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Top Bar Hive Project by Martin Blakeman

posted 29 Sep 2010, 07:45 by Linda Halford   [ updated 7 Oct 2010, 03:54 by EBKA Webmaster ]
My sons company is involved with various projects in Africa one of them in Rwanda is growing a biofuel crop called Jatropha. There is need to increase if possible the pollination of this crop to improve its yield. Beekeeping in the area of the crop is not high and it was decided to help the local people to take up beekeeping.  The hives that are in use generally in Rwanda are not terribly manageable,   being long basket type arrangements. After paying a visit to the Bees for Development HQ in Monmouth we decided to make and try out a Kenyan style top bar hive. The main  requirements   are that the hives can be produced with very basic materials using very limited tools ie saw, hammer drill, and a minimum amount of skill. This  top bar hive is ideal for this because it can be made from any number  of materials ie  old packing cases board materials even cardboard if it is kept dry. The only measurement that is really important is the width of the top bar itself  which is  32mm  . We produced the prototype using exterior grade chipboard and after a bit of sawing and nailing the main structure was done,  on the hive we did fit a varroa floor because it is being trialed  in the UK.. The top bars themselves need to have a guide of wax applied along the length or the bees will build their comb across the bars making it difficult to manipulate. A small swarm was put in through the top of the hive in June. We fed it well for a few weeks until wax building was well under way. From the pictures you can see the results. The main feature of this type of hive is that the sides must slope inwards and because of this the bees do not connect their combs to the sides or bottom. The brood nest can be expanded when needed by moving the devider. We did not aim to get honey this year but when the honey is collected from the super section which is at the opposite end to the brood, the bars are just lifted and the complete comb is cut off leaving a strip of wax for  the bees to start working on again. Obviously there will be different techniques to develop for extracting the honey from the comb, this will be in the form of a press like that used for heather honey. Feeding and treatments are a bit different to apply but can be overcome, This hive is gaining a serious following in America and even in parts of this country. It is thought by some to be more natural because the bees are building all their own combs . One of the big advantages for some is that you do not have to move big heavy supers you just remove the honey as it becomes available. For more information just put Top Bar Hive into Google.