Top Bar Hive construction virtually complete

Hi All.

I have been struggling with the weather like everyone else I suspect. Unfortunately unlike some people I don’t have an area undercover for such tasks as making top bar hives.
I managed to get mine nearly completely built between downpours and shift work over the last few weeks. Below are a few pictures to show how its progressed. I even added a few little extras to make it more user friendly and enabled it to be divided into two distinct hives if I really had to. This is a 4 foot hive simply so I would have the space to keep two colonies or divide one colony should the need arise.

Thankfully I have had time (not much) to start TBH number 2 earlier today. It will also be a 4 foot hive and almost identical. As I have already completed one the second has taken a fraction of the time to make a lot of progress.
I will also be collecting my nucleus next Thursday (12 th July) from Oswestry so I am in for a long drive.

The view below is of the TBH with the lid removed. I am in the process of constructing a few feeders in a similar design style to the ones I saw Oliver using in his National hive a few weeks ago. You may notice the handle on the end. There is another one the opposite end and they are made out of garden hose pipe and a nylon cord type rope. The top two bolts actually protrude through the body enough to clamp the handle onto the ends of them through a hole cut in each end and the rope goes around the bolts inside the hose pipe. Simple really but its easier to explain when you can see it properly.

The final picture (if this web page will let me insert it) is of my nucleus hive made from the self watering plant pot with bars on the top held in place with two bungee cords. Works well and looks just like the one Phil Chandler shows in his book. I also have a piece of 8 mm exterior plywood with cut-outs in the edge for the bungee cords to run through to protect the top of the bars and hold them in place properly. Without the plywood sheet the bars slide around so it was a useful addition. It is not shown here as I took this photo before the sheet was cut but you can see what it looks like.

Now all that remains to be seen is if the computer and the webpage will do their stuff and post this first blog article.

One question first though. What would be the best stuff to paint the outside of this hive? I don’t want noxious paint or anything that will need weeks to dry and lose its odour but I don’t have enough bees wax (courtesy of Paul) to mix with the linseed oil to paint it completely as suggested by Phil Chandler. So any alternative ideas that would work and be ‘Bee Friendly’ would be very much welcomed.


Kev C



By special request I have added three more photo’s to this posting to show the roof of the nucleus hive. Hope they prove interesting.

This view shows the bars in place + the spacer bars. It also shows the edge strip around the lid to stop the bars from sliding out sideways and the rain from leaking in under the edge.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Hives, ONBG, TBH, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Top Bar Hive construction virtually complete

  1. simplebees says:

    To address the specific question of finish, I have recently been using a natural wax wood-floor product. It is made of linseed oil and beeswax with other natural waxes and oils. Used like a paint, it dries in 3 to 6 hours. It is food safe (for worktops) and toy safe, which presumably means you can eat it. The one I have used is Treatex (because I had some spare from a floor), although I’m sure other products are available



    • itsonlyausername says:

      Thanks Gareth. I will look that one up on Google and see what else comes up in a search. Kev C


  2. Paul says:

    Fantastic carpentry! And that slot for the divider is a great idea – it’ll stop ’em creeping past and fighting if you catch a swarm or whatever.

    As this is your last chance to do mods, let’s see if I can think of anything else to do now…

    Have you considered how to stop the roof blowing off in wind? Our hives have holes near the top of the legs, we loop bungee cords through these.

    Are you doing a roof for the nucleus hive? In this weather any leak between bars will be a problem.

    Before you get any bees in there… you may want to consider how to attach a chain or similar to the hive so it is less easy to steal. I only thought of this once our hives were inhabited and any serious hammering / drilling seemed like a bad idea. It would be simple enough to chain the 2 hives together. TBH’s are difficult enough to nick already, but having to move 2 at once would be impossible.

    Last time we painted a hive we simply used an outdoor paint for the exterior. After 2 days outside in the wind, there was no smell. I would avoid creosote type things intended to “treat” the wood with toxins, but paints desinged to be simply weather resistant don’t seem to be a problem in my limited experience.

    Dividers usually have a hole the size of a cork in them so you can block them, or allow limited access.

    From the photos, I can’t make out if you have spacers between the bars or not.


    • itsonlyausername says:

      Hi Paul,
      Forgot to mention that I have used spacer strips which are 10x18x2400 mm pine strip wood from Wickes which I cut to length. If anyone else needs to get some the code number is W128292W. The reason I am posting this number is because it took me ages of sorting through the racks to find the right size as there are dozens of sizes and someone had put them into the wrong rack spaces. I would look at the strip wood label to double check the size and reference number before buying rather than rely upon the label on the racking. Its also quite expensive.
      Also I forgot to reply to the comment about the dividers having a hole in them. I didn’t know about this before but why would there need to be limited access for the bees when the dividers would be moved anyway should you need to increase the number of bars in the main hive compartment? Seems a little bit pointless unless as in my case the central divider is removable but may have become stuck with Propolis as the bees sealed up the hive compartment. Then a hole to allow expansion of the colony would be useful. Otherwise I don’t see the benefit other than another way in for unwelcome guests.
      Kev C


  3. Lynne says:

    Impressive woodwork!

