Welcome to BeeSpace.us

BeeSpace is a website dedicated to the beekeepers being guardians, protectors, and helpers as we try to preserve bees. It is not about how to use chemicals, nor how to maximize honey production, and it is certainly not about exploiting bees. This website is about establishing a relationship with your bees- learning about them and letting them learn about you. We will be practical and we will be learning.
We will be using the Top Bar Hive (TBH) rather than the more traditional Langstroth hive. Top Bar Hives are a style of beehive that has been used for beekeeping for thousands of years.

Peter's Top Bar Bee Hive

Top Bar Hives are especially popular in areas where resources are limited, however they are increasingly popular among beekeepers throughout the world because they are, to many beekeepers, kinder to the bees and to the beekeeper. The TBH allows the bees to build different size comb depending on the use of that comb- for brood, queens, drones, pollen or nectar (honey storage). TBH also allows the bees room on the floor of the hive. Top Bar Hives also offer advantages to the beginning beekeeper.

Design Characteristics

A top-bar hive has horizontal bars to which the honey bees attach and hang wax comb. Comb is an array of six sided (hexagonal) cells. The comb on Top Bar Hives cannot be centrifuged to extract honey and then reused like the more popular Langstroth Hives (the square hives one sees commonly). The upside to that is the bees build new comb thus minimizing the accumulation of pesticides, etc. in the wax. Using TBH’s will lead to a lower production of honey, but the honey from clear yellow comb (comb that has not been used for brood) is of the highest quality and is highly valued. Extracting honey in liquid form is as easy as mashing the comb thoroughly and then straining into jars using the sun for heat…but more on that technique later!

Top Bars

A beekeeper can make top bars from any plain, straight-grained wood. The top bars are usually 1 1/4 inches to 1 1/2 inches wide, depending on local conditions and the type of bee you have or want to keep. Combs can be handled individually.
When the roof is removed from a Top Bar Hive the entire hive is not exposed as in a Langstroth hive. All that is exposed is the top bars which the bees have sealed tight with propolis so you get to remove the combs one at a time. Minimizing disruption is I think very important.

Here are pictures of the top bars in my hive (when it was brand new):
Pictures of Top Bar Hive
The hive body is usually a long box, covered by a series of top bars laid side by side like the keys of a piano. The depth of the top bar hive should be 12″ or less. If deeper, the weight of the comb when it is filled with honey can cause it to fall off the bar into the bottom of the hive. Bees love a clear starting point to begin building comb. Some TBH beekeepers fashion their top bars with a V-shaped bottom to guide the comb building.
These top bars- whether v-shaped, or grooved- can also be purchased. You can use a table saw to cut one or two evenly spaced slots as guides along each top bar. The type of guide- either wax line, v-shape, or grooves- gives the bees a place to hold on to with their hooked feet. This allows the bees to “drape”, which is the beginning of comb building.