Thoughts on my TBH

Yes, this is partly to keep it straight in my own mind. So, self-generated Q&A – and if others ask, I’ll add to this.

Why a TTBH? (Expansion. TBHs come in two general styles – slab side and angle side. The former are Tanzanian – TTBH -and the latter are Kenyan – KTBH.) Two reasons. First and least, ease of construction. Don’t get me wrong, the angle side – especially with Michael Bush’s method – is also dead easy. But he uses 12 inch slabs, while I’m using home-made planks. More importantly, relative space. The angle cuts off too much for my comfort. And since pretty much every reference says that the hoped for gain of using angled sides – minimized side adherence – doesn’t happen… shrug. More complex, top heavy, lost room, and no real gain in the adhesions? TTBH it is.

Why these dimensions? Several reasons. First, lots of reading – biobees, backyardbees, bush, plus ABC&XYZ – all indicate that a sustainable and harvestable hive size has a volume of between three medium and three large supers. A medium super (interior 14.5 x 18 x 6) has 1566 cubic inches (nominal), and a deep super (14.5 x 18 x 9) has 2349 cubic inches (nominal). So I need between 4700 and 7050 cubic inches. I already know I’m using 48 and 14 internal, so the question is depth. I reach the three mediums with just under 7 inches of depth, and three deep is 10.5 inches. ( hmmm, I just realized I can cut down the sides by a board. That cheers me immensely in many ways. anyway…)

The second reason for the dimensions is the width. Yes, I know I’ve said “adhesions happen”, but there are other mechanisms for making them not as common. One of those is the amount of honey each bar is carrying. By shortening the bar somewhat I get less comb, and so less honey, and so less weight. Adhesions are there to stabilize and to support. Bees don’t unless they have to. So… I’m hoping this will solve that as well. (I just realized a second advantage of going to 8 inch depth. More bonus…)

Major disadvantage of the dimensions? I won’t be able to cross-run with standard frames. The standard frame assumes a bar of 19 inch length, of which about half an inch is barely hanging on each side. I’m using 16 inch bars and “worse” I’ve got almost a whole inch on each side. That just won’t fit – I can’t move my bars to a standard Langstroth, nor can I pull Langstroths to my TBH. That said, as long as I’m “building my own”, I can call my own standard width.

What problems concern me? The fact that I’m doing this in an “urban” back yard. I’ve this lovely isolated pocket of my yard that will hold the box. But it’s only about 30 feet to the swimming pool. And it’s within 15 feet of the neighbor fence. And I’ve dogs who run about the yard, who while they’ll probably leave it alone might not. Finally, I have an annual frog frenzy that lasts two or three months. So what am I doing about my worries?

About the swimming pool, I’m doing two things. First, I’m going to have a separate water dish for the bees. Small “pond” with some floating thingies – sticks, etc. Due to things I’ve been told elsewhere, it’ll be chlorinated to control problems. One cap of bleach for every gallon of water if I’m using runoff, or just straight tapwater if not. I’ll have to make sure the dogs can’t get at it. sigh. Second, one of my summer projects is a deck. I’ll put a fly-screen up between it and the hive location. That’ll force flyover, which will help further in keeping the bees and my family separated.

The flyscreen is the solution for the neighbor, too, except it’s already in place. Nice, tall holly bushes. I happen to have a great preference for other bushes, but I’m leaving these for this reason. I just don’t want the neighbor going off.

The dogs… I already mentioned the dogwater issue. Another problem was mentioned by someone else – when the bees explore and get into the dog’s fur. I’ll have to watch for that when I bring them in. Yes, they’re spoiled, inside dogs. My dogs, my problem.

The frogs may be an issue. They’re climbers. And they’re small. I’m worried that they’ll decide bees are a marvelous snack – enough to go INTO the hive for meals.  On the other hand, if they go IN the hives they’re facing an angry mob. For now, I’m going to do nothing, and observe. If I DO start to have a problem with a frog perching near the entrance, I’ll see about adding, oh, perhaps legs with grease will do for a start.

How high off the ground am I mounting this? Right now, it’ll sit on some cinder blocks. If I have a frog problem or a mammal problem or a mouse problem I’ll make a basic stand and put a four inch grease barrier on the legs. I’ll also put it on a stand if working this low is hard on me.

When am I getting bees? Turns out, even though it’s late in what’s “normally” swarm season (ie, before the heavy nectar flows), bees swarm all summer long down here.  I’ll look to get one when it happens.  I’m talking to some local bee folk about it too.  See, the “normal” way to get a swarm is to tell the county extension folk that you’re willing to collect a swarm.  Thing is, it’d be my first AND I really only want one.  I know my luck, though.  Multiple calls, and they’d all be tricky calls.  As in, “there are bees in the wall of my house.”  Or 20 feet up in a hard-to-reach location.  Oh, and I forgot the other special.  “Ma’am, those aren’t bees.  They’re bald-faced hornets.  They don’t make honey, they aren’t collectible, and yes they’re very nasty.  Please call an exterminator, I’m not touching them again.  Now pardon me, I need to find an epi-pen…”  (I found a nest the hard way some time back – ran into it, physically, with my head while I was mowing under a tree with low-hanging branches.  It was a learning experience in a lot of ways.  I don’t care to repeat the lesson.)  This line is getting expanded in another post, someday (grin).

ABC&XYZThe ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture.  THE book for beekeeping.  I’m a librarian, research is what I do.   I keep finding a lot of stuff – online and print – that pushes me right back to this.  First published in 1877, it was updated to the 41st edition in 2005.  I think that if I only had to use one reference for beekeeping, this would be it — even though it doesn’t reference Top Bar Hives at all.  For what it’s worth there are a lot of other books I will use, not to mention online sources.  There are even a couple that might be considered as solid a reference – the Hive and the Honeybee, for example.  Still, it’s ABC&XYZ that gets referenced the most, so that’s my cue for “the book”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s