what is a top bar hive?

The top bar hive is the most used and ancient of all the hive types ever used in the world. The individual bars are laid across the top of the bar hive that is typically beteween 36 to 42 inches . The honeybees layout their comb down from these bars in a natural way , without the use of any standard frame .The top bar has not artificial foundation aside from a beewswax starter strip that serves as a guide for the bees to start building comb.

WHY USE A TOP BAR HIVE?

Top Bar Hive2

Among the many advantages of a top bar bee hive in home beekeeping, we can find tha fact that you don’t have to raise heavy boxes, buy a costly honey extractor, use expensive commercial wax foundation full of artificial additives, or hassle the bees as much as you do with a removeable box-style hive when handling your bees . Most used honey supers and full size hive boxes can weigh upwards of 50 pounds each when full, which can be detrimental for the wellbeing of the home beekeeper(assuming that you are even capable of lifting that much weight) . The greatest amount of weight you will need to lift when using a Top Bar Hive will be between 3 to 7 lbs MAX for a full ripe honey comb . Besides,You will not have any need for extra honey supers, extra wooden frames, expensive foundation, queen excluders, uncapping tools, costly extractors,spinners or other expensive tools

ADVANTAGES OF USING A TOP BAR HIVE

  • No heavy lifting, crouching or bending is required for hive inspections
  • Combs are easy to remove
  • Plexi-Glass Viewing Window.
  • Waterproof Telescoping Lid, Screened Bottom Board
  • Simple Honey Harvest
  • Quick inspections
  • Bees are more docile during inspections since you are only opening a small portion of the hive at a time

HISTORY OF TOP BAR HIVES

Top bar hives have probably have been around for thousands of years and they are not a modern invention at all. History records show they often were used in Greece in the shape of  a pot or  abasket with sticks laid horizontally across the top. The use of Top Bar Hives are one of the simpler techniques for managing bees, as they are simple to put together, simple to manage and are more sophisticated and practical than a skep or cavity from which the honey comb cannot be easily pulled out.

Since the top bar hives can be easily made from cheap materials without there being a need for sophisticated ,accurate power tools(like needed for building a Langstroth box), they allowed poorer areas in third world countries to move away from survival,damaging honey hunting, to a more efficient means of using bees.This is why the Peace Corps ushered the horizontal top bar hive to Africa in the Mid Twentieth Century as a low cost substitute to standard box hives like the Langstroth .This has permitted many primitive societies to benefit from honey and wax sales, using inexpensive hives in a way that is sustainable over the long run.

HOW TO MANAGE A TOP BAR HIVE

After comparing Langstroth hives, Warre hives and Horizontal Top Bar hives,we have come to conclusions that Horizontal Top Bar hives are easily the most fun and least stressful to manage - especially for the Home Beekeeper. Even though You must supervise them more often and they do requiere more visits to make sure the colony always has ample space for honey storage, it is also true that the fact that you avoid lifting heavy boxes and can also do most checks through a viewing window so maintenance ends up being quick and efficient.There is one little flaw we have encountered with the top bar hive design and It is that bees often attach their comb to the walls of the inner hive cavity. It means you will have to take an extra step when having to open a Top Bar Hive :detaching comb from the hive before pulling it out .

BEE INSTALLATION

Once you get your bee shipment you must empty them at one end of the hive with the follower boards set up in a manner that the colony will have access to 8-12 top bars. Open only ONE entranceway (the one the colony has access to), plugging up the rest . Hopefully if everything goes right, over the first few weeks ,the colony will quickly build comb from the top bars .During this period you have to pay close attention through frequent inspections to make sure that bees draw out comb in such a way that you will be able to lift the combs out in the future to manipulate the hive. If it is crooked or “cross-combed” you will be forced to gently push it back into place on the bar. If you neglect the hive and don't straighten the cross-combs early on, the problem will become pretty bad and in the end it will become nearly impossible for you to remove single bars of comb,making your Home beekeeper job a real nightmare,not fun anymore.

MAINTENAnCE HIVE CHECKS

As matter of fact ,in a horizontal top bar hives bees behave different than on a standard vertical Bee Hive .In a Top Bar,the honeybees will develop sideways instead than from the bottom up as with stacking box hives like Langstroth . As the Honey Bee eggs,larvae and honey stores enlarges, We have to shift the divider panel, like a sliding wall, sideways through the hive and add virgin bars. To play hardball with the bees and stay ahead of the game , You should try to stay 3 bars ahead of comb building activity . After you have relieved bees of as many honey stores as you dare(make sure they have enough left to winter), you can downsize the hive cavity, so the bees have the least air volume possible to heat during the winter months.

Honey Bee Horizontal plane development hives require frequent monitoring  from the HomeBeekeeper to ensure your bees have adequate space. These beekeeping checkups, as a rule , tend to be short and easy if you take advantage of full length plexiglass window present in many modern Top Bar Models. what he have often seen is that the beehive will have consolidated chambers for brood and honey along the hive cavity even though their separation won’t be demarcated by separate boxes.

25 years of experience has taught us that the brood chamber in a top bar hive will be the first 7-9 bars nearest to the open entrance on the side of the hive. A North American queen bee has a natural tendency to concentrate most of her brood chamber to the area of the hive closest to the entrance, we recommend only leaving 1 open if you intend to harvest honey. Whenever the apiarist leaves available more than one entranceway to the bees, your queen will lay brood in many areas in the hive, and finding a full bar of honeycomb to pull out will be difficult.Nearly all top bar hives in the market have 2- 3 entrances on the backboard of the hive body to allow beekeepers expand their hive in the direction most convenient to them. The remaining entrances should remain sealed with solid plugs.

honey harvest

         Honey harvesting when managing a top bar hive is real simple and requires few gadgets .Expensive equipment such as Honey extractors and electrical uncapping knives are simply not needed. To start just slice the comb from the top bars , then crush it up and strain using a Double Sieve Filter Honey filter and a spare 5 Gallon Plastic Bucket.

OVERWINTERING

When "winterizing" your hives you have to be sure they have enough honey stores ,28-48 Lbs in most areas .If handling several colonies,you can honey spread the surplus between them all to be dead sure they all have sufficient. To be totally Organic beekeeper you may not want to feed your bees sugar syrup even though that remains as a possibility in extreme situations.It is a tough winter world out there So you have to make sure the last time you harvest them,you leave enough honey stores for your honey bees to overwinter unless you believe there will be enough Bee forage between the last harvest and winter for them to have enough time to restock their supplies of honey and pollen. When you want to have 100% assurance your Honey bees will make it through the winter then make sure the Hive entrances available are reduced to a minimum to avoid heat loss.Also once the harvest is done and bee population starts to decline,make sure to reduce hive cavity size so there is less space for the bees to heat