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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Good Progress

Yes the latest revision of the hive is done. It is wonderful. Now the next step is to move the bees from their current hive into this one. Maybe next week. I have been out on the blogs and forums. I see that many people are still working on solutions to the issues addressed in this hive. Some of those ideas are close to mine so I still think I am on the right track. I did build a couple of extra hives to use in some marketing efforts. I see that there is a little regular traffic on this blog but not much. So those who do check in from time to time if you want to try the hive next year let me know. It is completely ready and the plans are solid. What I mean is that I finally have all of the measurements and even some computer generated drawings. I will have actual photographs soon too. I have high hopes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I am at it again.

It is harvest time and I will be moving the bees to the latest version of the Best Hive Ever!

I haven't decided if I will post pictures publicly yet but this version is very transportable and should be easily used for polination operations.

I am really excited. This could be the final product that I will productize. If so I should have a small inventory by winter and hope to be ready for the 2012 build up for spring.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wow! Has it been that long?

It seems like yesterday that I posted here but that was months ago. I have been hard at work with my day job while stealing moments to visualize and streamline the manufacturing process on building my hives. I need a couple new tools. I am hoping Santa will bring them. Then I can get my brother to churn out several TBH (The Best Hive)

While continuing to read what other people are doing I came across a couple of good ideas.

Thomas over at came up with the following.¤t=StarterStripsinstallingNov07006.jpg

I can’t seem to find the link right now but Phil at had a wonderful idea on how to move bees from a lang hive to topbar.

Mrspock at biobees showed me this site and it is a wonderful find.

But my best find was this site. It is long dead and was written in Polish and English. I find this particularly fascinating because many of the same issues I see batted around the forums today were addressed by this guy a long time ago and no one seems to have noticed.

So maybe if Santa will leave me a couple of new tools I will get several of my TBH built this winter. Then I can give a couple to long time beeks this spring for their input.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Best Bee Hive, EVER!

The following is a reposting of my original design features.

My design is a top bar hive that:
1) Is stackable for moving and storage.
2) Is easily moved with little or no damage to the top bar comb.
3) Easy to protect from varmints such as skunks.
4) Has a one bee space porch type entrance that;
a) allows guard bees to ambush unwanted guests.
b) is easily closed for moving.
c) can easily be reduced for over wintering.
d) does not allow for flying directly into the hive. This is needed to help keep unwanted guests out.
5) Eliminates or allows the bees to regulate high humidity.
6) Has built in temporary comb storage to allow for easier manipulation and inspection of the hive.
7) Can be "supered" with standard foundation type honey supers.
8) Brood chamber can be expanded easily.
9) Has open or mite screened bottom that can easily be reduced for over winter.
10) Is particularly suited for keeping more aggressive or "African" strains of bees.
11) Allows for a more natural hive development.
12) Honey can be harvested without disturbing the brood.
13) Aggressive bees can be relegated to the brood chamber to allow honey harvest with NO bees flying free to harass the keeper.
14) Up to 10 of these hives can easily be loaded in a US standard 8 foot pickup bed.

Other items:
1) A feeder that can feed either liquid bee feed or honey or solid fondant type food.
2) Rack to fit into a pickup truck to allow for greater ease in movement of hives.
3) Harvesting devices that allow for greater ease and faster harvest times.
4) Modifications to existing harvesting equipment to allow top bars.

Now after 2 years of development I can say that the only thing that has changed is # 6 or the built in temp comb storage. I sacrificed that in favor of making the hive easier to build. After all temp. storage devices should also be temporary, no? I also think # 10 is a misstatement. This hive is suited for all types of bees, especially Africanized honey bees. I can see no reason why a few simple modifications would make this hive perfect for smaller bees like some of the special species in South America that are being farmed for medicinal purposes.

In the other item section I have dropped trying to modify existing harvesting gear. and rack to fit a pickup truck is no longer needed.

By and large the design is simpler, easier and quicker to build. Along with these streamlining design changes came greater flexibility and ease of regional modifications.

