Saturday, 26 January 2013

Ways to Get Bees for in your Top Bar Hive

Ways to Get Bees for in your Top Bar Hive

Collecting a fantastic swarm!
A swarm of honey bees
A swarm. The beautiful thing about a swarm is that swarming is the natural reproduction process of honeybees. That means that the bees in a swarm are a finely tuned, well-organized “colony”. The bees are the right ages for the tasks they will be performing in their new home when it is found, and they are all related to each other, and they are all related to their queen. This is about as close to natural as you could ask for!

A swarm’s ability to build wax and fill your top bar hive with honeycomb is just amazing!
HOWEVER – The difficulty with starting your hive with a swarm is that you cannot predict its arrival time – or even if a swarm will come your way at all. You might say that they are a “gift of nature.”

Or a package. A package of bees has advantages for the beekeeper. You can “order” a package. So you know you’ve got bees coming, and when.

A beautiful package of bees!
A 3# package of bees
While it's not the most natural method, at least you know when it’s expected to arrive.

A drawback of package bees is that they likely have not had the best time of it just before they come to live in your top bar beehive. They are bees of random ages, tumbled together with bees from many other hives in an apiary – they are unrelated, disorganized, and expected to get on with an artificially raised queen that they have never met before.

The package process is an artificial process and not so good for bees, but they seem to be able to adapt and overcome, and organize themselves into a colony and go forward. Our goal is to offer you the very best, healthiest package bees with emphasis on natural cell size and treatment-free management.

So – with those options to consider – you can now make a choice. Swarm or Package?

Start your top bar hive off right – download our free Hive Start-up Handbook here.

We will be selling package bees in 2013. Joining our newsletter will get you the information as soon as it posts:

Now, let’s talk about nucs. Just what is a nuc in the bee world? A nuc is the nickname given to a “nucleus colony”. It works like this – you buy a nuc, which is like a little starter hive of bees – you take it home, and you remove five empty frames from your Langstroth hive, and you replace them with five frames (and the comb, and the accompanying bees) from the nuc. Voila – instant beehive. If you are using Langstroth equipment, this works beautifully… because it comes on Langstroth equipment!

A 5 frame "nuc" colony
A Langstroth "nuc"
But sometimes novice beekeepers don’t realize that a conventional “nuc” isn’t going to fit in a top bar hive. And they may not be quite sure what questions to even ask, so the company they are purchasing from doesn’t even know how to keep them from making this error – buying bees that won’t work in their top bar hive.

Primarily, it’s a question of non-compatible, non-interchangeable equipment. Top Bar Hives, with their natural wax, are not shaped anything like Langstroth hives. Yes, there are tales of brave (or crazy?) beekeepers who cut apart the frames of a conventional nuc in order to make it fit into a top bar hive – we call that a “hack and slash” or “chop and crop” job.
We would like to discourage you from doing that – and one obvious reason for that is because it’s very hard on the bees, who also get pretty angry about the whole process. But another reason to avoid a nuc is that it means that you are introducing the Langstroth hive’s foundation wax into your clean top bar hive. And since standard-sized wax foundation is a bit the wrong size, and has also been found to contain about 170 different chemical contaminants – it’s sort of like shooting yourself in the foot before you even begin. Let’s at least let the bees have their own way about making clean, natural comb – they know what’s best.

So a nuc is just not the best choice for populating your top bar hive.

Make sense? We thought it would.

Thanks for listening!

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