Woots and huzzas, I’ve completed my first ever Top Bar Hive.
After much reading and some floundering, supply hunting and bunches of bad weather, I’ve managed to get together an acceptable first try. Even while building it, I could see improvements in either my methods or the design I was coming up with. I should point out that I based this TBH on a bit of a mash-up of both the Phil Chandler and Carr & Bradford designs, with a bit of tweaking of my very own sort. So if there’s much that is wrong or “not really awesome” about this, I’m most willing to take the blame.
I expect I’ll be building more in the future and they will get better and better as I go.
All right, here’s the first, overall shot:
General composition: The long wall sides are 12″ x 1″ x 36″ pine, the end pieces are found plywood. Bottom board is cedar, as are the other unpainted pieces. Painted in a cheap $6 mistint exterior latex at the local hardware paint department. All screws are deck screws save for the ones holding the plastic to the thin roof sheets.
The roof is a fully sealed piece so no bugs should be able to get in, either from the hive below or just flying bugs sneaking in from the sides. The plastic corrugated top, screwed onto the thin plywood base, will protect it from rain. The roof section is also fully sealed, or at least as much as screwing and gluing bits of wood allows. Bees and other bugs should not be able to enter the roof cavity. Although I’m already thinking the whole thing is a tad heavy. I’ll need to rethink how I build this next time; perhaps a hinged affair.
The 36″ length, I’ve come to note from much interwebs reading, is probably on the short side and may lead to bees swarming much faster as they fill up this space quicker. So I’m going to add onto a list of things to change for the next hive: go with a 48″ wide hive. The hive has been placed is a low traffic spot in the yard so it’s easy to get at without being in the way of anyone. And I’ve also made sure it was very level to avoid off-kilter comb.
Looking at the Top Bars themselves…
At this point, Ive set it up with 20 bars, each 1 3/8″ and several ¼” spacers. The dark green bar in the centre is a follow board and feeder combo. Going left from the follow board: a spacer, six bars for brood area, then alternating spacers and four bars for honey stores, for a total of 10 bars for the new hive. I also have a ¾” spacer at the very end which will be lifted to make a little space for prying bars out. Not sure if a normal ¼” spacer would do just as well. There is an opening for the bees on the bottom left of the side wall.
To the right of the follow board, I’m storing another 10 bars and a few spacers for future use and, at the end, another follow board but without feeder, to switch out with the feeder board, should that be needed. As the bee population expands, the feeder/follow board and existing bars will shift to the right and new, empty bars will be added to the accessible area to provide more brood and food space.
Let’s look at that feeder (click the images to see full size).
There are two 3/8″ holes in the follow board that access the feeder built on the other side. The feeder box is a little smaller than the actual follow board to ensure there is no rubbing against the sides or bottom. The inside space of the feeder is 2″ wide although I’m not sure how much syrup it will hold. The interior has been generously coated in wax to make it all waterproof. I’ve added a little of the 1/8″ grating as a ladder for the bees to avoid drowning; I will probably readjust the shape/angle. The cover for the feeder simply sits on with the rabetted piece fitting into the feeder box snugly while still making the removal very easy for filling.
I was pondering making some sort of pivotable doors for the entry holes so it would be easier to close up the feeder than to switch it out for the plain follow board. More though required there.
I have attached a 1/8″ bug screen to the bottom and the cedar plank cover closes it all up tightly. I’ve recently been seeing a number of posts and discussion for and against the use of a screen bottom so I’m really not sure whether it should be left open and closed for winter or closed all the time except for cleaning. I’m still not sure what route to go here. But I can go either way simply enough, whether there are bees inside or not.
The Top Bars are all of the same width and length (in my case, 17″ long) and I’ve glues & nailed some triangular wood starter strips I made. I’m thinking I’ll go with somewhat heftier strips next time, there are about ½” high at best and look a bit undersized. I’ve also painted the starter strips with beeswax to give the bees a heads up on making good, straight comb. For the next hive, I think I’ll also cut a divot on each end of the bars so they sit on the edge of the side walls a little better. I think just a small grove will help them stay in place and not slip out of line so easily.
On the back side, I’ve also drilled three holes, according to some of the TBH plans out there. As this supposedly would encourage the bees to build brood in the centre and honey stores on the outer ends, I’ve now decided to use the outside holes on the opposite side as the main entrance. I might have to add a second hole for each ends if it seems the bee population explodes and in and out traffic is too heavy. I’ve made these little swinging gates for the entrances should they need opening or closing. We’ll have to see if they work OK; I’m more worried the wood will split and break than anything else, although being cedar they should take the weather OK.
One thing I did not do that I now wish I had is build in an observation window. As someone on the Beesource Top Bar forum pointed out, being able to easily see inside is probably more important for us newbees since we don’t really have much idea yet what goes on inside. So put that on the list for hive #2, too!
Well, that’s pretty much it for the Grand Tour of this first TBH. I’ve already put about a cup of 1:1 sugar syrup (with a splash of lemon juice) into the feeder and dropped in a q-tip dipped in lemongrass oil to see this sort of “staging” of the bee house will attract some interested bees. Since it is now the beginning of July, I’m not entirely sure the possibility of a swarm is terribly high but at least I’m pretty much ready should there be some bees looking for new real estate.
Anyone out there who has thoughts, ideas or suggestions on this current or future TBHs, please feel free to post a comment.