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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.