This is one feature that truly distinguishes Sweet Valley Hives from other Warre hive manufacturers. But a funny thing happened while testing out these top bars...
Our top bars were designed with one thought in mind - How do we encourage the bees to draw straight comb? Utilizing the standard Warre top bar with no guide, the bees are left to their own devices. They will undoubtedly build comb in whatever size & shape they feel like. Rarely is that shape a straight line. More often than not you will find some circuitous intertwined array of combs that makes harvesting a nightmare, and inspections a pipe dream.
sorta like this..
So we set our mind to making a top bar that will help guide the girls into drawing straight comb, which makes inspections, and harvesting much easier. We wanted the main top bar to be robust, able to withstand some beek-abuse. We also wanted side bars to help keep the comb off the walls to some degree. Lastly, we needed a center guide that was thin. One that the bees would completely envelope in comb, allowing the comb to be attached directly to the main top bar itself. And, for the "coup de grace" we would coat this guide in a copious amount of beeswax.
So what's so funny about that? Well nothing really.. but here is what happened following the introduction of these new top bars into our hives back in 2013 -
Let's take a step back and recognize that one of the peculiarities of the Warre hive is a situation called the "False Floor phenomenon". This is a situation where the bees will build out the top box rapidly and completely, then, for reasons we still don't understand, they stop. The colony continues to forage & expand, but they never equate the empty boxes below with livable space. To make matters worse, as the new brood hatches, they get very crowded very quickly. What happens? Yep, swarm. Now you're left with a single box of bees that have swarmed prematurely leaving you a scant number of bees. They can survive, but they still don't move down into the second box.
Enter SWEET VALLEY HIVES (insert triumphant horn blast here)!! We were amazed to find that our efforts to encourage straight comb building ALSO encouraged natural movement within the hive. In other words we found (with very little exception) that the bees moved seamlessly into the second and third boxes. Evidently, the slathering of the comb guides with all that bees wax is enough to unlock that false floor gene in the bee's brain. Sooooo using our top bars, not only helps to insure straighter comb, but can also go a long way towards solving the false-floor phenomenon with absolutely no manipulation. Pretty cool!!
Ok, how many of you actually made the triumphant horn sound?