Hive tour

temporary positionA quick photo tour of the first hive. This is a Horizontal Top Bar Hive, sometimes called a Kenyan Top Bar Hive but mostly just a Top Bar Hive.

First pic is the hive in the garden, but not in it’s final position, which you have to decide before the bees move in. Once the bees are in residence, they learn exactly where the hive is in relation to it’s immediate surroundings. This means you cannot move it more than about three feet while any bees are out on forage flights as they can’t find the hive when they get back, and as a result will most likely die. Before the bees arrive this hive will be repositioned in the back bit of the garden much further away from houses so as not to alarm the neighbours.

end entrance with alighting boardThese three holes in the end are the entrance. This hive has entrances at both ends, although a single colony only uses one entrance, this feature allows you to house two colonies in the same hive in certain circumstances. The entrance also has an alighting platform, some argue the absence of these helps to deter hive robbers, particularly mice, but it can help you more easily observe activity at the hive entrance, which for a beginner is both exciting and instructional.

The entrance on the other end is currently sealed using the highly technical device of three corks from wine bottles. A moveable bee-tight board is fitted between the two colonies to keep them separate.

sliding floorThis TBH has a mesh floor and cover boards. The Mesh allows ventilation, the boards, fitted like drawers allow you to close the mesh over in the coldest bit of winter (or as late as mid March as we seem to be finding this year) to help the bees keep warm. Also the drawers can be fitted with a temporary sticky surface which will catch varroa mites, a common parasite, dislodged from the bees during grooming. Detached mites fall through the mesh floor, stick to whatever you use and allow you to count the numbers and estimate the population of mites in the hive and decide whether an appropriate course of treatment is necessary.

top bars showing reinforcing rodsThe top bars. These are what the bees build their comb on, in this case they have been fitted with reinforcing rods to help strengthen the comb and prevent it breaking away with the weight of honey, a rare but not unknown problem. Another benefit of the increased comb strength is to resist clumsy handling by the beginner beekeeper… Unlike the frames and foundation of a National hive (or any of the similar designs) Comb on a top bar does not have a rigid square frame, or a foundation of man-made beeswax re-inforced by wire. It is natural comb built entirely by the bees from the wax they make themselves, but it is only attached along the bar, so handling of the comb has to be along the axis of strength, if you tip it sideways, especially if there is any weight of honey in it, the comb will snap or break off the bar, pretty major disaster.

Inspection window uncoveredBest of all the whole of one side of the hive has an inspection window with a removable wooden cover. The cover is in place most of the time as it keeps the hive warm and the light out, which the bees prefer. The window allows some viewing of what the bees are up to without opening up the hive. This is particularly important because every time the roof is removed and the top bars lifted, heat and scent (pheremones) escape the hive, an atmosphere the bees can spend many days trying to recreate. This stresses them and uses up energy, all of which make them weaker and more prone to disease… So us eager beginners who can’t resiste checking on our bees more regularly than is advisable get a way of doing it which has minimum impact on the colony.

More in due course for those with perseverance and stamina 🙂

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