Top bar hives have been used for beekeeping for hundreds of years with the first documentation of these hives having been written in the 17th century. Top bar hives are used around the world and are quite often made of reused materials. Typically, this hive is shaped like a cuboid, trapezoid or a semi-cylinder. On the width of the opening, it usually has three bars parallel to each other from which the bees build the honeycombs. Top bar hives promote natural beekeeping practices over harvest focused beekeeping. This is why they are quite popular.
Building a top bar hive, especially if you are doing it yourself, can take a whole day. However, it is not a difficult project.
Table of Contents
- 1 Gather the Supplies and Tools You Will Require
- 2 STEP 1: Cut the End Pieces for Your Hive
- 3 STEP 2: Attach the Ends to the Bottom
- 4 STEP 3: Create Entrances for the Bees
- 5 STEP 4: Attach the Remaining Sides
- 6 STEP 5: Make the Grooves on the Bars
- 7 STEP 6: Fix Your Bee Foundation
- 8 STEP 7: Install the Top Bars
- 9 STEP 8: Raise Your Hive
- 10 STEP 9: Cover Your Hive with the Lid
Gather the Supplies and Tools You Will Require
To build your DIY top bar hive, you will need the following materials:
- Solid wood or plywood,
- a half-inch hardware cloth,
- wood screws to hold together your wood,
- good quality wood glue or beeswax,
- a sheet of metal for the lid which is optional since you can use wood for the lid if you have enough of it,
- furring strips for the top bars,
- plastic bee foundation and
- cinder blocks to raise and support your top bar hive.
To build your hive, you will require the following tools:
- a table saw,
- or circular saw for cutting your wood,
- a framing square for measuring a drill,
- a one-inch hole saw or a suitable alternative,
- a staple gun, utility knife and wire clippers.
STEP 1: Cut the End Pieces for Your Hive
If you are starting from a large piece of wood, measure and cut your end pieces.
You need two of them and they should be 14 and a half inches by 12 inches. They should also be an inch thick.
One of the end pieces, mark 2 and a quarter inches on the 14 and a half inch side on both end.
Draw a straight line from the mark on the right side to the right corner and do the same on the left side.
Use your saw to cut along these lines so that you end up with a 10-inch length on the end piece that will fit into the bottom.
Once you are done with that piece, do the same on the second end piece.
STEP 2: Attach the Ends to the Bottom
While attaching the end pieces to the bottom you will have to ensure that you allow for the slant in the end pieces while fitting them onto the bottom.
The bottom piece should measure 10 inches by 41 inches and it should also be an inch thick. So you will align your end piece with the 10-inch side of your base.
You will need to drill your screw holes before you fix the pieces together, ensuring that the screws will be 3 to 4 inches apart.
Apply the wood glue to the area then fix the wood screws.
It is easier to do this with another person helping you. When you’ve finished with one end, proceed to the opposite end and repeat the process.
STEP 3: Create Entrances for the Bees
In this step, you will drill out holes for the bees to enter the hive.
You will use your one-inch hole-saw to create two holes in one of your end pieces.
The centers of these holes should be two inches from the bottom of the hive and three inches from each side.
After that take your wire clippers and cut two one and a half inch square from your hardware cloth you will staple this to the inside of the end piece you were working on to keep rodents out.
STEP 4: Attach the Remaining Sides
The side pieces measure 12 inches by 41 inches and are 1 inch thick.
To fix these two sides to the bottom, you will follow the same procedure that you did in attaching the end pieces to the bottom.
You will pre-drill the screw holes 3 to 4 inches apart, then you’ll apply the wood glue, and finally, you will put in the screws.
STEP 5: Make the Grooves on the Bars
For your top bars, you will have 28 furring strips each measuring 19 inches by 1⅜ inches and 1 inch thick. To make the grooves, you will cut a quarter inch groove in the center out using your table saw.
STEP 6: Fix Your Bee Foundation
Take your bee foundation and place a strip of the foundation in the groove of each top bar.
To make the strip adhere to the groove, you can use the wood glue or melted bee’s wax since it is a safer and less toxic option.
The bee foundation strip will allow the bees to build the comb on it, and it will hang into the hive.
STEP 7: Install the Top Bars
After fixing the bee foundation now, you can fit the top bars into the hive. Ensure that the foundation is facing downward into the hive.
Ensure that your top bars fit properly into the hive so that they stay firmly in place but can still be removed during honey harvesting.
STEP 8: Raise Your Hive
Since you have not made legs for your top bar hive, you can use cinder blocks instead. You need not worry since they work just as well in supporting and raising your hive.
All you have to do in this step is to decide where you want to set your hive.
Next stack our cinderblocks one on another until you reach your ideal height.
Since you are stacking two columns, ensure that they are close enough together to be able to support your hive and that they are of the same height so that our hive will be balanced and stable.
STEP 9: Cover Your Hive with the Lid
Placing a lid on the hive is meant to protect it from the elements.
You can either cut a piece of wood that will be big enough to cover the hive, and use it as the lid, or use a galvanized sheet of metal to cover the hive.
This design is supposed to give you guidance on how to make a top bar hive. So you can change this basic design to suit your preferences and needs. You can also look out for other ideas to help you customize your top bar hive.
In altering this basic design you could decide to build in legs for your hive, or hinge your lid or even paint the exterior part if your hive. Just ensure that you don’t paint or treat the inside for the safety of the bees.