In my area, building a top bar hive is a little deviant, as all the experienced beekeepers use Langstroth type bee hives. While there is a large following of 8 frame versus 10 frame boxes and small cell bees instead of the more commercially popular large bees the beekeepers I know all want the most honey for their money and a top bar hive gives substantially less honey than the box type hives.
Why do I have a top bar hive (TBH)?
It’s precisely because I don’t want all that honey. I want the extra wax that you get in a TBH. You see, I have three conventional hives to give me all the honey I need. Since I do not have a honey house and a honey producer license I can only sell 50 pounds of honey a year. It is pretty common for a hobbyist in my area to produce 30-50 pounds per hive per year. So I have more than enough honey. BUT, using foundation and frames in my Langstroth hives I only get a little wax from cutting the cap off the comb during harvest.
Wax is also valuable and has several uses for a DIY guy like myself. It makes a wonderful bullet lube, high quality candles, the lost wax casting process uses beeswax , as well as some soaps.
A TBH gives as much or more wax than it does honey. That is because the only way to harvest the honey is to cut it off the top bars, and crush and strain the comb. This gives me a lot of usable wax.
Why Do Top Bar Hives Get More Wax
They are also much cheaper to construct. I built my TBH from pallet wood and scrap wood from other projects.
By having some of both types of hives I have a larger selection of resources, and in a disaster I do not have to rely on infrastructure to ship me more wax foundation or new wooden frames.
So anyway, now that you know why I have a TBH, let me tell you how I installed my package off bees in the box.
- I opened the top of the hive and removed about 4 of the bars. I designed the hive to use replacement top bars from conventional langtroth hives. That way, if I ever needed to, I could drop a TBH top bar in my convention box shaped hive.
- I opened the package and set the sugar solution jar out, then removed the Queen bee, removed the packing plug that covered her candy plug, and set her in the hive, just like I would with a conventional hive.
- I then shook out the bees into the hive.
- Once the bees were out of the box, I replaced the top bars
- I replaced the hive cover
- Next I set the package on top of the hive so that the remaining bees could fly out and rejoin their colony.
- Finally, I checked them about a week later to see that the Queen was freed, they had comb built, and had survived the process.
This is exactly the same as I would have done with a langstroth hive.
However, after my experience last year installing my first bees, it was a pleasure – I did not get stung, and it was much easier and faster.
If you have ever considered beekeeping, do it. It is fun, sustainable, and a great barter tool. I cannot say you will make a lot of money, I keep thinking of new stuff to buy to make it easier. But I do have a lot of folks asking to buy my honey.