Top Bar Hives - Honey

Top Bar Hives
By Steve Buckner & Greg Tomerlin
A Walk & Roll Production
Walnut Grove Road
Lebanon, TN
Greg Tomerlin
Steve Buckner
There are several styles of TBHs
Honey Sun Top Bar Hives
Pros & Cons
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
More frequent
manipulation required
Combs are more fragile
Have to start at one end
for inspection
Difficult to move once
Combs destroyed during
honey harvest
Hive Components
How to build a TBH
• Free plans available on the internet
• Measure someone’s hive and copy it
• Basic carpentry skills and tools. A table
saw is especially useful when making
Tools of the
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
sheeting for roof
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
The sides of this hive are
straight up and down.
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
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
feeder to hold
three quart jars.
There is a screen
below each jar
which allows the
jars to be
changed without
releasing bees.
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
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!
This is a joke, people.
Adding a super to a TBH
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
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
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.
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
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
Suggested Reading
• has a Top Bar forum and is an
excellent source for beekeepers in general.
• and The Practical Beekeeper
• The Barefoot Beekeeper by Phil Chandler
• Search for Sam Comfort or Les Crowder on the
• 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
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