Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Saturday, May 24, 2014

bees in the top-bar hive...


We're newbies, really.  We haven't even had our first anniversary as beekeepers.  We have a few Langstroth hives in the back, and thousands of honey bee guests.  It has been a great gift to create a safe haven for these amazing bees.  But all along, the hubs longed for a more natural way, a style of beekeeping that intrigued him:  a top-bar hive.

We enjoyed hearing Dr. Wyatt Mangum speak at a couple of beekeeping conferences last year.  My husband chatted with him and his wife while he purchased a signed copy of the book, Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping: Wisdom and Pleasure Combined.  My husband then carried this book everywhere for months, reading and re-reading sections, dreaming of starting his own top-bar hive.  We read other material on top-bar beekeeping and watched countless YouTube videos on the subject!

Toward the end of this past winter, feeling bruised from life's challenges, we decided to cheer ourselves with a gift.  A top-bar hive from Bee Thinking, made of cedar with a copper roof, a screened bottom board, several entrances, beautifully beveled top bars, a double jar feeder, and an observation window running the length of the hive.  It arrived and was assembled in moments.  It was a thing of beauty standing in our living room! 

Spring swarm season soon arrived at Flannel Jammies Farm.  I trapped a couple of swarms and tried unsuccessfully to move them into the lovely new top-bar hive.  One swarm obviously did not have or lost their queen, and quickly dwindled, despite our best efforts.  One swarm seemed quite happy and began building gorgeous lobes of wax comb... then moved on to a new home without warning.  *sigh*  Then on a Sunday, driving with my daughter across the state to a funeral, I received a swarm call from a friend and fellow beekeeper.  I asked her to please call my husband at home and he might be able to rescue the bees.  Soon after, he called to say he had the swarm in a bucket and was driving them home to the top-bar hive!

This third swarm settled in nicely, built amazing wax comb, foraged and stored pollen and nectar, and began raising brood (bee babies). 
 A peek inside the top-bar hive through the observation window

Three weeks after getting the bees settled in, we did a hive check and found true wonders inside that top-bar hive.  We are loving this method of beekeeping!  Here are some of the photos from that hive check.
Bee at the reduced entrance to the top-bar hive

Inside the hive: lobes of lovely wax comb

Carefully removing any wax adhering the comb to the hive body before we try to remove the top-bars

Bars must be turned carefully end-to-end, and not flipped, lest the entire comb break off the top-bar; this photo shows pollen and nectar stores

Bees, comb, nectar

Larvae and eggs inside the cells


Wax comb attached to the top-bar

Bees tending capped and uncapped brood

Bees working, building

The carefully removed and turned bars of comb, placed in the order we removed them

Side view of the comb with white bee pupae visible inside the cells on each side of the comb

Working in the top-bar hive

3 comments:

Controlled Jibe said...

Just found your blog and love it. My husband and I just 'tried' to install a package of bees into our newly made top bar hive. After 5 days, and starting to build combs, they took off in search of better digs. We are bummed. Did you make any changes to your hive after your swarm left - change location or other? We're still hopeful and looking forward to trying again.
Thanks,
Katie and Mark
www.ControlledJibe.com

Controlled Jibe said...

Just found your blog and love it. My husband and I just 'tried' to install a package of bees into our newly made top bar hive. After 5 days, and starting to build combs, they took off in search of better digs. We are bummed. Did you make any changes to your hive after your swarm left - change location or other? We're still hopeful and looking forward to trying again.
Thanks,
Katie and Mark
www.ControlledJibe.com

Donna Rae Barrow said...

Hi, Katie and Mark! Thanks for the sweet words! We did not make any changes to the hive or location after the one swarm left. Bees do what bees do. I would recommend getting with a local beekeeping guild or club, if you are not already a part of one. These kind folks offer support, encouragement, knowledge, and the possibility of being on a swarm list for folks to call if they see a swarm. We LOVE our guild! Wishing you all the BEE best!