Top Bar Hives | TBH | Kenya Honeybee Hive
Top bar hives (TBH), were developed for beekeepers in Africa, the TBH combines simplicity, economy and efficiency.Unlike most common designs of modern hive, it does not use frames, rather it uses slats of wood called top bars, which is of course how the hive received it's name.
Instead of filling out frames, the bees build comb from the top bars down. The bar is the only means of support that combs have in this type if hive.
Unlike most other hive designs, the TBH does not impose artificial segregation of the colony by physically dividing honey from brood by use of separate hive bodies, rather the entire hive is made of a single chamber.
Because of the simplicity of the TBH's design, one can be built from readily available salvage materials. In fact the design of a TBH is so adaptable that boxes, 55-gallon-drums, old crates and even dilapidated refrigerators can be used to keep bees. In essence, nearly any large container can be modified to produce a productive honeybee hive.
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For more information about Top Bar Hive kits, click here.
All that is required for a TBH to be successful are fitting top bars, a water and wind tight cover, defensible entrances and healthy bees. It is also important to note that the design of the parts does not need to be precise; as long as they fit into the hive, the bees are happy to use them. They are not usually suitable for migratory beekeeping, moving bees in top bar hives is considerably more difficult than moving Langstroth hives, but unlike the Langstroth style of hive, the TBH does not require heavy lifting of hive bodies or supers.
It has been said by some that manage both TBH and Langstroth hives that managing TBHs is more pleasant, as the bees are less stressed when worked and less likely to exhibit defensive behavior.
The combs on a TBH can be manipulated a few at a time instead of one by one. Less disturbance means that inspections expose a much smaller segment of the hive at any given time. Bees in and on the unexposed portion of the hive tend not to notice the beekeeper's intrusion and as a result seem not to become particularly aggressive.
The result of honey production in top bar hives is, by default, comb which is often considered more valuable than extracting honey by honey connoisseurs. If desired however, a honey press can be used to produce liquid honey, such as that produced by an extractor.
Because the bees completely build the comb without using a foundation, top bar hives produce natural sized brood cells, which are advantageous for mite control.
Because they are managed differently to framed hives, inasmuch as honey tends to be harvested a little at a time rather than all at once, top bar hives are less attractive to the commercial beekeeper, who wants to maximize profits by minimizing time spent in harvesting. Other than that, top bar hives have no real disadvantages over framed hives, especially for the smaller-scale beekeeper.
During seasons with heavy nectar flow, beekeepers may need to harvest honeycombs more often to prevent the hive from becoming honey bound.
There exist no real standards for top bar hives, because of this the beekeeper must be responsible for construction of the TBH. However, the existence of standards has frozen the development of beekeeping sometime in the nineteenth century, so this is hardly a disadvantage.
On the contrary, the fact of there being no standards has encouraged creative experimentation among top bar beekeepers, who many now regard as being at the leading edge of beekeeping development.
There is a belief among framed-hive beekeepers that TBHs are less productive, but no evidence for this has been produced. Wax production, on the other hand, tends to be higher, as comb is not returned to the hive after extraction. This, in itself, is beneficial in terms of disease control, as no potentially disease spore-bearing comb finds its way back into the hive.
Because no foundation is used in comb production, there is no reinforcement other than what the bees create. This means that new comb must be handled carefully to avoid breakages.
Overall the TBH is something which every beekeeper should experiment with at some time, just for the experience, Click here to find out more.