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Bees!?

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Bees!?

Post Number:#1  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Wed May 10, 2017 9:33 pm


Ok, technically not an animal for this category, but close enough :lol:

ODD wants bees - and is getting really excited about it. DH's cousins know a couple of people we are going to try and visit for some beginner info. I am leaning toward a top bar hive for a variety of reasons - anyone else use that style vs. the traditional boxes (I am sure there is a correct term, I just don't know it yet :oops: :lol: ). I got her the Beekeeping for Dummies book after a couple other beekeepers recommended it - just got it in today and she asked if I could read some to her tomorrow since it's a bit above her reading level.

As for the top bar - it seems like it would be an easier option for her and I to manage (weight wise especially), not to mention many have windows for viewing which would be a huge perk since it's mostly a kid project. Also, talking to a guy this weekend he gave a number of reasons why her prefers them, one big one being that they don't get as agitated when you do have to go in to check on them (basically saying that instead of tearing apart their whole house - roof and floors included, you only disturb one wall at a time). The honey production won't be as great, but that's not the main reason for doing it. I think it would be a neat educational opportunity, not to mention our yard offers a number of organic food sources which is a tiny step toward saving the bees (we have plenty of visitors from the hives up the hill).
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#2  Unread postby MaggieJ » Wed May 10, 2017 10:50 pm


Bees are animals--they're just not mammals. All our pets and livestock (even the tiny, honey-making kind) have a place here. :)

I think it's a cool idea, but I wonder if your daughter is quite old enough. She's 9? I assume you would not be letting her attend the bees on her own, but there are some safety concerns. Do you know for sure that neither of you is allergic to bee stings? I know I am a worrywart -- and I don't want to discourage you from the project -- but I do hope you have all your bases covered before you go ahead with it.

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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#3  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Thu May 11, 2017 9:29 am


MaggieJ wrote:Bees are animals--they're just not mammals. All our pets and livestock (even the tiny, honey-making kind) have a place here. :)

I think it's a cool idea, but I wonder if your daughter is quite old enough. She's 9? I assume you would not be letting her attend the bees on her own, but there are some safety concerns. Do you know for sure that neither of you is allergic to bee stings? I know I am a worrywart -- and I don't want to discourage you from the project -- but I do hope you have all your bases covered before you go ahead with it.


Definitely hurdles to think of... and I have gone back and forth. I would be the main one tending to "her" bees, butnwe would learn the ins and outs together so as she got older she could take on more of the responsibility. I would invest in the junior beekeeping garb available for even more protection. I saw one tip to put the hive against a tall fence so they have to go UP when they come out - and I would set it in back where the kids don't go quite as often (the front yard is wide open for running, the back yard is more for growing things 8-) ). She's my most mature and level headed child so if anyone could do it, she could. They like to try new things - YDD currently has a worm bin under our dining room table :roll: :lol: (she got worms for her birthday and was thrilled), YDS has decided that he wants to grow mushrooms this year (last year was pumpkins), ODS is my fisherman that wants a pond someday.

As for allergies - no idea. I have one food allergy kid, one drug allergy kid, and one that showed some signs of a reaction when they got bit by fire ants 2 years ago so it's a toss up. We already have tons of bees anyway thanks to the multiple hives at DH's grandparent's house - she has a few flowers, but not as many as she used to since she's bedridden at this point :( so they come to my yard for food. She's been stung multiple times by a wasp that got in her shirt, which I know isn't the same, but didn't have a crazy reaction to it... we have had wasp and yellow jacket stings, and fire ant bites, but no bee stings as of yet.
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#4  Unread postby Nymphadora » Thu May 11, 2017 1:58 pm


FourRingCircus wrote:we have had wasp and yellow jacket stings, and fire ant bites, but no bee stings as of yet.

You have a 9-year-old that's never been stung by a bee?!?! :shock: :lol:
Haha, I'd probably been stung 5 or 6 times by that point... but congrats on getting lucky!

