Thursday, March 15, 2012

Choosing a Top Bar Beehive

I'm comfortable with the animal population on our small lot and on our cousin's property--time for a new challenge.  You may remember my sister, HoneyHolli, and her fourth generation Mr. Beekeeper hubby. Well, I've watched them with envy for many years now and finally decided to do something about it.  I have joined the local Beekeeping Society, watched several videos, bought a book and am ready to try my hand at beekeeping.   #2 Son has agreed to help, since he has worked with his uncle a little bit and knows more about bees than I do. I'm also counting on sister HoneyHolli to be at the other end of the phone when I have questions.
Instead of the usual Langstroth or upright hives, I've decided to use a top bar hive. Specifially, the Kenyan Top Bar Hive (as opposed to the Tanzanian Top Bar Hive, which has straight sides). It's easier to manage, and apparently easier on the bees. It's not a production hive, so I'll get more wax and less honey as I would with an upright hive, but I don't itend on selling my honey as a profession, so lower volume is just fine with me.
Here is the hive I'd love to buy, if I had the extra cash:

Isn't it a beauty? Almost garden art in and of itself. I love the observation window!  Beethinking sells these at, but I would be out over $300 if I were to purchase this hive.

TJ Carr shares his plans and a narrative for a very fancy top bar hive (similar to the hive above), but my woodworking skills are so lacking that I can't make heads or tails of his plans. Hubby-san was totally lost as well, so we won't be making this any time soon. Sad.

Here's a site that teaches you how to make your own top bar hives.
McCartney Taylor has several videos that show a very simple top bar hive that is used in Africa. He uses Les Crowder's plans to make his hives. I like it's simplicity, but I think we need a bottom here in Seattle due to the cool weather, and a sturdier roof due to the rain.

Les with his top bar hives

The Barefoot Beekeeper also shares his top bar hive plans with the public here. I like the roof and I can understand his plans. I also found a couple of people who posted videos of their construction of this particular hive here (2-part series) and here (6-part series, nice and detailed so I can follow).

Hives at the Barefoot Beekeeper

So I've decided to follow the Barefoot Beekeeper's plans for the hive, and McCartney Taylor's plans for the actual top bars. We've got a pile of scrap wood that I think will be sufficient for the hive, so all I'll need to buy will be the screws and wire mesh.  I'm excited to be moving forward with this new adventure--I've been thinking about it for several years now. I'll let you know how the hive turns out!

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  1. Hello! I garden in Oregon with a huge love of native plants. (Read your earlier post on salvaging natives.) I've never seen that style honeybee hive-- I hope you build one. We had a hive for a while, gathered from a house wall, but they didn't make it through winter. I'd love to try that again sometime. Making stuff out of whatever I have on hand is the system at my house too. -L

    1. Welcome, linniew! If you're from Oregon, then you'll know all about the extra dose of RAIN we've been having lately. As soon as it lets up, I will be starting on the beehive. Can't wait to get started! I'll be sure and post pictures of the progress. What kind of natives do you have in your yard/garden? I'm very interested in edible native plants--please share.


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