Top Bar Hives By Steve Buckner & Greg Tomerlin A Walk & Roll Production www.honey-sun.com Walnut Grove Road Lebanon, TN Greg Tomerlin Steve Buckner There are several styles of TBHs Honey Sun Top Bar Hives Pros & Cons • • • • • • • Pros Less weight to lift Natural cell size Observation Window Less exposure to bees Top Bars easier to make than frames Less expensive to build No extra storage required • • • • • Cons More frequent manipulation required Combs are more fragile Have to start at one end for inspection Difficult to move once established Combs destroyed during honey harvest Hive Components How to build a TBH • Free plans available on the internet - biobees.com - bushfarms.com - learningbeekeeping.com • Measure someone’s hive and copy it • Basic carpentry skills and tools. A table saw is especially useful when making bars. Tools of the Trade • • • • Smoker Barbecue Tongs Five in One Tool Long Bread Knife What We Use •42” long hive •17” top bars •1X and 2X lumber •2x4 pressure treated legs •Aluminum sheeting for roof Entrance Location There are several options for entrances: top, end and side. While top and end entrances are functional, an entrance on the middle of the side can lead to problems. Since the bees want to build the broodnest close to the entrance, they’ll build honey storage combs on each end in this arrangement. This can lead to the cluster becoming trapped on one end and starving to death with combs full of honey on the other. Use an end entrance. Two Main Types of Top Bar Hives Tanzanian The sides of this hive are straight up and down. Kenyan These sides are sloped. Some people believe that the sloped sides keep the bees from attaching the combs to the sides. We have not found this to be the case. Installing Bees Packages Swarms Standardize Your Dimensions! • If you plan on building more than one hive, make all of your hives the same dimensions, including your top bars. This way, you can swap combs from hive to hive. This should include any TBH nucs you have, too. Top Feeder Custom-made feeder to hold three quart jars. There is a screen below each jar which allows the jars to be changed without releasing bees. Boardman Feeder We cut a slot in the end of the hive for a snug fit for a Boardman feeder base. Bees can’t get to the food from outside and it’s easy to know when you need to refill. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em! This is a joke, people. Adding a super to a TBH Hive Inspection It is critical to cut brace combs before lifting out a top bar. You may not realize you’ve damaged the comb until you open the hive for the next inspection. Follower Board The follower board is used to restrict the size of the hive before it has built up. It gives a sense of a smaller space to fill. Straight Combs Lead to Straight Combs!!!!!!! This is probably the most important lesson to learn in this type beekeeping. As in standard Lang hives, you need to be able to inspect each individual comb. Without a frame, it is easier for the bees to build combs from bar to bar. To prevent this, you MUST add empty bars between drawn combs of brood. The bees are forced to build straight combs. Screened Bottom Board Some people like a screened bottom board in their hives. This serves the same purpose as a SBB in a Lang hive by giving you the opportunity to increase ventilation and get an idea of what’s happening inside the hive, including mite counts. Top Bar Combs Handle With Care Top Bar Width The main thing to remember is bee space. While the best width for a brood comb bar is 1 ¼ inches, a bar 1 ½ inches wide is best for honey combs. Some people make all of their bars 1 3/8 inches and make spacers to space them out for honey combs. Others use a bar 1 3/8 inches wide for all of them. We’ve tried both. While using all 1 3/8” bars is easier, the narrower bars are more natural for the brood nest. Types of Comb Guides Observation Windows One nice feature of top bar hives is that you can easily add an observation window. Suggested Reading • Beesource.com has a Top Bar forum and is an excellent source for beekeepers in general. • Bushfarms.com and The Practical Beekeeper • The Barefoot Beekeeper by Phil Chandler • Search for Sam Comfort or Les Crowder on the internet. • A search on Google for TBH’s will turn up loads of information. Another Type of Top Bar Hive The Warre Hive… also known as The People’s Hive The Warre Hive The Warre Hive (also known as the People’s Hive) was developed by French beekeeper Emile Warré. He was born around 1876 and lived until 1951. Warre developed the People’s Hive after experimenting with over 350 hives of various designs and types. It was his goal to find a hive system that was simple, natural, economical, and bee-friendly. The final result was the People’s Hive, or Ruche Populaire in his native tongue. He outlined the construction and operation of the hive in his interesting book Beekeeping for All. The pdf is available on our site. Warre Components Crazy Combs The Warre is left alone until time to harvest. You hope the bees will follow your comb guides on the top bars. When harvesting honey, all of the combs in a box are removed and crushed, so crooked, crazy combs are not as much of an issue. Harvesting Honey Crush and strain Honey Sun Apiaries Please visit our website at www.honey-sun.com to see this presentation in its entirety.