Top bar hive equipment

Ted has built four top bar hives from the Backyard Hives golden mean hive plans. Everyone thinks they’re pretty. Ted thinks it’s because the golden mean is inherently attractive to people. I think it’s because Ted does pretty work!

Kenyan Top Bar Hive built from Backyard Hive golden mean plans

Kenyan Top Bar Hive built from Backyard Hive golden mean plans

These hives are very easy for beginners to work with. Ted loves being able to look through the window into the hive any time of day or day of the year. Now that I am working with a Western box, which is quite heavy to lift and inspect, I love being able to just lift a single bar and look at it. It’s important to hold it up or turn it on its edge, don’t turn it perpendicular to the ground or the comb will fall off.

Inspecting a top bar

Inspecting a top bar

Before our first hive inspection Ted built a stand to hold up to three bars at a time. This is quite handy!

Top bar stand

Top bar stand

Inspecting a bar on the stand

Inspecting a bar on the stand

When putting bars back into the hive, bees boil out between the comb. The Backyard Hives people teach a little jiggle that will jolly the bees into moving out of the way. We still ended up with squished bees which we want to try to avoid, for several reasons: dead bees piss off the hive. Cleaning up dead bees spreads viruses in the hive and may weaken the hive. Also, it could be the queen.

To handle this problem, Ted cut a thin strip of wood he calls a Bee Barrier. You can push the bars pretty close together, drop the bee barrier between them to gently push the bees down into the hive, push the bars tightly against the barrier, remove the barrier, and finish closing the comb. Voila! No more squished bees.

Bee barrier

Bee barrier

As our skills developed into splitting colonies, we realized we would need a nucleus box. Ted built one that is basically a golden mean hive cut in half. It messes with your head to look at it, because the window is on the short side and the opening is on the long side. If you imagine two of these put together it helps make sense of it!

Top bar nuc

Top bar nuc

When we were asked to do a talk at a farmers market, Ted built an observation hive to hold a single comb. It has plastic sides, ventilation, removable covers for both sides of the box, and a handle for easy toting. This has traveled to a number of events this summer, it’s a crowd pleaser.

Top bar observation hive

Top bar observation hive

Some examples of equipment adapted for top bar use. Not available in stores yet – anyone who wants to make some of this gear can contact us, we’ll be happy to show and share.


Comments

Top bar hive equipment — 1 Comment

  1. I am a new beekeeper (or soon to be, anyway) and have been looking for plans to make a top bar hive with an observation window. I saw your hives and besides being beautiful, they seem to be exactly what I’m looking for! Would you share how the construction of the window and window cover is done? I also love the idea of the bee barrier, thank you for sharing that! I will be sure to have one with my home hive. Thank you!

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