Peter's Top Bar Hive
A beginners trials and tribulations
May 2007 Started
Location - Prince Albert Saskatchewan Canada
Hello, this is my foray into beekeeping. I became very interested in bees when I was in my teens and was working for a farmer who kept a few hives. Fast forward 35 years to present day and I have rekindled the 'bug' in a round-about way. My father started making wine kits ..... with so-so results, so I tried. That led to beer which led to mead which led back to bees. I have never had a hobby, and I have had quite a few, that I didn't pursue to the point of 'how did they make that'? Cameras led to the darkroom (showing my age again lol), Boats led to rebuilding a small cabin cruiser from the hull up. Unimpressed with a family fireworks purchase led to my present business and also making them as a hobby when I had the store on the highway and the time to 'burn'. The list is extensive over the years.
Researching beekeeping I was attracted to (T)op (B)ar (H)ives as I am both cursed and blessed with desiring to work just the least amount of time it takes for just enough lucre that is is required to support the lifestyle and interests I like. As it is presently, and with the bonus of a home based business putting on outdoor commercial fireworks shows, it leads to the most time being able to persue MY interests. However, life always being a trade off it means doing for yourself rather than just buying it. But that also fit in with my interest operendi. Therefore TBH's had the attraction of
A - Least need for purchased equipment.
B - Hopefully the most 'organic' as far as pesticides and other things I'd rather not ingest if possible.
C - Concentrate on K.I.S.S. (K)eep (I)t (S)imple (S)tupid.
So armed with a SKIL saw, a doweling jig, a half sheet of 1/4 inch plywood, ten eight foot spruce 1 X 6's, a ten foot spruce 1 X 4, a roll of heavy duty tin foil, and a quart of exterior polyurethane clear, as well as a sheet of 2 inch rigid styrofoam insulation a neighbor graciously donated. I pressed go. Total outlay was somewhere around $45CAN.
This is the first attempt.
It holds 30 (T)op (B)ars that have 17 inch foundation strips inserted into slots for the combs. I settled on 30 as I anticipate (w/o any experience lol) that over wintering will require brood and honey combs to the total of 20 bars, and 10 bars for moi, not being a pig. I hope that is in the ballpark as I tried to anticipate higher than necessary as the honey hopefully will sustain them till the flowers appear in the spring w/o feeding and still will be good if any is left over. The top features the 2 inch rigid styrofoam inside and is covered with heavy duty tinfoil applied over wet poly clear coat with another couple of coats over top hoping to keep the oxidation at bay so reflects solar gain.
That was completed 05.24.07 and the finish has been curing in the sun awaiting some swarm attracting pheromone and a pound of raw filtered beeswax to coat the foundation strips in the TB's to arrive, hopefully in a few days.
Hive 2 is built from 1/4 inch plywood on a 1-1/2 inch square wood frame. Then 1-1/2 inch styrofoam panels were friction fit into the in-sides, top and bottom of MKII. The sides are not sloped as MKI had no problems with attachments to the sides. I made the opening where the TB's sit 1/2 inch longer than the width of the thirty bars as MKI had a small bit of problem with expansion/swelling of the bars which caused a minor buckling till they dried out again. After I had this all thought out and built I got a catalogue from Beesource and they are selling 'new' Langstroth hives made entirely from styrofoam. Henh, maybe we were on the right track all by ourselves. In the catalogue it advertised cool in summer and warm in winter, these were exactly my thoughts when designing MKII. I also put an outer skin of 'Chloroplast' on the top out side of the lid as is a white colored plastic cardboard and couldn't help but think it would help immensely with solar gain. Instead of a series of entrance holes along the long side as in MKI I cut a 5/8 inch by seven inch long slit on the long side towards one end and put a sliding panel on it to be able to restrict the size of the opening if necessary. The (T)op (B)ars are exactly the same dimensions as MKI, thinking as much interchangeability as possible might be wise. The outside is painted in a rust brown acrylic outdoor stain from the mis-tint section.
condensation issues with Hive 2, I will try MKIII which will be 1/4inch
plywood outer skin, rigid fiberglass insulation and then an inner skin
of 1/4 inch plywood as the styrofoan doesn't breath. I will modify Dadent deep frames only difference being the lack of bee space so they can't move up like would happen in a Langstoth style hive, as well as being foundationless.
I have been thinking of what to do with the surplus of products from the hives. I was planning on gifting some jars of honey and making some nice container candles as well as try making some cosmetics with the wax. Some will be reserved for the winter beer making season as I can see 'Honey Lager' is going to be this years recipe to perfect. Dried Malt Extract is about the same price as honey to buy, but if I can make a great beer by substituting half of the malt with my own honey that would sure bring the price of a batch of beer down considerably. In anticipation I started building a website for christmas time sales. Take a look at BeeWare.ca any comments and suggestions are appreciated though not necessarily acted upon.