We’ve had a lot of questions concerning top bar hives since our presentation on them last month at our bee club meeting. We had more questions while working the booth at the county fair last night. Most people wanted to know how to build a top bar hive and where to get plans. Free plans are available at several sites on the internet. Below are a few links:
Unlike Langstroth hives, there are no specific dimensions required for this type hive. There are also no specific rules for type of roof, entrance, sides, follower boards, etc., so you can make them as plain or fancy as you want. The only advice to any of the things mentioned above is that we would strongly recommend the entrance be on the end and not in the middle. If you do your homework, you’ll understand why. The only dimension that is critical is top bar width, and those aren’t set in stone as long as you stay within certain boundaries. Remember, one of the advantages to this type hive is it’s simplicity. No matter what plan you choose, be sure you build all of your own hives to the same dimensions so your parts are interchangeable. This is invaluable.
As any successful top bar hive keeper will tell you, the most important thing is to make sure your bees build straight combs. You can help (and even force) them to do this. If you focus on this from the beginning, you’ll be rewarded down the line.
One more great piece of advice is this. DO NOT LET SOMEONE TELL YOU THAT TOP BAR HIVES WON’T WORK. THEY WILL. If they tell you that you probably won’t get as much honey from this type hive, they may be correct. But, with correct management, you can get plenty of honey. If you’re going into beekeeping to produce as much honey as possible, you’re probably not going this route anyway. In almost all the cases, negative comments come from people with no experience with this type hive. If they tell you that top bar hives swarm more than other hives, that is also true, unless you manage them correctly to prevent swarms. Top bar hives require more frequent manipulations than Langs, but it is quick and rewarding.
Go ahead! Gather up some scraps or head to the lumber store. Build you a couple of top bar hives. You’re going to love it!
P.S. See our suggested reading tab on our home page for some books on top bar hives.