Top bars are more than just strips of wood! We've taken the studies of progressive beekeepers, as well as entomologists, to discover that there is an exact science behind the way the bees cling to each other in the colony. If you ever notice how they cling and form a slight arc, that's engrained in the honey bee, they form an 11 degree angle, clinging to each other and working hand in hand (so to speak) in producing their own wax foundation. With that knowledge we've also tapered our top bars to reinforce that natural angle in which the bees cling to make the cells they produce are more structurally sound! That means less breakage of comb when removing it from the hive, and more strength to build out the combs fully and fill them with capped honey!
KALAMAZOO BEE SCHOOL 2014
Saturday February 22,02014
8:00 AM-4:00 PM
Kalamazoo First Assembly of God
5550 Oakland Dr. Kalamazoo, MI
ALBION BEE SCHOOL
Saturday March 1, 2014
9:00 AM-5:00 PM
611 E. Porter St., Albion, Michigan 49224
Click HERE for more info
Lessons every Saturday & Sunday, January-October
(Minus any special event dates listed above)@ 10:00 AM
$40 per family
Covered in lesson:
*Types of Hives
*Components of Top Bar Hive
*Advantages/Disadvantages of alternative beekeeping
*Honey Bee Biology & Their natural cycle
Hive Building Workshop
Hive build workshop includes a beekeeping lesson and your very own hive assembled by YOU!
Please dress for the weather and bring appropriate safety gear.
Hive Builds are limited to a class of five due to space and safety issues
THIS IS A PRE-REGISTERED EVENT ONLY
FIRST Saturday of every Month (October-March)
Click HERE to download our registration form!
Feral Swarm List
Steller Apiaries offers their local, intact feral swarms to those that wish to be placed on our list for the cost of $120 each. The sizes of the swarms varies, as they are natural swarms that occur in nature, but average 2-3 lbs. Availability varies, when we capture a swarm, you get a call! If you cannot take the swarm, we move on to the next person on the list, but you will remain at the top of the list. Call 517-748-7167 or Jessica@stellerapiaries.com for more info or to be added to our list!
Though top bar hives are named for their popularization in Kenya, the first records of top bar beekeeping were in Greece in the late 1600's! Top bar hives are revered for their 'top bar' rather than a four-sided frame. this negates the need for foundation, leaving the bees to draw out their cells to their natural size, rather than forcing them to draw out 'one size fits all' foundation. Allowing the bees to draw out their own cell size has also allowed many top bar beekeepers to omit the use of both protective gear and medication all together.
Steller Apiaries ...Keeping outside the box
What is a Top Bar Hive?
A top bar hive is a hive that uses top bars of some sort, in place of a four-sided frame like traditional, Langstroth (square box) Hives. Many top bars still use starter strips of foundation, but at Steller Apiaries, we re-use our excess wax and begin a straight line of wax down the center of the top bar. This acts as a 'suggested outline' and allows the bees to understand where they can build their comb without restricting their cell size by using stamped foundation.
Our top bar hives are long, instead of square, and previously have been referred to as Kenyan Top Bar Hives or Horizontal Hives; as the bee's build their comb horizontally rather than vertically. Our top bar hives are completely customizable but our standard hive is 36" in length, 18" wide and about 3-4' tall (No beekeeper's back here!) Our top bars are 1 3/8" wide, with 24 per hive. The width of the top bars are specific to accommodate bee space between the drawn out combs. No man-made spacers to interrupt the bee's natural progress and nothing to hinder the bee's nest scent and/or heat retention!
We use end entrances at Steller Apiaries, meaning our entrance is not on the long side of the hive, it stands at one end. Studies have shown that end entrances keep the queen from moving beyond her brood chamber, forcing the bees to work front to back and eliminating the need for two follower boards. In mid-hive entrances the queen has the chance to begin at one end, and work to the other with space left on either end of the hive. Come winter time this can affect the way the bees will cluster and eat their honey through the winter.
Top bar hives, in one form or another, have been used for thousands of years. There are even depictions of top bars being used in Greece; they simply used a fired clay pot or woven basket turned upside down and sticks laid across the top. They are one of the most basic methods of managing bees, as they are simple to build, simple to manage and and are more advanced than a skep or other cavity from which the comb cannot be easily removed.
Top bar hives are less expensive to build or have built than Langstroth hives or other similar frame-dependent hives. Top bar hives do not require heavy lifting in the form of honey supers, extra frames, foundation, or queen excluder's. An entire super of honey can weigh up to 50 lbs, a single honey laden top bar weighs between 3-5 lbs! Additionally you do not require excess materials or other expensive tools; the hives are fully self-contained beehives.
In addition to being cost effective to traditional equipment, top bar hives are significantly easier to work in than a Langstroth hive. Our top bar hives include a full body observation window, which eases the stress on the bees when it comes time to inspect. Removing the follower board and only one top bar at a time allows you to retain heat and nest scent, thus leaving the colony virtually undisturbed, and can leave you feel that your bees seem far less aggressive toward your presence.
Why OUR top bars hives?
We firmly believe in top bar hives and the alternative method, so why our hives? Well, we use local, quality materials and our hive has been adapted to deal with special cold climates common in Michigan and other mid-western states. We use a hive material that is 1 3/4" thick, meaning we have a full inch more insulating material between your bees and the cold in our hives rather than our competitor's. We completely customize your hive, depending on what you're looking for. From roofing materials to the type of wood, to exterior finishes and custom paint jobs, we can do it all! Lastly, we're a family-owned business. When you support us, you're directly supporting a local family in a local community
We use special-cut top bars that are designed to promote both comb production and stability. We do NOT use any type of foundation that could be misleading to the bees and promote uniform comb production. We place a liquid wax line down the center of our top bars, once hardened, the wax serves as simply a 'sniffer' line or a suggestion line for the bees to draw their comb.
Our top bars fit closely together to create a false roof, further insulating the bees and limiting the loss of heat and nest scent, and encouraging the bees to create their own necessary 'hi-ways' and 'bee-space.'
Top bar hive advantages
Our method isn't perfect, and we're not trying to claim it as such. We simply believe there is an alternative and this method works better for us and we believe it may work better for you.
Top bar hive disadvantages
With any method of beekeeping there are advantages and disadvantages. No method is perfect (not even ours) but what does matter is you helping your little pollinating friends!
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Unlike most of our competitors, our hives are customizable and can include both a roof and legs – all you will need to provide is a location and your bees! With the legs attached the top of the hive is approximately 3 feet high, making the hive easy to work without a “beekeeper’s back” from heavy lifting.