I wish I had a trusted bee keeping partner to share the new design. Most people I share it with think I am crazy for keeping bees. They can't seem to get past that and have only casual obligatory praise for "The Best Bee Hive, Ever!"

Google Sketchup

Well I did it.

I learned to use Google Sketchup. I can't say I am a professional but I did create a 3D rendering of my hive.

While working with my brother on my hive earlier this year it became apparent that I needed a drawing. I didn't think I had the skills to create one but now that is all history.

Now when I get help building they will know what I am trying to accomplish and things should go much faster.

I would like to put 8 of these hives in production in the spring.

I did discover how flexible this design is from the 3d rendering. With little effort a person can adapt this design to their personal tastes quite easily.

For example, I designed for 19" top bars. But if you like 18" or 17" or whatever length it is an easy change. If you want wicker or natural fiber sides that is an easy switch. If you like end or middle hive entrance that is an easy switch. How tall do you like your hive or how long do you want it? Almost every dimension is easily changed.

I am once again excited about this hive design. I am still hoping an experienced beekeeper will come on board to help in the real world testing next year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hive Inspection

I may be moving my hives that are at my secondary location. This is the same location that the Chupacabra got into one of my hives last year, see the crime scene post. This year I have no honey. In fact I am worried about the survival of the hive over winter.

There is supposed to be a second honey run in Sept October here in Texas so I am hoping they will make enough honey for the winter. I may need to start feeding them now, but I want to wait and see if they can make it on their own.

A few weeks back I stopped by and found a major pile of dead bees under my hive. I thought that maybe it had been sprayed by the pest control company. They had sprayed the yard a couple weeks before. It very will may have. But they assured me that they have nothing that will kill bees on their regular trucks. "If you want us to spray for bees we have send different people with different chemicals", they said. Reguardless, I did not see any bees flying that day, while they should have been. I had written them off as gonners.

Oh, and I didn't ask for the yard to be sprayed. The story is too long for here. I was upset when I learned of the spaying but could do nothing.

Now back to your previously started story. Yesterday, I decided to go and assess the damage. I was surprised at what I found. A hive full of bees. No honey to speak of and no pollen to speak of but a lot of bees. So I started digging.

Frame after frame of empty comb came out of my topbar hive. the comb was all dark and well walked over. Eventuall I found a few little spots of honey and a few specks of pollen. As I continued I found very little capped or open brood. At this point I felt like this was a lost cause but I kept digging.

In the end I counted 19 bars of comb. I did eventually find some brood and several queen cells. I even spotted the queen. She was not the marked clipped queen I started the hive with so they must have already requeened themself.

It looks like either they don't have enough food source to survive, or their queen failed or got sprayed, or for some other reason they barely made it through the summer. What ever the cause they don't have much in the way of food stores.

But the queen is rite. There were spots of brood scattered across several brood combs and each had a queen cell or two. Then near the entrance was a tight cluster in the center of a couple bar of comb. It was on two bars but 3 sides working from the entrance. There was plenty of young and uncapped brood too. So it would seem they have survivied whatever the disaster and are on the mend.

I need to check them again each week for a while to see how they are preparing for winter. I hope I don't need to move them. I really don't have a new place. I guess I better get one, just in case.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Small Hive Beetle SHB

I have just envisioned an update to my hive. I hope it will give the bees fewer Small Hive Beetles to deal with. I got my idea from the University of Florida Entension video on small hive beetles.

Everyone interested in controling this pest should review their site.

More to come. This is only a minor update to the overall design.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pulled honey today

Yep, I pulled honey from one of my hives today. The bucket must weight 85 pounds! WOW! Out of a single topbar hive. I still need to crush and strain but I just about strained my back moving the bucket. I will update with pictures and actual amounts when I get the honey separated. There is a lot of very nice comb that will make very nice comb honey.

One thing I can say is that the line of wax down the center of a topbar is not perfect. I would say 80% of the comb was attached to the right bar but that 20% that wasn't sure made a mess. But like I said in my last post I have a new topbar designed that should fix that.