The bee project sounds really wonderful (I'd like some too, if we find a place that's far enough from neighbors)! Good for your little girl for choosing such an interesting project with so many potential benefits (local raw honey, beeswax, pollination, etc.). She sure sounds like she'll be engaged in this venture! As far as avoiding stings, I think the top bar hive is a good way to go, as well. DH's aunt has a traditional hive (Warre, I think?) and she definitely has to wear her protective gear when they start taking the boxes apart. But with a top bar hive you only lift one component, and I have seen videos of bee keepers collecting honey comb from a top bar hive with a thick pair of gloves and not much else... which leads me to believe it might be less stressful on the bees? And less stress could mean less stings? (This is all pure conjecture, but it makes sense from my perspective). But since you don't know if there are any bee allergies, a junior bee-keeping suit is a good precaution in any case. :lol:

Keep us updated on this, I'd love to learn and see how things go! :oops:

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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#5  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Thu May 11, 2017 2:10 pm


Nymphadora wrote:
FourRingCircus wrote:we have had wasp and yellow jacket stings, and fire ant bites, but no bee stings as of yet.

You have a 9-year-old that's never been stung by a bee?!?! :shock: :lol:
Haha, I'd probably been stung 5 or 6 times by that point... but congrats on getting lucky!


I have no idea how we have made it so long... they run barefoot through clover and everything! :x
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#6  Unread postby Nymphadora » Thu May 11, 2017 5:05 pm


FourRingCircus wrote:I have no idea how we have made it so long... they run barefoot through clover and everything! :x

:bow: :bow: :bow:

:lol:

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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#7  Unread postby hotzcatz » Thu May 11, 2017 6:47 pm


I think the traditional boxy hives are called a 'Langstroth' hive after the fellow who came up with them.

My friend wants a top bar hive and they aren't that hard to make from what he says. Of course, you'd still have to find bees to put inside somewhere.

We had a swarm by our driveway once which we put into an old footlocker since we didn't have anywhere else for them at the time. The lid was left ajar and they came and went out of there until the box fell apart. We never did get any honey from them since they'd welded the lid down with their honeycomb and I didn't want to destroy their home to get the honey. They didn't sting anyone, though.

Putting them inside a hedged or fenced area so they have to go up to get out does keep them over everyone's heads. We have a mac nut orchard behind our house so I was thinking in might be nice to put them pointing that way, perhaps. But it's just a 'maybe someday' project around here, nothing immanent.

Actually, instead of a top bar hive, here's what looks like a better one: https://www.honeyflow.com/ No need to take the hive apart, you take off a tiny end cover, put in a big 'key', turn it a quarter turn and honey flows out the spigot at the side of the hive. It's about $700 for a hive, but no need to lift heavy objects or get stung by bees or take their house apart to get the honey. Not sure how long the hive would last, they just started making them several years ago.

Although there's a lot of reviews about them online which suggest they're a cool idea but not so good in actual use. Apparently they encourage swarming among other things. Maybe the top bar hive would be best after all. From what I've heard with that, you've got windows to look into the sides and when the honey is ready, just lift out the top bars and slice the hanging comb off of them and then let the bees build more. I don't think you get any bees wax from the Flow hives.
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#8  Unread postby FourRingCircus » Thu May 11, 2017 9:04 pm


We had a swarm come through our back yard a couple of years ago - really freaky to hear and see! I heard an odd noise, and looked to see a "cloud" coming toward us. Took me a second or two to realize what it was. I didn't know then (but I know now!) that they are not at all aggressive when they are swarming, but they sure do seem like they would be! It was coming between me (on the deck) and the kids (on the playset) so I said a very quick "guys, get in the house, get in the house now!" - I guess the tone of voice was serious enough that no one questioned me as to why or put up any fuss :lol: Hindsight? I should have followed them! :lol:
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#9  Unread postby Fernie » Sat May 13, 2017 8:57 am


We have a top bar. For us, it works better. I don't have to lift all the weight the Langstroth hives require to be lifted to get the honey. From what I have learned bees in the top bar tend to be less swarm prone. Not sure if it is the hives or the bees.

The Flow Hive is a controversy I want to avoid. For the price of one of those hives, I could build at least 10 of the top bar hives.
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Re: Bees!?

