winter, and that they'll have sufficient space in the Spring.
I'm really not too interested in taking anything away from them, since I'm not too interested in honey. Nevertheless, I want to do what is good for them.
I thought that I might even split the hive, next Spring, to give my step-daughter one.
Is it OK for me to manage them in this manner?
I appreciate your thoughts on this matter.
Neukirchen, Seattle, WA, USA
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Gareth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum.

Neukirchen wrote:
Is it OK for me to manage them in this manner?


There are plenty of members who use minimal management/interference on some, if not all, of their hives - see Slodrone's post above.

One thing I would say, though, is that minimal interference is not the same as minimal knowledge. So read all you can - especially about varroa - and then make your management decision.
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Gareth
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2009 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big Bear wrote:
Top bars hives are not Langs and I think sometimes a discussion about working with TBH can become a bit vague, leaving one with experience in one type (lang, in my experience) to wonder what the specific variations might be when looking into the other type.


Yea, I guess we can all get a little cryptic at times and occasionally we need a direct question like the one you asked to nudge us into a clear answer.
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Norm
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience of both Framed hives and TBH's, I have found minimal interference works better with TBH's. The main reason I say that is because bees will propolise frames into position making them very difficult to remove if not regularly manouvred. A top bar that has side and cross comb attachments is easy to remove in comparison.

I inspected my Swedish Kenyan three times this year. First time I went through every comb repairing cross combing and attachment issues. Second time because I suspected they may have gone queenless, I moved away follower and slid away combs until I saw eggs. I had no need to venture further and slid all combs back into place. Third inspection to check stores levels. Again only sliding comb along enough to assess amounts of honey stores. The brood nest was not disturbed at all. As Gareth has already said, only intervene when there is a need to know something. From the bees point of view, none of the three inspections I did were necessary or welcome. I think that is the crux of the matter. Those three inspections were for my peace of mind only.
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Gary
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bigbearomaha wrote:
You don't have to be defensive. I was not making an accusation or anything.Big Bear


Sorry, I was not being defensive at all I just wanted to know where this advicewas comming from Ihave been here from the beginning and I know for a fact we preach hands off bee keeping.

Something to remember in the future
especially since we deal with so many nationalities is the written word has no emotion unless special characters ar used and interpretation is left totally to the reader.

Sorry again for the confusion and welcome!

The second thing I would like to leave you with and yes there is some emotion in this statement: This is the only forum where you will get the most current cutting edge info on sustainable beekeeping in the WORLD!!!


To finally actually answer your question I would have to say no at first because of the hands off management style but yes later as the new beek realizes how gentle bees are in TBH hives and build confidence in thier own skills.
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
To finally actually answer your question I would have to say no at first because of the hands off management style but yes later as the new beek realizes how gentle bees are in TBH hives and build confidence in thier own skills.


That is the general impression I get from most folks who are involved in TBH.

I am building nothing but TBH's for this spring, as from all I am reading and observing, these fit the goals and 'style' of my apiary the best. ( doesn't hurt that they fit my budget a lot better as well. Wink )

I plan to build observation windows with covers on my hives, to further reduce the need to open the hive.

Because I will be having other folks new to beekeeping entirely be a part of this project, I want to have a setup that will allow them to observe and see first hand what goes on inside the hives without causing increased stress on the colonies.

On the other hand, I don't want to create an environment where people are feeling 'too comfortable' with walking up and opening hives all the time just because it seems so 'easy' to them. So, extra attention to that information will need to be provided as we have new folks come along.

I do appreciate all of you folks input as I make these posts. As this project gets underway, I will have much more information and questions very specific to TBH and hope to learn as much as I can from folks with similar interests to mine here.

Big Bear
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Gary
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

IMHO Observation windows in a TBH are way too tempting for a nee beeek and they end up turnng thier hives into mini bee discos, I havve actually had people write to me wondering why thier bees absconded and after a trillion questionsthey finally say "I opened it every day and peeked in to see how they were doing. Bees need to feel safe in the cavity they have choosen so windows are for the experienced not good enough for education only entertainment.
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
and they end up turnng thier hives into mini bee discos


Sorry, this gave me one heck of a mental image. Very Happy

I have talked to a few folks who have mentioned this same sentiment and I can see howw if not kept under control, it could get wildly out of hand as well.

However this project is not a 'educational entertainment' venue (although I have seen the type you mention at zoos and nature centers ) I am not suggesting that these are going to be 'open to the public' it is considered a conservation project and will be accessed only by people who are 'serious' about bee handling and working toward that goal.

Because I beleive the nature of the project and the ability to limit who has access and when, this can be a positive experience for all involved, including the bees. at least in the long run.

