Top Bar Hive Management

How to manage a top bar hive

After using Langstroth hives, Warre hives and horizontal top bar hives, we feel that horizontal top bar hives are the most enjoyable to manage -- especially for the new beekeeper. They do require more visits to ensure the colony always has ample space for honey storage, but with the use of the window and simple bar manipulation, the maintenance is quick and efficient.

When you get your bees you should install them at one end of the hive with the follower boards spaced in such a way that 8-12 bars are accessible to the colony. Open only 1 entrance (the one the colony has access to), leaving the rest closed up. Over the first few weeks the colony will rapidly build comb from the bars – it is at this time that you’ll need to play close attention to ensure that the comb is straight so you can easily manipulate it later on. If it is crooked or “cross-combed” you will need to gently push it back into place on the bar. If you fail to catch the cross-comb early on, the problem will be exacerbated and it will become almost impossible for you to remove single bars of comb.

As the colony grows you will want to move the center follower board toward the other end, providing them with more space to store honey and brood.  Once there are only a few empty bars left in the hive, you will want to begin harvesting honey or moving honey from the full hive to weaker hives.

As winter approaches you will want to check that the colony or colonies have sufficient stores – 30-50lbs here in Portland, Oregon. If you have multiple colonies you can spread the surplus around to ensure all colonies have enough. Otherwise, depending on your beekeeping philosophy you can feed 2-1 sugar syrup (We rarely feed in our own apiary, even if a colony is low on stores). Reduce the entrances available (if you have one of our top bar hives, use the entrance reducing bung).

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