Rustic Top Bar Bee Hive

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Project by dennis mitchell posted 06-19-2011 10:28 PM 9918 views 7 times favorited 39 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the answers to colony collapse disorder in bees is a renewed interest in top bar hives. They are an old method of raising bees. It is still used today in many third world countries. A simple box with bars across the top that the bees hang their honey comb from. Pretty much what they would do in a hollow tree.
A top bar hive cuts down the build up of pesticides in hives. In a “traditional” hive the wax is reused for years. Slowly letting pesticides build up. In a top bar hive the wax is collected along with the honey. There might be traditional” hives today that still have DDT residue. Bee keepers today report a loss of up to 30% of their hives, so chances are all of the old hives are gone. When I first raised bees in the seventies you hardly ever lost a hive. That is no longer the case. The top bar hive also allows the bees to build the cell at any size they want. So they could build different sizes for brood then they do for honey. Not so with the “traditional” commercial hive. The draw back is you get a lot less honey with a top bar hive, but you do get a lot more wax. One of my favorite wood finishes is a mixture of mineral oil and bees wax. Wonderful for cutting boards. I wont have any problem using the wax. I built two hives from some old growth pine from a shed of my dads, that he let me tear down. You could raise bees in just about any thing. A plywood box or even old barrels cut in half. I wanted a furniture grade hive so I built it with box joints and love. I used a linseed oil finish on the exterior and a bees wax, mineral oil finish in the inside. The only problem I have is no bees! My bee supplier changed his mind, so now I have two garden sculptures. Anyone want to raise bees?

39 comments so far

View Bertha's profile


13588 posts in 3661 days

#1 posted 06-19-2011 10:35 PM

This makes me enormously happy, as I like bees. Perhaps you could provide a simple guide for us non-bee folks? If I build it, will they come? How to populate, etc.? I have plenty of property and plenty of wood; I’d like to help but don’t know where to start.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3824 days

#2 posted 06-19-2011 10:44 PM

They look very good

I makes sense that this would make for

healthier bees

good luck and hope you get a swarm soon.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4553 days

#3 posted 06-19-2011 10:56 PM

I have a very close friend in Germany who is a renowned expert on bees he has quite a little cottage industry there including writing many articles re diseases of bees.I will ask him re this design I am fascinated to see this type of hive as I have never seen it before.have fun I cannot go near them as I have a high alergy to insect stings so must stay clear. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3955 days

#4 posted 06-19-2011 11:06 PM

Nice hive Dennis. I keep bees in langstroth hives. I have a mixture of plastic and wax foundation, and foundationless frames. All the benefits you mention of a top bar hive can also be had with foundationless frames in a langstroth box.
There are more beeks on here than I would have imagined.
Thanks for sharing.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View gbrown4's profile


116 posts in 3661 days

#5 posted 06-19-2011 11:07 PM

Great looking bee hives and very informative. I have a good friend whose son raises bees. He was featured on CNN and headline news. You might want to check out his web site

-- Greg, Concordia, Mo

View MichaelA's profile


778 posts in 3856 days

#6 posted 06-19-2011 11:26 PM

Dennis I really like your beehive.Sounds to me like you did your research well. Their is so much to learn about any hobbie or buisness.Well I hope you can find another supplier for your bees. Great project!!!!!

-- The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. "Helen Keller"

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4712 days

#7 posted 06-20-2011 12:19 AM

This is a nice project, Dennis. Lot of craftsmanship put into these hives. I’ve always thought of the idea of having a hive, but I think I may be too far south. Worry with the killer bees seems to have shut down a lot of hives here in Texas. Thanks for posting. This is a nice old time design.

View ronniebo's profile


130 posts in 3633 days

#8 posted 06-20-2011 12:33 AM

Dennis, Great to see a renewed interest in these hives, BUT, for some reason that I`m unable to find out, these hives are disallowed in Australia.
Can you or anyone throw light on this matter for me?
Ron in Hobart

View Karson's profile


35267 posts in 5368 days

#9 posted 06-20-2011 12:47 AM

My daughter wants me to make her a few of these bee hives.

great job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3955 days

#10 posted 06-20-2011 12:58 AM

Ronniebo, I would say they are disallowed because of the lack of frames. With frames the comb is easier to inspect for diseases. Top bar combs are more fragile, plus if the hive is not level the chance of cross comb/burr comb is pretty high. Also sometimes the bees will attach the comb to the side/bottom of the box not just the top bar making inspection difficult. Just a guess.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View JPierce's profile


8 posts in 3572 days

#11 posted 06-20-2011 01:04 AM

A top bar hive is on my to-do list right below…..... well, lets just say it’s on the list and I hope to get to is in time for next year.
Nice “garden sculpture” Hey with any luck you may attract a swarm.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5282 days

#12 posted 06-20-2011 01:29 AM

Al, I’m just a woodworker today. It was a long time ago that I had bees. I had all three brain cells up and running back then.
Ronniebo, Scott is right. Not only that but in Australia you are supposed to be licensed to keep bees. No amateurs.
Scott, If I can I’d like to build some langstroth hives next. First I need bees! I did build these hive so I could add langstroth supers.
Tim, you might check out local bee keeper clubs. I know they have bees down south.
Thanks everyone!

View ronniebo's profile


130 posts in 3633 days

#13 posted 06-20-2011 01:41 AM

Thanks Dennis and Scott,
Your answers do make sense.
Getting a license for beekeeping here is not too difficult.
It is such a pity though, as the top bar hive is quite an elegant construction.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6873 posts in 4947 days

#14 posted 06-20-2011 01:58 AM

Hi Dennis;

Something I’ve always been interested in, but really don’t know why! I guess since I was living on a farm for a while, it just seemed like a good fit. Never did get involved with it though.

I hope all your health issues are under control.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View rance's profile


4274 posts in 4128 days

#15 posted 06-20-2011 02:18 AM

Al, you’re just a New-Bee. Interesting hive. I’ve never heard of this method, but I’m not a bee keeper either. Thanks for sharing.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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