Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.
A feral swarm has taken up residence in a BBQ grill vent in my home/shop. I am a designer, contractor, and builder and own a woodworking business. My intention is to build a Top Bar Hive based primarily on a combination of two designs, “The Bee’s Knee’s Apiary” by T.J. Carr and the top bar hive plans available at www.biobees.com by P.J. Chandler and move this swarm into a new home in the spring.
I find the T.J. Carr design to be a bit complex and I find the P.J Chandler design a little more appealing but can see potential improvements that could simplify this design even further. This simplification would require more advanced equipment, such as a table saw, but each person has different resources and I have woodworking equipment and lots of woodworking experience. Having no beekeeping experience however leaves me with a couple of questions.
1: Do the walls on a Top Bar Hive have to be on an angle?
2: Does the bottom screening need to be removable as in the T.J. Carr design or can it be permanent as in the P.J. Chandler design?
Have a nice holiday season,
go to http://www.beesource.com/resources/elements-of-beekeeping/alternati... and you will read why the angle is needed on the walls. Another site to check out is: http://www.bushfarms.com/beestopbarhives.htm
I would worry about not being able to close up the bottom screens during winter months. I am not an expert though. I think there are no right answers in bee keeping. If one asks 2 beeks for their answers to a question you might get 5 different answers.
Next spring stay tuned on this web site and you should learn of some good bee classes to sign up for. There are also some free events announced on this web site,,
Thank you for your response. I have visited and read both web sites and found this information very usefull. As for the bottom screen I am thinking that I would put a permanent metal screen with a seperate removeable wood board below it for winter. I can make the wood board seal up with no problem. What I am concerned about is weather there are any circumstances where the screen will need to be removeable. Say to clean it or something like that?
my knowledge is limited; however, I have not ever read that swarms automatically choose to go into a new (previously unused) hive. the scouts make their selections and the swarm decides. there are phermones advertised which supposedly encourages the scout to choose a new human built hive; however, I have no knowledge that they really work. hopefully there is an experienced Beek that can help us both learn the best answer....
My limited knowledge is that the triggers to absconding occurring is not understood and the act is unforeseen....???
PS... when you build your hive, you might consider adding a few photos to this website so that we can learn from what you built.... I have wondered how to easily add a screen and a winter closure system but have no real table saw/wood construction skills.... I have purchased that configuration for my langstroth hives but am really a novice when thinking how to do it for my top bars..
I have to tell you that a plan is starting to develop in my head. What I am thinking is using the fact that the bees are in a BBQ Vent that I have access to both ends. I am thinking that I will carefully smoke the bees out by introducing smoke from the inside end, the BBQ Grill end, and have my, soon to be built, TBH (Top Bar Hive) at the outside end as a receptor. Step by step here is the plan as it now stands.
1. Place the TBH outside of building and below BBQ Vent.
2. Place Sugar/Water and Water in TBH.
3. Connect TBH to BBQ Vent with screen that will allow smoke to dissipate but keep bees in.
4. Give bees a hit of smoke at inside end of BBQ Vent every 10 min. for 30 min. (This should give bees 30 min. to decide it's time to move and gather honey.)
5. Begin to continuously smoke bees to convince them that "Yes indeed, it is time to move".
6. When most, if not all, bees are out, cap them off in the TBH.
7. Remove vent pipe from building and carefully as possible remove comb.
8. Attach comb to TBH Bars and place in TBH. (If possible.)
9. Give bees a chance to make TBH home and open TBH entrances on second day.
I am of course open, and hoping for, criticism and suggestions here but that is the plan as it now stands.
What do you think?
PS: You have both Langstroth Hives and Top Bar Hives, neat, lots of good toys there. I have a CAD system and am just starting to model the design. Will post as it comes to fruition. Have a friend who took some pictures of the Feral Swarm and the BBQ Vent and I am attaching them here.
you might run the idea by more of the folks on this web site during early springtime when more should be checking this site. You might find one of them with experience would be interested in helping you relocate the hive. I don't have a lot of experience with feral hives.
there is a group on this web site titled "looking for mentors" You might join that group.
