June 25, 2012

Supering a Top Bar Hive

The bees were beginning to beard, which means A) they're hot and/or B) they're crowded. Hot is a given. Looking in the window, crowded is a given.

I hadn't really thought about it when I bought the Survivor stock, being interested in that particular aspect only, but these bees came from a guy who sells honey for a living. So of course these bees are honey producers. In the State of the Hive picture you can see all the honey combs, braced to the window.

The bees haven't constructed any swarm cells, that we can see, and we don't want them to feel crowded lest they start thinking about it. It's been way too hot to harvest honey though, and the forecast isn't conducive to waiting, so we decided to super the TBH. 
State of the Hive: it's full of bees and they're starting to beard.
We use a Warré hive body as a super. It's much smaller than a Langstroth box, and only holds eight combs, so a strong colony should be able to fill one easily.

Mid-supering: pulling out spacer bars to create openings for the bees to move up. We use pieces of wine cork to close off the small gaps left. The back of the super is closed off using a follower board. A piece of window screen and a waxed cloth will keep the bees from propolizing the roof to the super. We've found that misting the bees with plain water is much more effective than using smoke.
The Linden flow segued right into the Goldenrain Tree bloom, and the bees are bringing in nectar from dawn 'til dusk! But July is our dearth month, so the bees may not be able to draw out eight combs and fill them with honey. Just in case, we closed off half the super, so they only have to work on four top bars. Worst case scenario, if they don't get very far on construction, we'll pull the bars and give them to the Warré Hive. We may even transfer them with adhering bees. That colony is not nearly as strong, and it will benefit from additional resources.

Within minutes the bees moved up and the little beard was gone.
BTW, we super over the existing honey stores rather than over the brood nest. It's a long way for the bees to travel, but it keeps the brood nest where we want it. If the hive weren't in a greenhouse, we'd give them an Imirie shim or drill entrances into the super. This would give the foragers the ability to dump-and-run and also keep them out of the brood nest, relieving any perception of crowding. More honey, no swarming. Win-win.


Steve Hanzlik said...

Very interesting blog post. Last year I started my very first bee hive. I chose to go with a top bar hive. I received my bees in mid May. By the end of July my bees had completely filled the hive and there were so many bees I was afraid that they were going to swarm. It was so crowded that the bees were balling up outside the entrance to the hive. I freaked and quickly built another top bar hive in case I needed to make a split. I had to harvest 2 top bars of honey so the bees had enough room. I never thought of adding a super on top of my hive. I didn't know that you could to that. Your blog post is the first time I have ever run across anything about adding a super to a top bar hive. I would have definitely built one and added it to my hive had I known. I will be making a couple of supers for my hives as soon as possible. Thank you very much for the information.

HB said...

Glad you found this post interesting, @Steve Hanzlik. Sounds like you had a good first year!

There are a couple more posts you might like, "Swarm Prevention Measures contd" and "Great Escape." Type "super" in the search box at the top of the page to find them easily.

May your hives be humming. — HB

Post a Comment

Join the Conversation. Leave a comment.