My Experiences Building A BioBees Inspired Top Bar Hive

When I first decided to try beekeeping I found Phil Chandler the Barefoot Beekeeper from and decided to try a Top Bar Hive.  I have some woodworking skills and a few tools like japanese pull saw and a nail gun in the shed, so building the hive was within my skill set. I was worried about the blunt, rusted saw in the shed, but sure enough, came across this page on the internet and learnt how to sharpened it with minimal effort. Overall I was happy with what I ended up with, except the lid being heavy.  However I never got any bees to stay in the hive.  Being a new beekeeper I didn’t have access to anything like old comb to make the hive more enticing and I made it with a screen bottom, which the bees my not have liked.

058This is the hive I ended up with.  Some things I think went well is wrapping the top of the hive with a skirt which enabled the bars to fit securely and not move back and forth.  In this picture I only have some of the bars installed.  I like the look better of the end boards being cut to the angle of the sides rather then being a square with the sides running into it.  I also cut the top and bottom of the sides to match the angle of the sides so they are level.

Top Bar Hive

I used a router to create a comb guide on the bars so I wouldn’t have to try doing the beeswax and string thing or try to glue Popsicle sticks in a slot.  I marked the bars so I know how much would be exposed and only routed to that line so the part of the bar that sits on the wall would still be flat.  I just used a chamfer bit in the router to create this profile.

I also created an internal feeder on one of the follower boards that just takes a mason jar.  It is just some #8 hardware cloth with a slot cut in the side that faces the bees.

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DSCN0520I have to say our finished product look pretty good for someone that hadn’t done any woodworking for many years.

However when I added the package of bees things didn’t go so well.  The bees did cluster around the queen and built some comb that was beautiful, straight and centered on the bar, but after a few days they were gone.  From what I’ve read on the internet absconding if somewhat common with a package of bees in a Top Bar Hive.  I want to get back to trying it again, but it will have to be with a trapped swarm because after two packages not sticking around I can’t afford to do that again.  This means build a swarm trap the same width as my TBP.  Maybe next year.

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Author: Jerry Ward

Working on creating a 10 acre urban homestead in S.E. Michigan. To pay the bills I work as a product manager/business analyst in the IT field. Now the admin of Save Our Skills