Big Bear
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Garret
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I got my first hive I really didn't know how to relate what I was seeing from the outside of the hive to the inside. What I did was inspect when there seemed to be a big change in what I thought was normal activity. Even though all was normal as far as the bees were concerned I did more inspections then was necessary. Because of this I now have a good grasp on knowing the happenings inside the hive from looking at the entrance.
Now when I go into and through the brood area I have a definite plan to what I am going to do. But with an open mind to see if my plan can be carried out.
Number of deep inspections is a hard question to answer. It depends on many different factors as to the number. I would say 0 to several but always leaning towards the fewest.
I've never had an observation window in any of my hives but still feel they are not necessary because you can learn just as much by having a quick peek inside the follower board. I've heard of people leaving the windows uncovered all day by mistake.


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FollowMeChaps
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary wrote:
IMHO Observation windows in a TBH are way too tempting for a nee beeek and they end up turnng thier hives into mini bee discos.........

To me this post implies that inspection windows are a bad thing.

Whilst I appreciate that you are far more experienced a beekeeper than me Gary I couldn't disagree more in the case of new beekeepers. Indeed, it may well be your experience that gets in the way here. Our local natural beekeeping group started several people off beekeeping this year. Our experience has shown that windows are a Godsend for thse of us with little experience. A quick peep through a window seems far better than either hefting or opening the hive to check on an issue. It can also give the ability to monitor what's going on and introduce others to the fascination of this pastime. Indeed most of us who built hives without windows (myself included on my Warres) ended up either building new hives or adding windows once the bees were in situ - not easy!

I fully agree that the window should not be abused and 'opened every day to see how they are doing' - I like your disco analogy. However, as an additional inspection tool I think they are very valuable.

Once I have your years of experience I hope that I can monitor my hives just by observing their external activity but for new beekeepers I would always strongly suggest thet they include window/s on any new top bar hive they are building.
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fdbka
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't put an observation window in the TB based on Phils design but beginning to think I will make that little bit of effort to add it as it will be my first year using it next year, and as FollowMeChaps says

Quote:
A quick peep through a window seems far better than either hefting or opening the hive to check on an issue. It can also give the ability to monitor what's going on


Which for a new beek must be a better option than opening the hive every time even if it is just peering in from the back few bars.

One question I have though is by adding a window does the queen still lay near it as its likely to lower the temperature in that area of the hive on cold days?
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have seen in some videos and in various forums posts that with a wood cover that covers over the window, it forms an air barrier between the wood and the window, keeping it warmer.

of course, this likely means one might only want to open the window on nice warmer days and limit the amount of time it is open. Much as one would monitor time spent opening the hive itself.

Big Bear
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Gary
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FollowMeChaps wrote:
Gary wrote:
IMHO Observation windows in a TBH are way too tempting for a nee beeek and they end up turnng thier hives into mini bee discos.........

To me this post implies that inspection windows are a bad thing.

Whilst I appreciate that you are far more experienced a beekeeper than me Gary I couldn't disagree more in the case of new beekeepers. Indeed, it may well be your experience that gets in the way here. Our local natural beekeeping group started several people off beekeeping this year. Our experience has shown that windows are a Godsend for thse of us with little experience. A quick peep through a window seems far better than either hefting or opening the hive to check on an issue.


I was not implying you hit the nail on the head! It takes away the need to open and handel the bees when necessary and makes beeks way too dependant on the window and when it comes full circle the window will be many a down fall.

Robin, if the windows are working for you and bringing more beeks to our side and thats what you like by all means roll with it brother!

An alternate suggestion I have is:

Anyone following a good mite monitoring program need only slide an inspection mirror under the open bottom to see the same if not more of whats going on.

We have to think outside the box when it comes to disturbing the colony, disturbances = stress

Education and developing interest is what observation hives are designed for.

However do not let it ever be said I advised to fix something that was not broke!

As far as experience goes 160 replies on other threads would be evidence that there are a lot of people paying attention to what you are doing with your hives right now including me!
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bigbearomaha
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think how people make use of an observation window is relative to the environment in which they are using it.

For example, someone who is taking up beekeeping on their own, without a mentor or group they are participating in, may indded possibly come to lean on the window more than it is good for the bees. A lot depends on each individual beekeeper and their level of preparation and enthusiasm.

In a project such as the one I am involved in for example, the observation window is presented as one of a set of tools with which to work with bees and everyone in the project is expected to follow a guideline that spells out what each tool is used for and when and how to use it, according to this projects leadership.

I have seen some people take great care of their wood chisels, using them as they should be used. I have seen other people use wood chisels to open paint cans and other horrible uses. A lot of how people use tools depends on how they were trained to use the tools and the level of seriousness they put into how to use tools.

So while I would say you offer good advice for the 'loner' beekeeper to not 'abuse' a tool that an observation window can be, I beleive it has it's place in a 'serious' apiary for those who use it correctly.

