Top Bar Hive Beekeeping

Top Bar Hive Beekeeping

Top Bar Hive Beekeeping:

Top Bar Hive Beekeeping for many new beekeepers is the ideal way to get into beekeeping. First let me say that beekeeping is beekeeping no matter where or what you keep your bees in. Top Bar Hives also known as a”Long Hive” are gaining popularity within the beekeeping ranks. Unlike traditional Langstroth hives Top Bar Hives are pretty much a one time investment that does not require the beekeeper to keep purchasing additional woodenware like a Langstroth hive.

Top Bar Hive Beekeeping

Top Bar Hive Beekeeping Package Bee Installation How To

3lb Package of Bees Before Installation

3lb Italian Package W/Marked & Clipped Queen

KTBH Package Bee Installation Please Click here>  KTBH Package Install


Top Bar Hive (KTBH- Kenyan Top Bar Hive)

TBH Top Bar Hive Package Bee Installation

Top Bar Hive

If your thinking about getting into beekeeping or if your already a beekeeper and your looking for something new, you owe it to yourself to check out Top Bar Hive Beekeeping. Top Bar Hive Beekeeping has become increasingly popular over the last few years due to the relatively low cost of woodenware compared to starting out with Langstroth Equipment and the equipment needed to extract honey which can be extremely expensive. Due to the recent popularity of Top Bar Hives we are going to dedicate an entire section devoted entirely to Top Bar Beekeeping.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Top Bar Hive Beekeeping-

  • Bees are less aggressive in a Top Bar Hive : Unfortunately many Top Bar Hive Beekeepers think that Top Bar Hives are less stressful on their Bees therefore making them less aggressive and more docile. Some of the thinking on this is that Bees in Top Bar Hives make their own comb which usually means smaller cell size than that of a beekeeper using foundation in Langstroth hives with larger cells which in theory keeps mites to a low level. In my opinion cell size does not always mean less mites. Many times I have seen high mite counts on feral or unmanaged colonies where cut-outs (Bee Removal) has to be done. In many of the removals of colonies with high mite counts I’ve done, the Bees moved in and built their own comb yet mite levels were high. Genetics play a very important role in bees that are hygienic and groomed bees within the colony as well as destroying cells that contain larva with mites. Genetics also play a very important role in how aggressive or docile the colony is. Another reason some Top Bar Beekeepers may feel that their colonies are more docile than other forms of beekeeping is that most KTBH’s are elevated off the ground which in turn keeps rodents and animals such as skunks from disturbing the colony.

  • Top Bar Hives are less prone to diseases: Top Bar Hives offer no more protection from disease than other form of beekeeping.

  • Top Bar Hive Beekeeping is not considered “Real Beekeeping“: Bees are Bees no matter where or what you keep them in. Many so called “Seasoned Beekeepers” that have negative things to say about TBH’s are unwilling to admit they actually know nothing about Top Bar Hive Beekeeping.

  • Top Bar Hives Require More Work: The answer to this is yes and no! In order to keep the colony from running out of room and swarming, it does take a little more work to manipulate frames to give more room. Removing Top Bars with capped honey and replacing them with Top Bars to be drawn out requires the Beekeeper to do inspections on a regular bases. As the population within the colony grows frames of bees can be removed to prevent over crowding and new colonies can be started.

Advantages of a Top Bar Hive over other Hives:

  • Less Expensive: The Top Bar Hive as seen above requires no more equipment to be purchased unlike other form of beekeeping. Capped Honey Comb that is harvested from a TBH is crushed and does not require an expensive extractor to be purchased. Top Bar Hives like the one pictured above do not require any other woodenware to be purchased.

  • Fresh Capped Honey is Harvested More Often: Due to its limited size TBH’s require the beekeeper to harvest honey on a regular bases when there is a honey flow to open up space for more honey to be produced. Who does not like Fresh Capped Honey.

  • Natural Drawn Pesticide Free Comb and Honey: Nothing is better for a Colony and the Humans that consume the honey than natural clean pesticide free Honey and Comb. Top Bar Hives Produce excellent Comb which can be cut and sold for Comb Honey at a premium.

