Dad’s Top Bar Hives

Yesterday we visited grandma and grandpa. On the record, we’ll say it was to get the grandkids some grandma time. Off the record, and far more accurately, it was to get me inside my dad’s new top bar hives. 🙂

I got to play the role of photographer for once, which was an interesting change. Dad and my sis, Shelly, played inspectors. The hives look like they are doing well. I’m a little concerned for the lack of honey stores (we’re in the midst of a small cold snap), but there was enough to get them to a foraging point again. It was cold enough that we should have moved faster than we did, but we were all enjoying ourselves enough that we just didn’t.

We only visited one hive (Queen Anne if I remember correctly), and we found both her and eggs. There was plenty of capped brood as well, so that hive is going the right direction. We did not visit Queen Mary.

On to the pictures!

This is Queen Mary’s hive. Dad has them set up facing each other on a side yard. On the south side are large lilac bushes that provide some protection. On the east and west sides, he’s planted forsythias that will eventually make a “box” around the hives. It’s a fairly effective and attractive enclosure, although I’m worried that they are too shaded in these cool early spring days. Had they been full sun, I’m sure both hives would have been quite active. As it is, they were both pretty calm. Of course, when that blistering summer sun starts up, he’ll be glad for the shade.

In true beekeeper fashion, I dad responded appropriately to my question of “where are you going to put your next hives?” Without batting an eye, he started pointing out several spots and talking about pros and cons. Funny thing is that I was completely teasing him. 🙂

In his current setup, he can easily fit four hives in the side yard.

Here’s a shot through the side window of Queen Mary’s hive. Good thick cluster across the range of the comb. I pointed out that it looked like very few bees were actually out and about just given the number of bees on the comb itself.

There’s Dad and Shelly getting ready to open up Queen Anne’s hive. Dad has now joined the Sting club two times; Shelly is sporting the surgical gloves (thanks for the tip Emily!). My dad, you’ll note, is gloveless. I’ve been pushing him that way for a little while, and he jumped right into it.

Looking down into the back half. The primary reason for our visit was to more firmly attach the window. The person who built the hives didn’t attach he window too solidly, and it kept popping out, creating some funky entrances for the bees.

There are a lot of things that could push me to top bar hives eventually, but this is a big one. Check that out. I dropped the camera into the box and just took a picture. Fun stuff. It’s pretty hard to tell, but they’re building out six bars right now. Bar 1, on the far side, is mostly honey and pollen, although they are rebuilding it after it collapsed last week. Two through four are brood, and five and six are still being built out and have some pollen. I am thinking those will continue with brood before they really start honey stores.

This is a good shot of the newest bar.

And there, in all her glory is Queen Anne! Shelly is apparently our queen spotter; Dad said she spots the queen better than he does, and she was first to see her this time around. This is a good shot showing how her attendants turn in and form a circle around her. She was a fast queen, active, and very eager to move across the frames. She’s unmarked, which is one complaint about the bee farm who packaged her, but we can deal with that. We don’t have Africanized bees in our immediate area (about 200 miles south or so), so I’m not too concerned. I’ll let dad mark her if he wants.

Last shot…. This is dad’s watering bucket. This is the same style as mine, just smaller. And oh how I love Courtney’s new camera.

All in all, the hive looked very healthy, the bees as active as to be expected for the temperature, and the queen active and strong. For me, it was nice to actually play with a top bar before I got too much into the BUY NOW phase that I’ve been feeling. I can see some very readily apparent advantages to top bars, such as weight and uniformity of all the pieces. I can see some very big disadvantages as well, such as the horizontal space (I have a small bee yard) and the less-simple movement of comb/brood/stores between two different hives. It would also be very hard to combine two top bars into a single hive to create a stronger hive, but not impossible. You’d just have to plan it careful and build a special follower board in my dad’s case.

I told Courtney afterward that I was still intrigued by the top bars and would probably do one someday but that I was also quite satisfied with the Langstroths. My biggest remaining complaint about the Langstroths is that you have to be more proactive about refreshing your wax. Because you harvest the entire comb in a top bar, that’s less of a concern. I like that.

I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

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3 Responses to Dad’s Top Bar Hives

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Nice to see the surgical gloves being used! Looks like things are going great, liked the shot of the combs.

  2. JeffreyD says:

    This reminds me that I haven’t sent you the video we shot when we picked up those hives! I’ve uploaded it to YouTube and will post the URL when it is approved.

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