You might read a couple of bee book like "Beekeeping for dummies" or others mentioned on this web site. In my experience smoke doesn't necessarily cause bees to vacate the brood site and relocate. they stay with the brood and the queen. If you had a bee vacuum (or could borrow one) you could try to gently collect them, disassemble the vent, remove the comb and lean the comb against the walls inside the top bar so that most larvae and eggs survive. gently shake the collected bees into the top bar and quickly place all the bars on top. Many of the field bees will try to return to the vent site but if it is closed up for awhile, they should go back to the top bar. The house bees should continue to care for the brood in the comb inside the topbar hive while others should begin building new comb. The queen if not hurt should begin laying--if she is hurt or lost; hopefully the house bees can turn some newly laid eggs into virgin queens... Overtime you should be able to remove the old comb once they have relocated to the new comb they made.
Thanks again for your reply. I thought about a vacuum. Essentially, for bee removal purposes, I have access to only one end of the vent pipe. In order to make a vacuum work I would still have to convince the bees, as well as the queen, to come to the end of the pipe. The only other way would be to vacuum some, remove the comb, vacuum some more, and so on. I wouldn’t want to do this unless they can’t be forced to come out. So, the question is, is there a way to force them to come out? My guess is that the bees have a “gather honey instinct” as a reaction to fires in nature. They are gathering honey as a preparation to moving on when the “old bee tree” burns down. So, I know smoking bees till they move on is not something that a normal beekeeping procedure but, unless someone with experience says it definitely will not work, or better yet, offers an alternative …
2. Place Bee Container (Cage) outside of building and connect to BBQ Vent with screen.
3. Give bees a hit of smoke at inside end of BBQ Vent every 10 min. three times.
4. Continuously smoke bees to force into Bee Container. If bees come to end of vent but do enter Bee Container start plan "B". If bees do not come to end start plan "C"
4B. Vacuum bees into Bee Container.
4C. Vacuum bees, remove comb, vacuum bees, and so on.
5. Remove vent pipe from building and carefully remove comb.
6. Attach comb to TBH Bars and place in TBH or start plan "B"
6B. Lean comb against inside walls of TBH.
7. With as many bees as possible in Bee Container place in TBH.
8. Give bees a chance to make TBH home and open TBH on second day.
PS: The way I found out the BBQ Vent was plugged was by cooking steaks and having the house/shop fill with smoke. Went to the outside vent flap and it was glued all but shut. Pried it open to find that it was being held with comb and there were lots of bees. I have showed people the hive since and the comb seems abandoned. The point of this story is that the steak smoke seems to have made the bees move to the vent end of the hive but they are not normally there. The hope would be that continuous smoke would push them even further, into a “Bee Container” for instance.
Thank you again for your response. It is my nature to at least attempt to simplify whatever I build. "KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid" is a saying that is close to my heart. A removeable screen then, OK.
I have seen Les Crowder make top bar hives out of barrels cut in 1/2. You do not have to build the walls of your top bar hive on an angle. Years ago, when I was short of frames for a honey flow I cut 2x4's into top bars the lenth of my frames (1 5/8" x 3/4") and placed them between the frames and the bees drew out the top bars in the exact same shape and size as the frames. I now prefer to build long boxes instead of the angled sides so I can intermix my frames in my top bar hives and also in my Langstroth hives. My width and height is the same as a Langstroth hive, but the length is what ever I desire. I usually make it about 48" long.
I can put in dividers and run nucs or a two queen system if I want. This is an excellent way to requeen in my view. I will take a frame of open brood with nurse bees and a frame of honey with pollen and move it to the oposite end of the long box and put a divider between them. A new queen will be made (and a few queen cells you can cut out and use elsewhere) and she will lay as long as I want her to. I can then move her and her brood to the same side as the old queen and she will replace the old queen. I can also locate the old queen and move her to a new location and let her continue laying and use the brood to beef up a week hive. I hate to kill queens unless they are agressive.
The reason I want to requeen is to prevent swarming and keep a productive hive growing other than that I love my old queens and like to keep them around.
Thank you for your reply. I have reached the same conclusion about the hive sides. The bees don't care weather they are angled or not. I kind of wondered it it doesn't put them in a tighter environment though. Perhaps easier for the bees to keep cool or warm as the weather requires. I am going to build three TBH in the next couple of weeks. I did leave the sides angled however because it has a flat roof and, if angled, water will not run direct down the sides. I have attached a photo that is from the design program I use. Please let me know what you think.