Top Bars:  Top Bars and Getting your bees to draw Straight Comb

Drawn Comb On Top bar

Natural Drawn Comb

There are many different styles of top bars and just as many or more thoughts on which ones are best. Without getting into a debate on what should or shouldn’t be used to get a colony started “drawing” or “Pulling” Comb we will just explain what we do and why we do it.

Wax Foundation Installed In Top Bar

Top Bar With Wax Foundation Starter Strip

Anytime we start a new colony in a Top Bar Hive we always use a strip of Wax Foundation which is slid into a cut groove in the top bar and is anchored with melted bees wax. By using this method we get the bees to draw straight comb every time and the comb is securely anchored to the top bar with the melted wax. After the foundation is secured we then trim both ends off at an angle to aid the in getting the bees to follow angle of the sides of our Top bar Hive.

Wax Foundation Top Bar Starter Strips

Wax Foundation Trimmed at an Angle

Top Bars Without Foundation Installed:

On our remaining top bars that we do not place wax foundation in we drip melted bees wax along the tip of the top bar to get the bees to start drawing natural comb. We have found that Top Bars with melted wax placed next to Top Bars with wax foundation are are more readily accepted by the bees and comb is drawn faster than Top Bars that have not been coated with bees wax.

Wax Coated Top Bars

Top Bars With Melted Wax On The Guide Tip

Top Bar Placement:

Top Bar Hive With Marked Top Bars

Top Bars Marked showing those with Foundation and Melted Wax

As mentioned above any time we start a new Top bar Colony we always use two to three Top bars with Foundation Starter Strips to get the colony started drawing straight comb which has worked perfectly every time for us. When starting a new Top Bar Hive Colony we give the bees no more room than what the bees number of bees being installed can work. Giving too large of an area can result in poorly drawn comb or in the colony absconding due to the area being too large for the number of bees present. We are always concerned about the colony strength and the area given because as comb is drawn and the queen starts laying we have to be concerned in having enough bees to area ratio to keep eggs and brood at a constant temperature. Too large an area on a cold night and we could loose eggs and brood as the bees will not be able to keep the brood warm enough resulting in “Chilled Brood”. The exact opposite can also happen if the temperature inside the hive becomes too warm and there are not enough bees to fan the  entrance to circulate air and cool the hive. Too much area to cool and the brood can actually cook or eggs can dry out.

Top Bar With Foundation Drawn Five Days After Install

Top Bars With Starter Strip 5 Days After Package Install

One of the most asked questions we get from new Top Bar Hive Beekeepers is what is the best Top Bar Placement and how many Top Bars do you start  colony with. As seen in the picture above we have had extremely good results starting a 3lb package of bees on no more than ten (10) frames backed up by a follower board. We place three Top Bars with starter strips in the center of our ten (10) top bars with a minimum of three Wax Coated Top Bars to each side of the Starter Strips. As can be seen in the above picture, the 3lb package of bees we installed five days earlier have already started building comb on the three Top bars marked with an F for foundation. The comb on the starter strips is perfectly straight which will keep the comb on the Waxed Top Bars (Frames marked With a W) placed to each side of the frames marked F to be drawn perfectly straight also.

Top Bar Hive Fllower Board

Follower Board Shown With Interior Syrup Feeder

Importance of using a Follower Board: Follower Boards as seen in the picture above are used to keep the size of the interior of the hive no large than the what the population of bees within can properly work and control the environment within. As comb is drawn the follower board is moved outward allowing un-drawn top bars to be placed in the new space where the follower board was positioned.

End or Side Entrance:

Entrances on top bar hives can be placed either on the end or on the side of hive. Personally I like having the entrance on the end with the entrance landing below the level of the interiors bottom which prevents water from entering the hive and also allows the use of an entrance reducer as shown below when needed. Many TBH’s use side or end entrances with round holes which can be plugged or opened as needed but are also a little harder to control the opening size unless the beekeeper places an entrance reducer disc to regulate the entrance size. Opening such as the one shown below also allow the bees to self regulate the entrance as they see fit. Smaller slit entrances as shown below allow the bees to open and close the entrance as needed with Propolis. The entrance seen below was totally close off this past winter 2012/2013 and narrowed down to three holes slightly larger than a bee and was opened back up this spring 2013.

Entrance Reducer shown on Top Bar Hive

Top Bar Hive With End Entrance