Browsing through the new on-line BID brochure (see below) paused at the pages showing Senegalese beekeepers making top-bar hives. They appear to be using narrow bars with gaps in between, kept in position by castellated spacers (see picture above). Is there a particular reason for doing it this way?
My own experience with the top-bar hive is that having the bars fitting closely together works well. The bees are always very calm, far more so than in hives with conventionally spaced frames, where there are gaps to defend when the beekeeper takes the roof off, light floods, in and warm air rushes out. This alerts the bees to the fact that they are being threatened and they may be inclined to do something about it. With closefitting top-bars there is only one gap at a time and, if you work gently, the bees hardly know that you are there. On the odd occasion when the roof has blown off, the colony has still had a solid ceiling and come to no harm.
My first attempt was with bars 3.5 cm wide, and this was successful in the UK. I understand that African bees are smaller and need narrower top-bars. By way of experiment I am now using a graduated range of bar widths from 3.175 cm at the front to 5.0 cm at the rear. | shall monitor how the bees get on and shall measure the cell size to See if they adjust it to match the bar spacing.
Last autumn, in order to produce a small harvest of extra propolis, I took one top-bar out temporarily and eased all the others apart slightly. A few weeks later | was able to use a hive tool to scrape off enough propolis to fill a tobacco tin. Some of this is now being made into a tincture and the rest is being eaten raw.
Chris Slade, UK
More on top-bar hives at our Website Information Centre. If you have any top-bar tips or questions, do send them in.
E H Thorne (Beehives) Ltd have added top-bar hives to their range of equipment for sale. Available as flat pack or ready built, order from www.thorne.co.uk For every top-bar hive sold, Thornes are donating £10 to Bees for Development Trust.