The joys of a top bar hive

May 1, 2009 | By | Comments (1)

Happy May Day!

Our bees are doing well. Veronica, who was broodless last week, is following directions and has been laying eggs in the empty frames we placed in her hive. Kimberley wrote on the empty frames “put brood here,” so evidently bees can read. We know bees are smart, but we didn’t know they could read English.

Califia’s top bar hive doing well. It’s amazing how fast they’re building out natural comb. There are 15 bars on the hive now, and 14 of the bars are sporting comb with capped brood and honey.

Brianne inspects Califia’s top bar hive

Top bar hives are marvelously easy to inspect. The top bars are simply strips of wood (no frames, no foundation) to which the bees attach their comb. The bars lie across the top of the box with no spaces between them; we only remove one or two bars at a time to look inside the hive (easy on the back), so most of the bees are still in darkness under the remaining top bars. We use barely any smoke, the girls stay calm, and everyone is happy.


These bees are watching us, but they’re not attacking.


And the most captivating thing about Califia’s top bar hive? We can look through the observation window in the side and see what’s going on without disturbing the bees. It’s addicting, and I find myself in the bee yard whenever I have a spare moment, watching the bees inside the hive as they go about their business.

Looking through the observation window

We built our hive from two plans we found on the internet.
For the body of the hive, we used a plan from How to Build a Top Bar Hive offered for free by J.P. Chandler, author of the The Barefoot Beekeeper. To build the window, we used plans (also free) from

If you’re not handy, or don’t have, as we did, a resident carpenter available to build it for you, (A big thanks to Dan Strack!) you can purchase beautiful prebuilt hives from I’m coveting one of their graceful top bar hive tools.

Oh, well. I’ve said my white rabbits (it’s the first day of the month). Perhaps I’ll have the good luck to get one of these tools.


  1. Book Publisher

    How are the bees getting on now? Yours is one of the most organized and fantastic beehives I’ve seen in some time.

    February 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm

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