    For external treatment, you might try this mix of linseed oil and beeswax:


  4. itsonlyausername says:

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the compliment on my joinery skills. Amazing what you learn when you start renovating a house. 🙂 I must confess that I have been doing this sort of stuff on and off for years so its not really that fancy to be honest. I simply followed the excellent plans that Phil Chandler produced. Very thorough and easy to follow.
    Now to answer you questions:
    1. The roof is so tight a fit on top that it requires quite a lot of easing to remove it. Not so tight (whilst dry) that the whole hive is shaken about but tight enough to prevent accidental removal by the wind. but your point is taken. I will put some loop eyes on the top front and back for two short bungee straps.
    2. The nucleus hive does actually have a roof but the photo I posted was taken before I had actually made it. I will add the 3 pictures I took this morning to the post if its possible to do it after the initial posting.
    3. The security issue is a good one to remember. I had intended to chain it down in some way but that was one of the last things still to do like painting etc. I have some substantial fixings that will do the job.
    4. Fixing them together might be a problem. You see I had kind of intended to place one in the top garden and another nearer the house. My garden is spread out over several distinct height levels and this presents the opportunity to establish territories. So can someone give advice as to why they prefer to be together over being in their own territory so to speak? I know there are a lot of very knowledgeable people on this forum who can no doubt tell me something that is vitally important regarding positioning of multiple hives and I would value that guidance. Better to do it right from the start than to make a mistake that costs me, and more importantly the bees, dearly.

    Thank you for the advice so far received. All gratefully accepted. 🙂
    Kev C


  5. itsonlyausername says:

    Hi Lynne,
    Many thanks. I had a look last night after Gareth had nominated a solution and I came across one mixture of Linseed and Beeswax which retailed at……..hold onto your wallets…….’over £100!’
    I quickly moved on to something in the real world price range. 🙂
    Kev C


  6. Paul says:

    The reason for a hole in the divider is… uh… well, ours have ’em. More seriously, sometimes the divider is good as a partition to keep heat from spreading, but you want the critters to be able to get to the other side. For example early this year, when it was cold, I tried feeding with fondant. With the fondant on the colony side of the divider, it got very warm & humid and turned into a sticky goo of trapped bees when in an old margarine tub, or dripped out the base of the hive when I tried a vertical wire holder. On the far side of the divider it remained solid enough to supply some energy to those that found it, which was a couple of dozen bees at any time.

    About hives together / territories: as I recall from Gareth’s courses, you can put up to 3 hives next to each other without a “drifting” problem, because returning bees can remember if they came from the left, middle or right hand one. More than three, and the bees begin getting confused which is “home” unless there is a difference between the hives like a strong colour diference or striking design. (Remember their colour vision is turned off when returning, according to latest research; so they navigate visually by contrast.) You can also help them by putting the hives at angles or offset from each other.

    I would have thought that no matter how big your garden, you want the hives as far as possible from the house to minimise the chance of getting into their flight path. Even if you aren’t worried about them, visitors will be. And I would put them together, with enough room to stand between them, then if you find you have to put a fence round them to shield them from winter wind, say, it’s half the work.

    Gareth has several hives in a semicircle in a field, with about 6 feet between each.


    • itsonlyausername says:

      Hi Paul,
      Forgot to reply earlier to this comment. Yes I see the reasoning for the hole in the divider now. Adds more flexibility to the heating and cooling system of the hive depending on the weather obviously. Which is raining again. Nothing new there. The fact that sugar solution contains water means that it will evaporate off in really warm weather and this will lead to it crystallising will it not? If this happens will the bees struggle to make use of the solution? Lack of water being just as big a problem as too much I imagine.
      Also talking of temperature control does the TBH need a ventilation vent somewhere under the roof? I seem to recall the old National hives (With sloping sides for each section) of my parents employer many years ago had little round shutters just under the roof ridge that could be opened by rotation to allow the heat and humidity out or closed to keep the heat in depending upon the weather. There was also a fine mesh to prevent insect intrusion as well. Is this not a reasonable consideration?

      I am still trying to work out a plan of action re the positioning of the hives in the garden. Unlike some people I am slightly limited for space. I practice Permaculture gardening which involves using every potential space for growing something which enables food to be produced or creates a natural habitat that enables food to be grown. Even the vertical wall of my pallet built log store has hanging boxes (long window style pallet constructed planting boxes) which hook up using inverted coat hangers so I have a vertical garden. I see that some people are touting this idea as a solution to urban agriculture as if it is their invention when in fact it has been practiced for millenia (Hanging Gardens of Babylon?) All this Permaculture stuff sounds complicated but it isn’t really.

      Anyway I have to rearrange a few things like the huge piles of Horton Stone that I have accumulated to repair the rear wall of the garden (15 foot high on the garden side and 6 foot high on the open fields behind) and a load of firewood waiting to be cut up. Some areas are overgrown with Red Campion and other flowering weeds with loads of trees and stuff which I have intended to clear a little for growing stuff. But again the weather is playing havoc with all these plans and the only nice day recently was yesterday and I was at work until 2200hrs. So I wait patiently for a break. 🙂
      Kev C


  7. Paul says:

    Re: syrup crystallising. Generally if bees find a feeder of syrup it will be slurped up in under a day, so this isn’t really an issue. Re: fondant crystallising: on the rare occasions I’ve tried it it did not, it remained sort of plastic, because here in Britain we dont generally have to worry about things being too dry 8) but it seems bees eat it much slower than syrup, I supose they need to collect water to dissolve a pool of it first, then suck up the resultant solution; so I think it’s pretty second rate for feeding compared to syrup, and on the 2 or 3 occasions I’ve used it I felt it was more trouble than it was worth.

    Re: ventilation: you’ve got mesh floors so they won’t suffocate… let the bees sort out the ventilation. They’ll fan if they overheat or it gets stuffy.

    Re: vertical gardens, I find hanging baskets and suchlike take a tremendous amount of time for watering in sunny weather so I prefer to avoid containerised things, although it’s the only way of stopping chickens eating them so the front of our house has lots of hanging baskets etc. Watering hasn’t been a big factor this year though!


Leave a comment ...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s