By Sami Grover
Whether it’s my post on learning top-bar hive beekeeping online, the efforts of the Barefoot Beekeeper, or the Bee Whisperer’s experiments in alternative beekeeping, there seems to be an appetite out there for information on top-bar hives and other natural beekeeping methods. And while many traditionalists will argue that there is nothing wrong with the status quo, with Colony Collapse Disorder continuing to wreak havoc on honey bees around the world, it only makes sense to keep an open mind about alternative approaches to beekeeping.
But where does the beginner start?
Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping Basics
For anyone looking to learn the basics, the Wikipedia entry on top-bar hives is a great place to start. Like many sustainable solutions, the top-bar hive is by no means a new idea. In fact, the concept is thought to be several thousand years old. Most modern top bar hives are found in Africa, but they are also becoming increasingly popular with hobbyists in the West.
Unlike the conventional Langstroth hive—which features rigidly spaced pre-drawn frames into which bees build their honeycomb—the top bar hive allows honey bees to build and space their own honeycomb by attaching it to wooden “top bars” (hence the name). Top bar hives tend to be elongated, horizontal constructions—a feature which greatly aids ease of inspection, but is also thought to make them less suited to colder climates due to increased heat loss.
Top Bar Hive Plans and Construction
One of the biggest benefits that advocates of the top bar hive tout is ease of construction and economics. In fact, a top bar hive can be constructed at a fraction of the cost of a traditional bee hive. Phillip Chandler, author of the Barefoot Beekeeper, has created free top bar hive plans and instructions The video below from OutOfaBlueSky offers an easy-to-follow guide to construction.
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