Article I wrote for local Environment Centre .
TOPBAR BEE HIVE
Would you like to keep honey bees, Apis mellifera, for pollination and honey in your garden or orchard ? In an urban or rural setting ? If so, then I believe this is the perfect hive to keep them in !
The TB hive has been used for centuries in Africa and Asia, not quite in the same shape as the one pictured, but a similar idea of a single box used as the hive body, as close as possible to the bees natural home in a tree or cavity.
TB hives are made from untreated wood, usually macrocarpa or cedar, wood that does not need painting or any chemicals applied to it to last a number of years. It is also thick enough to keep the bees warm over winter and cooler in summer – plus it smells good ! The legs are made from treated wood just so they will last weather-wise and the roof is water-proof, shaped so as the rain will run off – I have had no problems with moisture getting into the hive after heavy rain.
The name TopBar is taken from the bars of wood that lie across the hive, (see pics), to which the bees attach the wax comb they naturally make to fill with nectar, pollen and baby bees ! The bars are all the same width and length and when all are used, form a roof of sorts which the bees propolise to make water tight. I do also have another more waterproof roof over that, see above. The plans for my TB hive were down-loaded free from an excellent English website called `Bio Bees` - I suggest anyone who is thinking about keeping bees read Phil`s words, he is very informative and enlightening.
With a TB hive there is no need for much of the equipment that seems to accumulate with the Langstroth hive commonly used by beekeepers in NZ. You don`t need any extra honey boxes as the hive body is all you use, there is no heavy lifting ( ideal for people in wheelchairs or others with bad backs), because it is a more natural way of keeping bees there seems to be alot less stress on the bees themselves which makes for a far more pleasant task when opening the hive – only taking a bar or two out at a time, allows the hive temp to stay more or less the same, the bees being less anxious and annoyed at the intrusion into their home.
The photo to the left shows a completely natural piece of wax comb built by the bees. They start from underneath the bar and work down to form a beautiful half-moon shape consisting of hundreds of hexagonal cells, everyone exactly the same size, in which they store nectar and pollen or the queen will lay her eggs in.
I firmly believe that this is the way for hobbyists to keep bees, you might not get a huge surplus of honey but the advantages of having happy, healthy bees in your garden to pollinate your fruit and vege is more important than jars of honey ! We need to really start to care for our bees, stop manipulating them and upsetting the delicate balance they have for living their lives in a productive manner – we as humans, will benefit from this far more than we ever realise. Start caring for what is around you and you will be amazed at what you can change !
If you are interested in these hives, please ph or email me on 07-8566468 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in beez ... Marcia