Posts Tagged ‘topbar hive’

Back in February I ordered a 4 lb package of honeybees with queen for my second hive.  I had built it two years ago but only got one going last year, so it has been sitting empty in the yard.  Well, they arrived today…. all 14,000 or so of them!  ( no, I didn’t count them all…. I’m going to take their word for it )  They are “Russian Carnolian” honeybees from a company in California called “Honeybee Genetics”  According to them, the bees are a “gentle gray black bee resistant to mites. They overwinter well and build up fast in the spring”.   I had gone in with a number of other beekeepers on the order, and got a group shipping discount.  By late afternoon, I was ready to install them in their new home.  The first thing I did was to get a fresh comb from my first hive to put in the empty new hive to give the bees something to start off with.   I picked out a beautiful comb filled with some capped honey at the top and pollen scattered throughout.   The box of bees comes with a can of sugar water to keep them fed during the trip.  The queen is in a small cage.  So I removed the can ( it was almost empty ) and then took out the queen bee in her cage and checked to see that she was OK. I quickly closed up the hole in the box to keep the bees in.  Then I removed the plastic cap from the sugar tube  and hung the queen cage from one of the top bars next to the comb.  The idea is that the workers will eat through the sugar on the way to get to the queen.  It will take about three days.  By then, the workers will have accepted her.  When she gets out , she will begin to lay eggs and the colony will begin to grow. So far, so good. I took a deep breath then grabbed the box of bees, turned it upside down and shook out all the bees into the hive.  A few remained in the box, so I set it on the ground, put the remaining bars on top of the hive, covered it and watched as all the bees that were buzzing around the hive  flew right in to their new home.  Within 15 minutes they were all inside. Amazing!  I was pleased that it all went so smoothly, they seemed to be OK with their new digs and I didn’t even get stung.

I will leave them alone for 5 days ( I put a container of sugar water in the hive box for them to drink while they are getting their bearings ) then go in and check on them.  If all goes well, the queen will be out of her cage ( I’ll remove it from the hive)  and will be laying eggs in the new comb.  Stay tuned!

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Checking the topbar hive

Langstroth hives

Last Sunday I spent 6 hours with my bee mentor Steve Wall at a class for beginning beekeeping.  There were 15 of us in the class…some folks already had bees but most of us were total beginners.  He demonstrated both types of hives: Langstroth and Topbar hives.  The Langstroth hive is the classic box that we are all familiar with. It was invented by Rev. L.L. Langstroth in the 1850’s.  Before this, bees were kept in conical straw baskets or hollowed out logs. The Langstroth hive had removable frames in which bees built the honeycomb and raised brood and filled the comb with honey. This really increased honey production and has been the standard for beekeepers since.

Recently a different type of hive has been developed that imitates the natural hollowed out logs that bees tend to live in.  It’s a horizontal box with bars on the top ( that’s why it is called a topbar hive) on which the bees build comb.

We learned that the Langstroth hive will produce more honey, but many bee hobbyists prefer the topbar as they are a bit easier to work with, and many folks feel that it allows the bees to create comb of their liking rather than forcing the bees to conform to a rigid standard. Both are good, and  I will be using the topbar hive.


He covered the A to Z of bees, and I feel very confident about venturing into this project. We all watched up close and personal as Steve opened up the hives to show us what was going on inside the hive. He pointed out the queen and we watched her work her way over the comb laying eggs in the empty cells.

Steve showing us the queen bee

He showed us the drones ( male bees) and we even found a queen cell, although it was empty.  The best part of it was how calm the bees were. Notice that none of us were wearing  a veil or gloves…..keeping calm and moving in a slow deliberate manner is a must. It really helped to allay our fears of getting stung. ( But I will still wear my veil when I start with the bees, for sure!)  One more month and I’ll have my bees.

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