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Monday, May 25, 2009

New spot for hives.

Hey I just located a small farmer, about 20 acres who has been trying to get beekeepers to put bees on his place but no one will. Don't know why, but I hope to get a couple of hives on his place soon.
His main crop is blackberry's but all of the things he has planted require pollinators. I am excited about the chance to have a place to set up a nice bee yard. It will give me a chance to build a new hive boxes to work out a few more of the kinks in my design. By the time I get these built I should be ready to take the design public.

I currently have three versions built. Version 1 has bees in it and those are were my bee pictures are from. Version 2 and 3 have serious flaws and I am not sure if I will put bees in them. If I do I will need some modifications. I may just take them apart and use the lumber for version 4.

I built version 2 and 3 in a rush and I made some calculation errors. Couple the speed at which I was working on these boxes with the facts that 1 I do not enjoy woodworking and 2 I am not very good at it and you get hive boxes that are seriously flawed and are basically unusable.

However, I was successful in working out better legs and a more compact design that will be better in the long run. So even though I did not succeed in making functional hives I did succeed in learning a lot.

My basic hive design has not changed I just need to make them more "commercial" friendly. I also wish I could draw things on the computer easier so I could transfer my design to the computer. I guess I will have to do it the old fashion way, with a pencil. lol. What I really need is someone who likes to do woodworking and has the skill to makes these things.

I am still driven to transfer this design to some type of mass production setting so I can just buy them in the future. Oh wait, if I mass produce them I will not have to buy them. But maybe others will and more people will get into keeping bees.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What a difference a week makes.

As I watched the hive cam this week I noticed that the bees were building, building, building so I opened the hive and snapped a couple pictures. I tried to get the same angles as last week to see the progress but didn't really do so good. I like the pictures but they don't seem to be at the perfect angles.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quick look inside the hive

I went for a quick look inside the hives and snapped a couple of pictures.  

The bees look to be on track for a first year hive.  This is the natural formation of a beehive.  From all of the pictures I have seen of honey bee hives that are "in the wild" it appears that they build a ball shaped hive, or 1/2 ball with the top being flat.  In fact they look like the classic skelp or bell shaped hive, the difference is that the skelp is upside down.  So a "natural" comb pattern is basically semi-circle.  The bees then build progressivly shorter comb on each side until the entire hive ends up looking like a ball.  The pictures I took today seem to bear this out. 

Other interesting notes about topbar hives is that the sides are sloped at just the right angle so the bees believe the sides are floor or bottom.

So if you look on the side of the hive in the pictures the bees are walking on the floor.  This is not to say that bees can't walk on any surface, they can in fact walk on just about anything at any angle.  While it looks like the comb is attached to the wall on the right it really isn't.  The bees build comb to within "1 bee space" of the floor and there is 1 bee space between each comb.  To read more on what bee space is and who discovered it go here 
then link here for more on the topbar hive.

Bee Feeder

Here is what I am using as feeder. Bee feeding is over for this season but one of the great things about this feeder is I will be able to use it as a waterer. Bees need a clean water source near the hive.

There is a common bee feeder called a boardman feeder. The biggest problem with this feeder is that unless the bees clean up the feed quickly it will leak into the bottom of the hive and make a mess. The good news is that bees usually clean up the feed very quickly so the boardman feeder is simple and has worked great for many years.

The problem with many other attempts to build a better feeder is that they usually drown more bees than they feed. So I thought about this whole idea of feeding bees sugar water and keeping them from drowning.

So the idea came to me that if the water was shallow enough the bees could get out and not drown. The water bottle developed and sold by so many people work great at keeping the water or in this case sugar water bee feed from dripping into the bottom of the hive. The trick was to make the water shallow enough for the bees.

ROCKS. The work great. I did not drown one bee and they were drinking the 1/2 gallon of feed in about 3 days. I was surprised at how quick they drank the stuff but no lie they emptied the bottle every 3 days. I kept the feeders full for about 2 weeks after the new install. I will convert them to water soon. Right now there is more water around than we can deal with, rain, rain, rain.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I gave the bees a rest for Mother's day. Actually I just decided to leave them alone and it turned out to be Mothers day.

All I did this weekend was look at them through the hive cam. They look like they are progressing well.

I will open the hive next weekend just for a quick look and add more room to get ready for the first "honey flow" of the year. A honey flow is when plants that they bees use to create honey are in bloom. They make honey and collect pollen all year but there are a couple of weeks were they really make most of their honey for the year. And the first one normally starts today, May 10 and least here in Spring Texas.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

2009 bee install

Well I finally got around to posting the pictures of the installs for this year. I did pare them down to a series of pictures that walk through the process. I hope you will enjoy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Worked in a bee yard

I posted a few weeks back that I had contacted a local beekeeper and he agreed I could help. Well I got a chance. It is a long story and I learned a great deal.

What started out as about 100 bee hives were condensed into about 45. Interesting process but there was no consideration for the bees or any type of preservation of genetic groups. We basically checked to see if the hive had bees and about how many. Then swapped and combined hive bodies and honey supers to create a similar height pallet of 4 hives then loaded them on a truck. It was a big mix and match game, much like a shell game.

First, all of the hives were sitting on converted pallets. Each pallet had 4 hives on it. So we went through the yard from one side to the other and opened the top and/or tilted the to look under the bottom. Then started removing and combining pallets and hive boxes until we had combined as many of them as we could to make the same height pallets. When we were done they loaded about 45 hives onto a flatbed truck with a fork lift. Then wrapped the whole thing in a netting and off the drove.

This left about 5 or 10 colonies that were either week or were in odd sized boxes. There were a bunch of wooden boxes left out there and a lot of foundation frames with honeycomb.

I guess this is not a normal process. They had to do this because the yard had been neglected. I guess the guy picking up the bees had agreed he would pay only for full healthy hives and did not want the old or weak stuff. I didn't have time for pictures but it definitely left an impression.

I now know that if I want my hive to be accepted by this type of bee keeper it will need to fit on a pallet and that I need to get 4 hives into the same space as they can get 4 hives. I don't think it would be exact but I think that the benefits of a TBH would be worth the little extra space.

The biggest issue, at least from their prospective, is that harvesting honey from TBH is not fast enough. So I left with many things to think about.

Bottom line is that I am still committed to building the best Topbar Hive EVER!