When we decided last year to keep bees, I googled beekeeping. What I read seemed very complicated, expensive, and not very bee friendly with its use of chemicals. It centred around vertical Langstroth hives.

Then I googled organic beekeeping and a whole new path opened up. It was simple, cheap and very bee friendly. The hives were horizontal and the frames were a top bar that allowed the bees to draw comb as they needed it and not to some predetermined, man-made foundation. The more I read the more convinced I became that top bar hives were the way to go. When I read that the weight of a full deep Langstroth super was at least 60 lbs, that was the final piece of information I needed.

One of the problems with TBH, if you can call it that, is that there is no frame which makes handling the comb a bit dodgy. You have to keep the comb vertical or you will snap it off the top bar. Then I came across foundationless frames and asked a TBH beekeeping friend if he thought it was possible to change the slanted sides of the TBH to vertical in order to accommodate frames. He said that it sound like what I was talking about was a Tanzanian TBH as opposed to a Kenyan TBH. A bit more digging took me to Michael Bush and his horizontal TBH’s and his foundationless frames and to Dennis Murrell who has drawings for building a horizontal hive. Finally, I came across someone who makes his own frames.

Last year was a rough year for me medically so we decided not to chance starting beekeeping. It’s one thing to kill vegetables if you’re not up to it but something entirely different to kill bees if you’re not up to it. By this spring, I was set to go but hadn’t been up to building a hive over the winter. We did, however, visit a couple of beeyards – Dancing Bee and Seldom Fools which convinced us even more that we wanted to keep bees. As the season winds down, you start thinking about next season and my thoughts returned to beekeeping. In early October, I decided to build a Dennis Murrell design. It took me a full morning and a bit after lunch and was EASY!!!!!!!!!! And I’m no carpenter. The frames take a bit longer since I plane down the top piece. They are also very easy to construct. Then I decided to modify the frames. Building a jig to assemble the frames took a bit of time but it was well worth it because it insured that I always had the 3/8″ beespace where I needed it and it kept the frames square.

So I’m set for this coming spring with a hive that is friendly to the bees, friendly to my wallet, and friendly to my back (no lifting of heavy supers).

I think that having a beekeeping mentor is really important. Unfortunately, most beekeeping associations are made up of Langstroth beekeepers. I’m lucky – two TBH beekeepers live about 1½ hours away.

Spring seems like an eternity away. And even longer after I stumbled across mead making.

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2 Responses to Bees

  1. Mike says:

    I saw this site a while back and found the different hives very interesting. Can’t wait to here more about your bee keeping endeavors as this is something we have been talking about as well.

  2. I have also looked into keeping bees and the top bar hives! I wish there were more beekeepers using the TBH in this area too!

    So much better for the bees. You will also get a lot more beeswax!

    We are not there yet and, like you, I’m not sure we want the responsibility, but it is something we have studied for a few years. Maybe, one day!

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