Post Number:#10  Unread postby PSFAngoras » Sat May 13, 2017 9:56 am


**WARNING, THIS IS LENGTHY!!!***

I think that you would do better with a Top Bar Hive instead of a Langstroth, but that is based on the age of your daughter. I have had both hive styles and have been keeping bees naturally for five seasons now. I have switched over to all Langstroth hives because they work better for me, but Top Bar does have it's advantages. IMHO Flow hives are just too new and way to expensive for someone just starting out, so I'd personally avoid those for now.

ETA: THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE WITH TOP BAR. Others may have found it worked for them differently, and each hive acts differently, but this is just what I ran into in my 3 seasons with my top bar hive.

For starters, so you are aware, here are the worst things I found about the Top Bar hive setup. This is not to discourage you, just to make you aware. There were plenty of good aspects too, listed below. Top bar THE FRAMES DO HAVE TO BE HANDLED SPECIALLY. You cannot pick them up and wave them around like you would a langstroth. They are mostly unsupported and break off easily, which may pose a challenge for a child beekeeper. Bees who have been raised in a commercial setup CAN have a hard time adapting to a top bar at first, so if they don't abscond, you will likely be trying to control a lot of cross combing the first season. Also, if the bees are not checked on just about a weekly basis they will start to cross comb. I can easily get into my hives every other week, but once a week was too much for me and I ultimately gave up my top bar because of the severe cross combing going on, which prevented me from getting into the hive and checking their health without destroying it every time. This is very stressful to the bees (the destruction, not the routine hive check) and if you don't have a docile hive to begin with they may be fairly upset with you. Due to the smaller size of the hive and the fact that you can't add on, the bees in my top bar were actually MORE prone to swarming as they start this when they are running out of space. It can be managed, but again, it's more work. Last, if you do want to harvest honey, you have to destroy the comb, meaning it can't be put back into the hives for the bees to reuse, saving them some work.

The upside? Top bar hives are MUCH CHEAPER! If you know how to build anything, they are super simple to build and mine cost only $60 for the whole setup. No extra house pieces necessary. Due to the smaller hive size, things like hive health are easier to manage. The bees build whatever size comb they feel like, meaning often the bees are smaller (smaller comb cells, smaller bees), which means there is less time pupating. This means that the terrible V. destructor mite has less time to mature, and often fails, meaning your mite population will be next to nill if your hive is well managed, almost certainly if you pick Russian bees, as they're more pest resistant and hygienic than Italians. (They do produce less honey than Italian, which is true, and I've heard said they are grumpier, which I don't beleive, as I have mostly russian bees and haven't used a smoker in at least two years.) Also, the hives are lighter. Yes, the frames are harder to handle, but you're not lugging around huge boxes of honey. I have 8 frame mediums for all my boxes and a full honey super can still weigh 40+ pounds. None of that with top bar. Yes, the comb has to be crushed to harvest honey, but if that's not a top priority, you don't need to buy anything more than a good honey strainer, a food grade five gallon bucket, and a potato masher to harvest from a top bar. No expensive extractor. AND, top bar hives produce about 60% more wax for use than a Langstroth due to harvest method. And though it is less work for the bees to reuse comb in the langstroth, harvesting the comb and forcing them to build anew make sure they are getting new comb in the hive, reducing the likelihood of diseases lingering in old comb.

A few good resources for both methods of hives are as follows, they are hive type specific books but you could use the information in all hives, as they all bring something to the table.

Top Bar Beekeeping, by Les Crowder. (This is the guy who brought the top bar to popularity in the US, there are plans for building one in his book)
Natural Beekeeping, by Ross Conrad (Great resource on how to naturally keep bees, focuses on Langstroth but many aspects can be adapted to Top Bar)
A Practical Beekeeper, Beekeeping Naturally, by Micheal Bush (Again, this guy is mostly langstroth, but his knowledge is ENDLESS!)

Totally useless but too fun to pass mention - I've met and attended lectures by both Les Crowder and Micheal Bush. Both men are endlessly knowledgeable on their subjects and make wonderful and very entertaining lecturers. If you get a chance to hear them, do!

I hope this helps give you something to think about. I honestly would research like crazy this year, get your set up ready, and then order a package next year. It would give you time to prepare for all the crazy curve balls the bees like to throw, like when you mysteriously have to perfectly active queens in a hive. (Its happened to me)
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