And I still have wardrobe issues. I am not sure how people can work their hives without protective gear. My gloves alone had over 10 stings each. None got through and that is a good thing. Remember last year when bees got in my bonnet?

Well, I ordered a new suite and veil. The one I ended up with requires a hat. I got one of those safari type hats that seems to be standard issue for bee keepers. The veil has an elastic band to slip down over the top of the hat and the bottom zips to the suite. I like the set up. There is a problem with the hat, the inner band would allow the hat to slip up from my skull when I leaned over the hive. I was afraid it would at the least open a spot the bees could get in, and at the worst fall down inside my veil and pull the elastic band down to my chin. So I substituted a standard industrial hard hat for the little safari type I ordered from the bee people. In general that set up worked quite well. The hard hat has an adjuster on the back so one can sinch it down after putting the hat on.

I then duct taped the elastic to the hard hat for extra insurance it would not slip off. Also, here in Houston when I pulled honey at 6:45 in the morning it was 85 with about 80% humidity so I felt sweat inside the veil might be an issue. There is nothing worse than sweat dripping into your eyes when you have no way way to wipe them. So I purchased a motorcycle type "do-rag" that had extra terry cloth in the band. Combining the do-rag with the standard foam sweat absorber already in the hat seemed like a good idea, not particularly innovative or stylish but effective.

All was going well. Bees were buzzing this nice loud but familiar warning sound and were bouncing off the veil. No stings getting though, and opening the hive was moving right along. It was a bit unnerving at first when the bees got near my ears. I could feel the air flow from their wings but after the initial shock it actually was refreshing.

The hive was PACKED! Wall to wall and end to end full on honey. I have calculated the volume to be almost equal to two Lang brood boxes and two honey supers. I have developed a system that should allow me to pull honey almost as fast as pulling two honey supers. This system does assume the comb is straight and only on one topbar. As I said above that 20% sure made things slow and messy but I did adapt and within about 30 minutes I had 15 bars pulled. (I realize this is an eternity for pulling supers off a lang but this time was greatly reduced from last year) As I pulled the last bar I realized too late that it had some serious side attachments and I pulled the topbar off leaving most of the comb inside the hive.

This left me cutting the comb out a chunk at a time and tossing it into the bucket. I guess the new position I took along side of the hive allowed my left ear to brush against the mesh of my veil. BAM! that all too familiar heat and pain of a honey bee sting right on top of my ear. MAN I HATE that! Now the bees around that ear went it to frenzy mode. The familiar buzz turned into a high pitched almost ring. Then before I could move much, BAM a second sting. Now I had to do something. So I made some slight adjustments to the veil and my ear was no longer against the mesh but that high pitched buzz was growing louder by the minute as more bees were moving in for the kill. It was about this time that I decided my honey pull was over for the day. My bucket was almost full :D

I will go back in a few weeks, when my bucket is empty, to inspect and see if there is any more honey that I can pull.

Now my left ear is noticeably bigger than my right, slightly red and hot to the touch. It is quite a funny sight really.

Next time I will tuck my big ears inside the do-rag and maybe increase the diameter of the brim on the ol' hard hat. By the way, the hard hat stayed put for entire session and the do-rag did keep the sweat out of my eyes.

But man my ear hurts!

Friday, July 9, 2010

New thoughts and designs

I get hits from time to time on other sites on old, old posts. I love when people reply and I try to take their comments serious. I often find I question the motive but I try to reply honestly and over look any underlying motive.

In a recent post the patent was brought to my attention. The subject was my Langtroth to topbar converter. But digging into the patent I found a possible solution to ventilation in a topbar hive.

After revisiting my design on the converter I have decided it probably would cause more problems than it solves. So I doubt I will use it. It still might work but it would take some redesign and I will revisit that or if the time arises.

But reading the patent I saw a very possible solution to the problem with air movement inside of a topbar hive. I addressed this in my first design but after a couple of years in production I realized that my idea did not work as well as hoped. I think it does work but not quite as well as this one will. I would like to know to contact the patent owner. I will move forward and incorporate this design into my topbar and maybe the owner will contact me.