Big Bear
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Gary
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bigbearomaha wrote:
So while I would say you offer good advice for the 'loner' beekeeper to not 'abuse' a tool that an observation window can be, I beleive it has it's place in a 'serious' apiary for those who use it correctly.
Big Bear

Perfectly Stated Sir!!!!!!!!!!
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Gareth
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bigbearomaha wrote:


I have seen some people take great care of their wood chisels, using them as they should be used. I have seen other people use wood chisels to open paint cans and other horrible uses.

Big Bear


I read somewhere once that part of the British Standard test for screwdrivers is their ability to open paint cans. Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I a new Beek, but I have built a Top bar hive as per the Barefoot Beekeeper for use next year.
The training I have done using National hives suggests an inspection is necessary at least every 9 days in order to check for queen cells. Why is this not required with a TBH?
This is my first visit to this forum, so dont know much.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forums Sixfooter.

Like you I started with Nationals then upgraded to deep nationals and the training I had was from a traditional beek of 30+ years. He swears by the 8 day rule but only during the 3-4 months swarming season.

I put this down to the reduced flexibility within traditional hives to be able to expand the brood chamber beyond the 10-11 frames. Thus the colony determine they have reached the critical mass and go into swarm mode.
I then built a Dartington hive and although I missed the start of the season they didn't expand any more than the colony in the deep national hive. I later spoke with a long term Dartington hive owner who has advised me how to manage the Dartingon hive slightly differently and he splits his colony 1-3 times in a season and still gets a reasonable amount of honey each year.

Again the TBH it is slightly different, the follower board can be moved and thus new bars added and the colony given extra room to expand and swarm control managed by moving some of the frames the other side of the follower board and preform an artificial swarm. (plently of posts about this on the forums)

As new beeks we need to learn how our bees deal with each season as they go through spring buildup, the swarm season and end of season in our own areas and the different types of bee we use and the different types of hives as well. So you will get various answers on this question.
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Garret
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sixfooter wrote:
I a new Beek, but I have built a Top bar hive as per the Barefoot Beekeeper for use next year.
The training I have done using National hives suggests an inspection is necessary at least every 9 days in order to check for queen cells. Why is this not required with a TBH?
This is my first visit to this forum, so dont know much.



How I see the difference managements between the two hive types is mostly attitude and beliefs on how we treat our bees.
What is the reason we look every 9 days for queen cells. In my opinion it’s to keep the hive together in order to make a good honey harvest.
You can accomplish the same with fewer manipulations and this is where the attitude comes in play by working with the bees natural instincts over forcing them. TBH people tend to believe bees should be allowed to express their natural instincts a little more.
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Gareth
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome sixfooter

(BTW are you an insect, or just tall? Wink )

Both these replies are spot on. The attitude adopted to the bees is very much one of 'they know best' rather than 'I will control them' and a TBH has considerably more room and flexibility than a national, so the brood nest can expand to the limit set by the bees rather than the hive. That means that the bees don't suffer from artificial constraints and will only swarm if they want to, rather than being forced to do so by lack of space. Also, and this is important, natural beekeeping regards the swarming impulse as part of the natural cycle of the bees reproduction and hence a sign of a vital hive. So, rather than something to be repressed, it is something to aim for and celebrate.

I look forward to a successful swarming season and use the queen cells to make increase. If a swarm 'escapes', it's a contribution to the local bee population and will provide drones for my future queens to mate with, so it's not 'lost', merely living somewhere else. A strong local population is essential to balanced natural beekeeping.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another crossword addict!

Thanks for advice. There's a bit to read on this forum to keep me going till spring. Hopefully, I'll understand things a bit more by then.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

I too am a new beekeeper and will be getting two new TBH in the spring. However, I was fortunately enough to take an 8-month top-bar beekeeping course this past year, so I got hands-on experience. I still feel I have a lot to learn, but this is what my instructor said as far as inspections are concerned:

According to my instructor, For the first year, he recommended checking the hive every two weeks just to make sure things are going okay. Also, by checking every two weeks you get to see how the hive is changing/evolving over the season, which is a great learning experience for the new beekeeper. Of course, the inspections need to be done as quicky as possible to minimize the disturbance to the bees.

For the second year, he did recommend that you cut back on the inspections and only inspect when necessary. Maybe once a month. If you are checking for swarming (or if there are problems that need to be addressed), then you can check more, but otherwise, once a month should be okay. It should be noted that my instructor's hives did NOT have viewing windows, so perhaps those with windows can further minimize the number of actual physical inspections.

With that being said...I've noticed that if you ask 5 beeks a question, you get 6 different answers. What works best for one beek may not work best for another. Ultimately, you have to see what works best for you and the bees, and sometimes trial and error is the only way you learn - especially if you have no mentors in your area.
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Gary
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is just too easy to determine whats going on deep inside the colony by watching the activity of the colony at the entrance when you have a mite count to back it up then a peak inside during your dearth periods will let you know weather or not to add some feed. With a TBH or Warre the disturbance to the brood nest is minimal to none!

Learn the key indicators of problems and let that guide when you open the hive and you will have a good time keeping more colonies than you thought you could!
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