Blogger Layouts

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"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Reflections and solicitations for help

My real job has been keeping me busy about 60 hours a week one so not much bee keeping has been done lately. I remember reading something way back when, it really put some perspective to my hive design and was from a prominent beekeeper in the late 1700s I think it was around 1780 who said something to the effect that if you were to get a room full of beekeepers you would find that everyone of them had a different idea on the best hive design and best way to keep bees. So I took that to mean that for as long as man has been keeping bees each one has had the best hive design ever. I therefore figure I am in good company.

The biggest rush this spring was mostly due to timing, I didn't want another year to go by without putting my design in use. I wanted to have them across a large climate range but that is all gone now. This year is almost over for starting new hives.

So maybe in the winter when people are building new hives for next year someone will ask and I will share and we can start this project again.

Another website last spring posted a request for hive designs in conjunction with a conservation project. So I designed another little hive I called B cubed or B3. This was nothing like "The Best Hive EVER!" The B3 was just something I put together to trying to conform to the requirements of that project. In areas where you want a strong wild bee population I think it is a wonderful idea. "The conservation Hive" should do just that, increase the wild bee population. The biggest problem with the project here is that the law makers and general population are trying their best to reduce the wild bee population in fear of the AHB (Africanized Honey Bee). The local beekeepers are trying to keep a low profile because they know that the AHB is hybridizing the total bee population and they are not as big of a threat as the general population fears. If there were several of these conservation hives around that were discovered or worse someone got hurt by a hive that had been taken by AHB then there would be a public outcry and it would become open season on bee keepers.

It is too early to really say but I think my "The Best Hive EVER!" will address many of the issues surrounding AHB and keeping them. So in the long run if the AHB does adapt and move further north, people will be able to keep them with similar risk factors as the current breeds. I don't think they will ever get as passive as our current bees but with proper management and continual breeding they will calm down and better suited to deal with the common ailments of today. This is an area that really needs study from research types.

It is not that I think my design is the last word nor will it turn out to be an overwhelming success. In fact I don't think I have any part that is completely revolutionary by its own merits. I do think the combination is unique and should be enough to make a nice profit if produced in mass. Plus I think that the bees will at least as healthy if not more so than with any other designs that has been put forward. In the end it is really about enabling the bees to be healthier and more productive. Being able to mange them and harvest honey is a bonus and making a profit in addition to honey sales would be tops.

The two main issues I face have not changed.
1) I don't have the skills to easily turn my ideas into reality and my hives suffer from poor workmanship. The good here is this means even ppl who have little skill can still make something from these plans that will actually work. Maybe not as good as what a professional can build but good none the less.
2) I don't have much experience with keeping Honeybees so many of my mistakes are associated with this and not the hive design. It is hard to sort out the differences sometimes but there are many good sources that help keep me from totally messing things up.

I am doing the best I can with what I have to work with. I sure wish I could talk someone into helping.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Glass or Plastic

As I am preparing for harvest a decision must be made. This year will only be a small harvest but I still hope to sell a few jars.

So glass or plastic. Personally I like plastic. I live on tile floors and the longer I live here the fewer glass items I have in my house. I watched as one of those supposedly unbreakable glass cooking bowl exploded by my foot a while back. This was an impressive site especially considering that it only fell from about 12 inches off the floor. However, there is mounting evidence that plastic leaches into food and some people do not want their food in plastic.

So are we back to glass? Glass is almost twice as expensive as plastic. You do get discounts on bulk purchase but at the volume I think I will buy some of the jars with lids cost a dollar. That will add a dollar to the price of a jar of honey. The comparable plastic jar is about 50 cent.

Then what about comb honey? I don't see any glass containers that are fit for comb honey. I could put a chunk of comb in the jar but that is not the same.

Decisions decisions, anyone have an opinion?