In the process of reading and understanding this patent I had a new design for the top of my hive pop into my head. I am excited about the new top.

I am not sure if I mentioned here but I have the hive designed to fit multiple hives on a common US pallet. This new top will allow them stack much better. I have always planned to have the hives stackable. But each iteration brought changes to the way they stacked. The biggest problem was, stability after being stacked. I think this new design has resolved the stability issue and is the perfect solution for this hive. But time will tell if I am right and if it will actually work as expected.

I really believe I am on it now. Wahoo!!

However, this would really take less time if I could convince an experienced bee keeper to work with me. If any of you out there know someone who might be willing please contact me off line.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Absent but not gone

My real job has kept me so busy I barely have time to visit my family. So posting has been forgotten.

I was able to inspect the hives about a month ago. All looked well. I currenly have a hive that the bees are "bearding" at the entrance. I need to get in and take a look but for now I am swamped at work. I hope they don't swarm before I can get to them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Scene of the crime

I am not sure when this happened but some varmit ate one of my bee hives.

Here are the photos.

I measured the comb a bit for future reference.

What a mess. That was just the first year for this topbar hive. Amazing just how much work they put into this hive only to have it destroyed by some critter.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I spend the afternoon working on the hive box. I must say that over all I am frustrated that the work didn't go faster and I still don't have a working model of the top or bottom but I finally have the outside dimentions where I want them. Plus I fixed the issue with my last attempt and now the standard 19" topbar will now fit. While there are no official standard length of the topbar there is a regulation in Florida that all bee hives must have 19" frames. So I decided that would the my standard length.

While I do have both the top and bottom all drawn up in my head I still do not have them translated into wood. I hope to get another day soon to put the finishing touches together.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feeling the pressure of spring.

Spring is on the cusp here in Houston. I am feeling the pressure to get my new hives completed and my hives set for the new year. I have everything worked out on paper to complete this hive design. I believe it is finally done. I just need some time to complete the physical build.

Once this build is complete I will be able to put the entire plan into an assembly line type production. So I can get a cost analysis done.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finished the new prototype

I worked with my brother, who is a carpenter, for several hours the other day to put together what I hope is my final design. I can't tell you how incredible the difference is. Nice strait lines and perfect angles. It is a marvelous thing to behold.

My brother only complained a couple of times when I changed something I had just told him to make. The biggest problem was that the design was only in my head and I didn't have measurements. At the end of the day the design is simple and easy to replicate. With this is built that we can take measurements from the next ones will go quickly.

Points to note.
1) The top bars are about 3/8 of an inch shorter so moving from my last hive to this will be problematic.
2) I used solid wood for the sides instead of plywood. This was because so many people worry about chemical leaching. This should give the hive better insulating R factor while only slightly reducing the interior volume. Ultimately any material could be used for the sloping sides of the KTBH even wicker or other weaving material. This would allow for a high tech skelp type hive.
3) I currently do not have an observation window. It could be added.
4) The hive has 31 top bars and is about 13 inches deep.

Now I need to make the top, bottom and follower boards.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New hives

I got the wood tonight to build the new hives. I should have time to work on them next week. YaHoo!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Markets

I love the market economy.

Within the last year several people have started selling pre-made topbar hives. For quite some time before I developed "The Best Topbar Hive, EVER" I had been looking for someplace to buy one. In fact the driving force behind my developing this design was that a person could not just simply buy a TBH like they could for the conventional hives. Those days are over. I found at least 4 people selling them.

This is quite good news for me. It verifies that there is a need in the market for pre-built topbar hives. I am of course making the assumption that they are actually selling them. Just because something is listed for sale does not necessarily mean that they are selling, or that the person selling them is making any money. As I don't have a way to verify if they are selling or profitable I must assume that they are. WAAA HOOO!

More faith in the market, I have.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Life Happens

I have been so involved with life and my real job that beekeeping and blogging about beekeeping has been the last things on my mind. But I just got my new beekeeping suit in the mail and that focused my attention.

