Is Top Bar Beekeeping for You?

Is Top Bar Beekeeping for You?

Article by Val Wilson

Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth, the man who pioneered modern day beehives, created his original beehive design based on the idea that bee products could be more easily harvested from a spatially constructed box with frames. Since that time in the mid 1800′s others have manipulated that thought into different versions of the original model.

But one model known as the top bar hive, is different. While still using Langstroth’s concept of ‘bee space’, it uses a frameless design that only makes use of it’s top bars – hence the name. Is this design better than the others? There are pros and cons to this type of hive which serious beekeepers need to know.

The design of the top bar is probably the most simple. It requires the least amount of evenly measured elements. In it’s most simplistic form it is a box with some top bars inserted at the top. It can be constructed from different types of materials, and can even use recycled elements.

Plans are available for the do-it-yourselfer who may wish to build one on their own. Alternatively, because of the easy design these hives can be found for purchase and are readily affordable to those on a modest budget. This makes this hive attractive to those who are just looking into beekeeping as a side hobby.

Top bar hives will allow you to collect the maximum amount of wax. Because the honeycombs hang loosely, the entire piece can be cut across and removed during a harvest without scraping. This makes for easy seasonal harvesting, and a lot of wax for consumables such as soaps, candles, cosmetics, and furniture polish.

Because so much effort is used by the bees to reconstruct the interior of the hives, the honey production takes a hit. Top bar hives will not yield the same amount of honey you can get with a design like the Langstroth.

Additionally, with no sides to the pull out frames the construction of the honeycombs can be unpredictable. Occasionally the bees will keep building and attach to the sides of the box. They may also create an interior hive that connects several bars together making it harder to pull up a single frame. This is known as cross combing.

Later revisions to the Top Bar beehives have worked to correct or minimize these downfalls, but the design is not completely free of this issue. Regular maintenance and supervision will be the best remedy to insure proper honeycomb formation before things get out of sync.

To recap, if you are new to beekeeping and working with a budget, top bar beekeeping may be the right place for you to start. You will get some honey, but also expect a hefty amount of wax as well. It may be a little more effort to keep the hives in proper working order, but in the end you can still enjoy all the honey and wax the hive has to offer.

About the Author

Val Wilson is passionate about all things beekeeping! It is an incredibly rewarding hobby in so many ways, so if you would like more information about how to start beekeeping, go to and sign up for the FREE 7 day beekeeping ecourse.

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