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risk of us and them - warre/langstroth/topbar


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worldwide there seems to be some sort of schism among beekeepers based on the type of box they use... seems pretty ridiculous. i ran a topbar workshop last sunday, and those present included beeke

It's a 'taught' behaviour. Through school, through the media and in any groups we are made belief: "you are either with me or against me", there is no in between. Then normally followed by: "I am

thats pretty much the best way there. actually showing the difference, the good and the bad of each type. i get somewhat annoyed when one type is promoted only on its good side and the bad side of i

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On the upside Tommy Dave, ive met some lovely experienced beekeepers with open minds such as yourself, who have knowledgeably discussed pros and cons to both types of hives AND considered the newbies circumstances. That has been brilliant. Love being given food for thought..... Thanks again.

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I am telling the followings based on my personal experience. Readers may have different opinion.

 

I've done top bar. It was difficult in maneuvering since the combs tend to be attached to the walls. They are fragile and easily fall off. If I can't inspect and observe as frequently as I wish it's inconvenient. I gave up top bars eventually. Frames were probably invented first in an effort to overcome this inconveniences of top bar or skeps. When I was a child I saw people work with skeps but I have never had skeps myself. I hated to be stung by bees near skeps.

In my opinion, diseases might not be easily detected due to the lack of frequent inspection of the combs and right timing can be lost for disease prevention/treatment. If the beekeeper neglects his/her regular visit, top bar can harbour disease. If they are beginners it is highly possible. But if the beekeeper does a timely hive management, I guess top bar and warre are better than langstroth in preventing disease, the reason being

1. The combs drawn by bees are not suitable to reuse. They are fragile and irregular shape. They tend to be destroyed when harvesting honey. They seldom move from hive to hive while langstroth are made to be interchangable and reusable which might spread disease without intention or notice by beekeepers. But top bars are physically difficult to do the inspection dilligently. Skeps are impossible to do inspection as required.

 

I have purchased standard langstroth equipment. They are easy to use. Standard means compatible in any situation. They are economical. More honey is produced. At the same time, I found it is not as much fun as the other types of hives. Too much sweat for lifting. Do I have to produce that much honey when I don't consume all of them? I still have hundreds of unused frames and foundations in the storage. I am not sure I will ever use up this amount for the rest of my life. But I still want to keep several of them to get some royal jelly and pollen for fun. They are standard and interchangable. Following the trend and belonging to the world has some merit.

 

My favourite hive is warre style. My practice is not the original warre design. I have frames instead of fixed top bars only as per warre. It costed more than any other hives since I made boxes and frames out of raw material - huge labour hours. When I finish them, the sizes are not exact. Most of the time it doesn't fit precisely. I had to trim with planners and some times add extra woods to make them fit together. They look clumsy. No two things are exactly the same. Standard langstroth does not have this problem. Nevertheless, the warre style serves well to my interest. It is lighter, smaller which means easy to lift and inspect. It demands more frequent inspection and manipulation since bees can take up space more quickly due to the smaller internal dimension. Bees tend to build queen cells more often than other types and more prone to swarm. Still I like it because I am more interested in bee behaviour than honey production. Disease control is better and easier than other types of hives. Reasons are 1. Combs are destroyed and seldom used twice. 2. Disease is easily detected and action can be swift. When a weak hive is detected due to such as varroa I simply destroy the whole hive. I used to use apivar, formic, and oxalic acid when I had smaller amount of bees and when I was eager to save more bees. Now I have plenty of bees and become less attached emotionally. I have not used chemical treatment for 2 years. There have been varroa and chilled brood but all of them were simply given up at early stage and made the damage limited to those hives affected. I have never had AFB. I imagine langstroth is more susceptible to contagious disease due to the frames are used again and again. Some people argue that the top bar and warre can spread disease more. I think this opinion is over-generalisation. It is not the beehive type but more like the negligence of beekeeper that spread the disease. I believe warre is better than langstroth in preventing disease spread. The principle is simple: Combs are destroyed once they are out of the hives. Probably bees work harder and honey production is far less than langstroth. That's not my priority. As long as the bees are healthier and if I can observe and enjoy, a little bit of inefficiency and costly in terms of honey production can be tolerable. It just suits my situation.

 

However, if I had pursued commercial operation or even semi-commercial, I would have gone to langstroth. It is economical even with the extra costs for the disease control.

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When a weak hive is detected due to such as varroa I simply destroy the whole hive.

@nz3 to confirm - are you killing the bees and destroying hives whenever you find varroa in a hive?