Yes I just got my new suit. Between my own feeble attempts to make this new purchase happen to back orders and I guess time of year, maybe, it has taken forever to get that new suit. But now I am ARMED with protection. I have no fear again!! Well I never had fear but I didn't like the bees inside my hat. The new set up should work just fine.

I have slightly reworked my hive design and I hope to get several of them built before spring. Which for around here is in a month or so. We had a nice little snow the other day and it has been too cold for the bees to fly. But they were still flying and feeding from my humming bird feeders until last Friday.

I guess I can say without revealing too much that my new design has focused on enabling the keeper to move the hives easier for pollination work. This new design fits nicely on a pallet and stacks or stays stacked better. I had trouble with the legs of the first hive not supporting even and empty hive while stacked very well. They work well enough when the hive is on its own but when stacked they became very unstable. This would be disastrous during a move.

I did have to sacrafice the built in comb holders. Those things were nice and made for easy work of inspecting a the hive. But alas, they had to go and another solution will have to be rendered. But that should not prove to challenging.

My hope and plan is to build the new designs and then in the spring transfer the hive into the new box while at the same time attempting to split them. I think if I can get the weather right I should be able to pull this off. Moving the hive to a new box will be very tramatic and will take the hive quite some time to recover. I am thinking that if I also split the brood at that time both halves will recover and the hive without a queen will raise one.

In the end my updated design places two hives per pallet and gives the ability to stack pallets and hives for moving and storage.

I have also been working on the design feature that allows the keeper to adjust the size of the brood chamber. As I am new to beekeeping I am not sure how useful this will be but it will be easy to do.

I have been integrating bee doors and bee space to to give better control over the bees in the hive. So things like queen excluders can be added or simple things to block workers from the honey bars just before harvest. These items may not be of much use to keepers of European bees but of great worth to those who keep Africans. If it works this should allow the keeper to have access to the hive for as long as he/she wants regardless how aggressive the hive is. In fact if this works like I plan I will turn the bees aggression against them. It will not harm them but the more agressive they act the more bees that will be blocked from the keeper during hive the honey harvest. This should greatly increase the speed that the hive can be harvested.

I know I have dumped my brain here and it is probably hard to follow but just because I have not been working the bees does not mean I have not been working the bees, if you know what I mean.

While the winter is upon us and it is hive building time I hope to get several build before spring.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bee in my bonnet

I harvested honey from 2 of my three hives and in both cases I had a couple of bees get under my veil, what fun that was.

With the first hive I only got one sting with only one bee getting through. On the second hive those bees are quite creative and I ended with 7 total bees inside my veil, 3 stings and 4 dead bees. Well I guess there was 7 dead by the end but 4 I got first. They didn't all get in at once. They came in one or two at a time. It was when they teamed up that they got me. I would get one but the other would get me. I may requeen that hive in the spring, just because.

I have a new suite ordered and will use it to harvest from the last hive.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Langstroth to Topbar conversion

If you read the history on this blog you will remember my work in a bee yard this spring. For my efforts I was offered a couple of the hives. One of the reasons I didn't take any was I didn't have knowledge of an efficient way to move the bees from the Langstroth hive to the Topbar. There are many ideas and several people have been successful at making the bees move to the different format. But with my limited time to manage a hive I didn't think I would be able to make the transition successful

Moving bees from one hive to another is nothing new. This is not really that difficult. You basically take the frames, in the case of Langstoth, topbars, in the case of those hives and put them in another. The problem is that the Langstroth frame will not fit nicely into a topbar hive. So it is not that simple to change formats.

Generally speaking to change formats you want the bees abandon their brood to move into and build new comb in the topbar hive. But the brood is the most valuable asset to a hive and they don't abandon them. In fact it is almost impossible. So to successfully move formats you have to move the bees through several steps.
1) Get the queen and most of the bees into the new hive.
2) Allow the bees that tend the brood access to them.
3) Allow the hatching brood access to the queen and the rest of the hive.
4) Make the queen stop using that brood comb to continue laying.

