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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 18th year of beekeeping in April 2023. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Beginning of a Top Bar Hive

Today my sweet son-in-law Jeff and his father Harrison and I all teamed up to begin to build a top bar hive. We finished construction but there is still more to do before the bees come. I'll keep adding to this slideshow until the whole thing is finished. Here below is today's beginning effort to build a top bar hive. When I hopefully get a swarm to put in this hive, it will live at Jeff and Valerie's house (my son-in-law and daughter).


  1. Looks good! I am always fascinated by the TBH's. I like those which have an observation window in the side.

    My wife says we should do one also, but it takes a little more space than my LL hives.


  2. Have you thought about your starters on the topbars? I think there are as many options and opinions as there are people who keep topbar hives.

    Here is my solution. I think this link should work. If not let me know.


  3. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Linda I am so happy for you. It seems funny to me, but at this moment I have 2 people who offered to build me a TBH for free. It must be the year for TBH's. Anyway, looks like I will have one built very soon and then must catch a swarm.

    I can't wait to read about your adventures with the TBH and also to learn lots from you.

    Annette from Placerville California

  4. Steven, it will take up more room than the bee boxes, but should be an adventure to work. I'll also be going to see my daughter Valerie more when I check on the bees.

    Curtis, Your wax strip looks good and is one of the options I've considered. I like your slide show and I use a syringe like that for making lip balm. If I did use a wax strip, I would use the wax tube fastener like I do for starters on Langstroth frames. I'm probably going for popsicle sticks on these, though, both to conserve my wax from my own bees and to avoid commercial wax which is full of coumaphos and fluvalinate (see the post on Jennifer Berry's talk at GBA).

  5. Hello,
    I have a TBH. My first attempt was a package and they absconded. I rubbed the inside with lemon oil and did a wax filled groove on each TB. The second attempt was a swam and they stayed but ended up with a laying worker. I highly suggest using starter strips like you do on the Langs, and also using a queen excluder on the outside of the entrance to keep the queen in till she lays and has brood to keep her there.
    Hope my mistakes are helpful to you. :)

  6. Linda,

    I'd definitely get a starter of some sort, be it a wax strip or a popsicle stick, something will be very, very helpful to keep the comb going straight. I run about 20 foundationess hives (Warre and Top Bar) and I've definitely found it helps. :)

    Looks good!

    Good luck,

  7. How cool that your family is involved too!

  8. Anonymous10:27 PM

    I'm excited to see how your hive does. I'm getting bees and building a TBH for them in april. (and I'm starting to get nervouse about it)

    Similar to curtis's link, there is a video on you tube of a guy laying wax over cotton string as a comb guide for his top bars.

  9. Ahh! The popsicle starter. I am sure that is as good as any.

    The wax I used was from my own hives. The discussion is similar to what came first the chicken or the egg. Once you have a TBH you have plenty of wax.

    Ultimately, the bees do not need a starter strip. They know how to build comb and space it properly. All the starter is supposed to do is coax them to build down the center of your topbar so you can lift the whole thing out for inspection. And inspections are not that important for the honey combs, you cut them off when you havest anyway. The critical part is the brood section. Once that is built and on your bars the rest is easy.

    One other trick is that once they have a couple of comb perfectly centered and extended to the end of the bar you can insert a new empty bar between them and they will build new comb smack in the middle without starter. The little girls measure pretty good on their own.

  10. Thanks, Curtis. I've been using foundationless frames with only a few wax cells at the top because I've been harvesting via crush and strain for the last few years. Currently I only have two hives and will, I'm sure, get more wax this year as well, with the addition of this TBH and two more hives that I will have soon.

    I have used both wax strips and popsicle sticks in my Langstroth hives. I may try the wax line in a few frames and the popsicle stick in a few frames and see what the bees seem to like. Maybe I'll even do a few with the cotton string covered with wax!

  11. I just found your WEB site and am in the same position as you and some of your readers. A novice bee keeper. My bees arrive in April also and I too am going with the Top Bar bee hive with a few modifications. I am purchasing a package of Italian and a package of Carniolin bees, to compare the behavior and results of the two. We will be using various digital thermometers and an an inspection camera to track their behavior. We are investigating the temperature variances of the hives across the seasons to evaluate its impact on stress and problems with deseases. We know for instance that the Virola mite breads at 93 degrees and cannot bread at 97 or higher. Bees prefer 97 to 98 degrees for breading.

    Using the Top Bar and not storing honey comb over the winter as you know helps protect the bees from the Wax moth. We are going hybrid and creating a few full frames for our Top Bar hive and will spin the spring honey and replace the wax allowing the bees to focus on a second run for the fall. We will remove the wax and honey from the full frames in the fall leaving reserves for the bees in other frames they created over the summer. The following spring we remove the wax and honey from the over wintered comb and let the process start over.

    Using Carniolin bees we should develop 18% more honey over the Italian bees and with our modified approach may create another 20% without endangering the bees. Since a Top Bar hive already produces at 50 to 60 percent of a commercial hive we should approach better than 80 percent of their production. By insulating our hives in the winter we also hope to lower the stress on the bees since it is their energy that keeps it warm. In the midwest insulation is not felt necessary, but I believe it will greatly lower the energy the bees expend and the honey they consume to survive. They should be in much better shape for the spring.

    The Carniolin ramp up fast in the spring and produce was and honey quickly. The decline in the fall requiring only 50% of the honey reserves of bees like the Italian which continue to bread through the fall. The down side for the Carniolin is the greater potential to swarm. They however tend to stay away from other hives reducing the incidence of infestations or illinesses from other hives.

    Which will do best and which will I keep in the long run we will see. In the mean time I invite your readers to visit our WEB site were we just launched a new article on the plight of the bees. I want to thank you and the others for getting involved in bee keeping, it may be a hobby or a passion, but it is as we all know good for the environment and at this point bees need our help. See you at http://healthylife.rmtrain.com (a not for profit WEB site).

  12. Tomorrow Friday 4/16/10 I pick up one package of 9,000 Italian bees from Hamilton Illinois and Next Friday I should receive a package of 9,000 Carnolin Bees from Ohio. About 18 thousand bees and two newly built Top Bar bee hives with inspection windows, digital themometers and custom honey frames. Finishing up the final touches today, just in time. I will have a few pictures on our site (http://healthylife.rmtrain.com) of the finished hives and maybe a few of the bees. Best of luck to each of you starting this year, we should all have a great adventure.


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