There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Redecisions, Redecisions

[Next post from the original first year blog. Edited to update it.]


Hmmm. This week two of the top beekeeper experts over on the Organic Beekeepers Yahoo group posted that for their length 2-foot or 3-foot Top Bar Hives aren’t a good idea. Basically their reasons were first that the volume would be too small -- that the honeybees would “swarm too much”. Second, there wouldn’t be much production of honey; at least that’s what I took to be one comment. One of the experts cited the case of some African hives that were 5’, 6’ and even longer. The other expert felt that 5’ was about the max. At any rate neither of them would consider 24” or 36” TBHs.

So this is exactly the kind of contradictory information that hangs up us newbees when we’re starting out. This is the kind of stuff I’m hoping the blog will acquire information to clarify.

Half of the websites, books and magazine articles about top bar hives recommend 36” hives to us fledgling TBH beeks. e.g., If you look on the links list below there are many plans and pictures of 3-foot top bar hives. PJ Chandler (whose site first convinced me there was hope of natural, sustainable beekeeping) says this, “If you are a first-time beekeeper and currently have no ambitions to keep more than one or two hives, I suggest you start with a 36” long box. If you have some experience with conventional hives and want to start nucs and run four or five or more colonies, then go for the more capacious 48” model” [it’s on page three of the ‘How to’ plans]

There are a surprising number of 38-40 inch hives. Actually they are 97 centimeters and above. I suppose that’s a legacy of the original Kenyan and Tanzanian hives? Now when you look at these pictures of hives in developing countries, they look to be less than 4 feet, don’t they? And these are for serious beekeeping.

Sam Comfort’s video showing him working TBH’s was a big source of new information for me when I first saw it. He was using Top Bar Hives that appeared to be around two feet and three feet long, as well as some Langs. (I didn’t see any Warre’s.)

Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Bees posted something on the Top Hive Group “I don't see the need for you to be discouraged so much as I see the need for you to become very well-versed in how to maintain a three foot hive!”

I guess the most definitive answer to hive length I read was from BillSF9c over on that same Top Hive group, “A medium [hive] may swarm sooner, but that enables another hive if you split before it does. It's not good or bad. It's choices, depending on need &/or intent. Why, do you want bees? Why, do you want a TBH? Why do you want a hTBH? (horizontal, as opposed to vertical...) Engineers say, "Form, follows [needed] function. Function is defined by need/desire(s.) Write yours down, in order of importance, and go from there. See what fits.”


Even though I’m desperate for bees, I turned down a chance to do a cutout this week. It is a 12+-year-old hive in a well house. I don’t even have a full bee suit, nor the expertise to know how to attempt the capture, so I politely declined and sent the offer on to a longtime beek in my area.

So far the two hives in Ed’s garden are empty, but I refreshed the lemongrass oil on Sunday. This is about the first week in the Willamette Valley where our weather hasn’t been below 40 at night and constantly rainy. On those few days in March and in early April where there was sunshine, I saw just a few bees out and foraging, however Ed’s rural garden is suddenly alive with ‘em.

I’m thinking very soon something will happen to get us some free bees. My little 24” hive is ready to put next to an inaccessible wild hive that’s close to swarming, the owner says. (We’ll see.)

Meantime, I have a brand new 48” TBH for the garden.

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