Successful moves usually entail turning the brood comb upside down after moving as many of the bees and queen into the topbar hive.

SOOO I finally got some time to think about this situation. After working through several possible solutions. My first was to build a special hive that has a place for Langstroth frames at one end and KTBH bars on the other. I thought it would be a cool looking hive but a bit too complex for this project. So I decided to leave that project to others to work out the details expressly how to make it "bee tight" with the Lang frames. There were other managment issues that were too numerous to keep that as a serious design.

In the end, I think I have come to a very simple solution. It is just a modified Langstroth hive top cover and a small box with two holes.

The idea is to take the complete brood box of the Lanstroth and place it on top of a topbar hive and force the bees through the topbar hive to exit. This is a temporary situation and should be completed in a about 3 or 4 weeks so I took no thought about making the hive water tight. In other words you will have to cover the hive with something like a tarp to keep the water out until the process is complete.

The key to the success is the strategic application of a one way bee door and/or a queen excluder and smoke. I had this type in mind but I am sure anything will work.

The top of a Langstroth hive seals or covers the hive body completely and if you sandwich the hive body with two tops the bees would be trapped and not able to get out. This is not necessarily a good thing but it will allow us to force them through my trap door.

So you build a small box with a hole the same size as the opening in the bee door. You will add the bee door later. Attach that box to one of the tops that will become the bottom. By attaching this to the bottom it will hang just below or down into the topbar hive when the Langstroth is placed on top. Now drill a hole in the top and down into the box that is attached. This basically creates an exit to the Langstroth that is lower than the bottom of the topbars.

You may also want to create a hole in the hive body then cork it up so you can apply smoke later.

So the move from Langstroth to topbar should be in several steps.
1) Place the modified top on your topbar hive in position to become the bottom of your Lanstroth hive. This should not take the entire length of your topbar hive so complete the rest of the length with prepared topbars. This is just like you would for a package of bees.
2)Grab the Langstroth hive and set it on top of the modified top. Put a normal top on it.
3) Leave the hive for a week or two until the bees figure out how to get out of their new entrance and start producing again. In a perfect world they would feel crowded without honey supers and start to build comb on the topbars. In a more perfect world the queen would start laying in the new comb. Since those are both highly unlikely the next steps will most likely be needed.
4) Add the bee door to the entrance or exit as the case may be of the modified top and then close the topbar hive.
5) Smoke the Langstroth hive body real good. This should drive the queen and most of the bees into the new topbar hive. You may want to add a queen excluder to topbar hive entrance / exit so you will not drive the queen all the way out of the hive. Thus trapping her in the new topbar hive.
6) Over the next few weeks continue to check the brood. As they hatch they should move on thier own into the topbar hive to be with the queen. If not add smoke if necessary to encourage them.
7) When all brood has hatched and moved into the topbar hive you can remove the old Lanstroth hive, harvest what you can and add topbars in place of the modified top.
8) After the topbar hive is queen right remove the queen excluder from the topbar hive entrance.

I will only know if this works when someone builds this and reports back. I hope between my instructions and the drawing you will understand what I am trying to accomplish. If you have questions please ask.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I took about 20 minutes out of my work week to stop by the Walker Honey Company in Rogers Texas.

Cool place. They have been in business for 3 generations. I tried to pick their brain as much as I could in the time that I had. Bottom line they said the business is not easy and I should reconsider trying to make a business out of it. It is a nice hobby and could make a little money but that is about it.

They said they do not treat for SHB mostly because they don't see much of them and he thinks it is due to the soil not being good for the beetle. He said he can take a hive void of beetles closer to the water (coast, river bottoms) and it only takes hours and you can see the beetles flying into the hive. However, for the most part the bees keep them at bay.

I asked about mites. He said that queen selection is the solution. Basically some bees are less prone to mites and those queens are the ones to select. If mites become a problem re-queen.

I guess this is the normal with all businesses they do not produce all of their products. Plus they have a T-SHIRTS. I almost bought one. The quotes on the shirts "Drone: Eat, Mate, Die" "Queen: I RULE"