 

When I finish them, the sizes are not exact. Most of the time it doesn't fit precisely. I had to trim with planners and some times add extra woods to make them fit together. They look clumsy. No two things are exactly the same. Standard langstroth does not have this problem.

standard warre doesn't have this problem either ;) seen @dansar 's warre hives?

 

. Some people argue that the top bar and warre can spread disease more. I think this opinion is over-generalisation. It is not the beehive type but more like the negligence of beekeeper that spread the disease.

agree completely!

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@nz3 to confirm - are you killing the bees and destroying hives whenever you find varroa in a hive?

 

When I notice the symptoms of varroa damage such as deformed wings, corps in front of entrance, loss of population and varroa in the capped cells, I remove the whole hive from the site. I remove the queen and destroy the capped and uncapped brood, shake all the young bees on the ground. The whole colony disappear. You don't have to burn the hive if it's not afb. The drifting bees probably will fly into the neighbour hives. There must be some varroa still survive somehow at a tolerable level. I assume I cannot eradicate the varroa completely from the world. In this way, over the winter every year I loose weak and hopeless colonies. If you use chemicals, you may not loose a single colony. It's effective. My method is an inefficient way of dealing with varroa but I choose this way. I know in the spring the strong colony rewards as a compensation of the loss. I don't have faith in combining 2 weak colonies to make a bigger colony. Rather I give up both weak colonies. I make autumn queens. If they don't survive the winter it's still OK. Spring queens can be used to have a clean start.

Surplus beehives in autumn and a few survivors in spring - This method is easier to me without chemical treatment in the presence of varroa. The reason is that I use warre style hives for spring build up. Warre style is quicker than langstroth nucs in building up from the newly starting colony. I know some beekeepers have 7 boxes high warre in their garden. But I prefer 5 boxes - less than shoulder high.

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It is not the beehive type but more like the negligence of beekeeper that spread the disease

absolutely 100%

as @Mark Goodwin reminds us, afb is a beekeeper disease rather than a bee disease.

If the beekeeper neglects his/her regular visit, top bar can harbour disease. If they are beginners it is highly possible.

that is what was/is a concern. not so much the hive type but that its beginners using them.

Combs are destroyed once they are out of the hives

thats all well and good but the hive gear still remains. even with topbar and warre you can still swap gear between hives.

so in effect there is no difference in hive types in that regard, you can still spread diseases (eg afb) by moving gear from hive to hive.

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My favourite hive is warre style. My practice is not the original warre design. I have frames instead of fixed top bars only as per warre. It costed more than any other hives since I made boxes and frames out of raw material - huge labour hours. When I finish them, the sizes are not exact. Most of the time it doesn't fit precisely. I had to trim with planners and some times add extra woods to make them fit together. They look clumsy. No two things are exactly the same. Standard langstroth does not have this problem. Nevertheless, the warre style serves well to my interest. It is lighter, smaller which means easy to lift and inspect. It demands more frequent inspection and manipulation since bees can take up space more quickly due to the smaller internal dimension. Bees tend to build queen cells more often than other types and more prone to swarm

 

What are you using to make your Warre hives?, a pocket knife?:eek::D I havent had any more queen cells being made in my Warre hives than my Langs. A good bee keeper can keep a colony healthy in tin cans so long as the comb can be removed to be inspected for brood disease.

 

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Please consider euthanising all bees in a colony you wish to discard - those young bees dumped on the ground, desperately looking for a new home will be perceived as robbers by hives they try to join (particularly this time of the year) and cause losses to those colonies. No one beeks in isolation, and each should consider that.

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Please consider euthanising all bees in a colony you wish to discard - those young bees dumped on the ground, desperately looking for a new home will be perceived as robbers by hives they try to join (particularly this time of the year) and cause losses to those colonies. No one beeks in isolation, and each should consider that.

 

I agree with the sentiment, but not the reason.

 

Robbers are different behaviourally than lost souls. Robbers come in with an agenda and a flight pattern that can easily be identified, by the bees and us. Lost souls come in with a very different attitude, and are generally accepted by the hives with no fighting in my experience.

 

When I leave a straggler box at a site that's been moved, particularly if hives have had to be moved during the day while the foragers are out, I take the straggler box back to my home yard and shake the bees out in the middle of the yard - never a fight. Or I'll shake them into or onto the doorstep of nucs I want to strengthen.

 

That said, if you're shaking out varroa ridden bees and you haven't got a hive for them to go into... I don't particularly want the mangy things turning up in my hives and blowing out my varroa populations.

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