My old Top Bar Hive that is now in its 20th year was in a sorry state when I brought it back from Sarah’s with a gap near the front where the bottom plank had rotted away leaving a gap big enough to allow a mouse in! I built it from scavenged pallets and first had bees in it in 1998, so it has done very well.
I found some bits of ply and covered over the hole from within then, having found an ancient pot of filler in the shed, filled up the hole and smoothed it. I also put a sheet of ply over the front as the planks were getting gappy. I suppose I ought to apply some paint or preservative before I put it to work again, but I don’t want to use anything smelly. I shall have a look round the shed again.
As we transferred the top bars and bees to the replacement hive at Sarah’s, I needed to make some more. Again I used a scrap pallet that I prised apart to recover the planks. I had to use my circular saw again for the first time in ages. 11 years ago, again when making bee kit, the saw devoured the top half inch or so of my left thumb, so, as I was working, I kept reciting to myself parts of the poem I wrote about it while in hospital. It worked and I did the work unscathed.
The bars are 17″ long, so as to be combatable with National equipment in case I want to take a nucleus for instance. I made the bars a little wider than intended this time, almost an inch and a half, so I moved the guide bar by a smidgeon and put the top bars through again so they are now one and three eighths of an inch and are smooth each side.
There is some dispute among bees and their keepers as to the exact width and, in truth, there isn’t one! Bees tend to prefer their combs closer together in the brood area and further apart in the larder, but they use the larder for brood rearing at the height of the season so compromise and flexibility are necessary.
With narrower bars, I can take one out from the rear and ease the others apart by a smidgeon. Depending on season etc, on my next visit I can take a hive tool and take a crop of propolis that the bees have applied to fill the gaps. I don’t use a lot of propolis myself, sometimes sprinkling some on my breakfast muesli if I’m going among strangers or places where I might pick up an infection, but I have a friend who is a medical herbalist who welcomes any propolis I can spare her. She gave me (in exchange for Marts, our local currency) a propolis throat spray last year when I was rough. I think it helped, and, anyway, it tastes good!
I have just been applying wax in a line down the rougher face of each new top bar, using a soldering iron in one hand and a lump of beeswax in the other. This is to guide the bees in drawing new comb and I applied it to the rougher side of the bars so the bees would have a better hand/foothold.
I hope, probably this weekend to set up the TBH as a bait hive in the large cider orchard of a friend’s organic farm over the boundary in darkest Somerset, putting it on fence posts near the badger sett, so they won’t be able to reach. Later I’ll set up a National or two on the other side or the orchard where I hope the badgers don’t stray. I think they tend to keep to their own paths as much as possible.