Top bar bee hives [January, 2016]

Top bar hive in Hjulsta

[Beekeeper Hannes Norr demonstrates a top bar hive. Photo: Erik Sjödin]

Top-bar hives are an alternative to regular beehives. They are fun and easy to build and use, and potentially better for the bees. They are not so common in Sweden, but they are gaining in popularity and it will be interesting to see how they will compare to regular hives.

It’s possible to build a top-bar bee hive in a day or two. The photos below are from a do-it-together top-bar hive workshop facilitated by Aron Adobati at Solåkrabyn in Järna in Sweden. With great planning, instructions and pre-made jigs the participants built nine hives in one day. The hives even include extras like sloped roofs, inspection windows, and removable bottom trays.

Top-bar Hive Workshop at Solåkrabyn 2015

[Top-bar Hive Workshop at Solåkrabyn 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

In the spring the hives will be used by the cultivation cooperative Under tallarna in Järna and first-time beekeepers in the area.

Our Friends the Pollinators at Eggeby gård 2015

[Our Friends the Pollinators, at Eggeby gård 2015. Photos: Erik Sjödin]

The photos above show summer job youths building bumble bee nests and top-bar hives for honeybees. The hives were built using wood recycled from an installation built by artist Celine Condorelli at Tensta konsthall. These show that with some basic tool even inexperienced builders can build a functional top-bar hive at a very low cost. These hives didn’t have any inspection windows. While inspection windows are fun and potentially useful for the beekeeper it’s likely better for the bees to not have one, since cold can seep in through it in the winter.

The top-bar hives at Solåkra were built using drawings by Philip Chandler, “The Barefoot Beekeeper” and the hives at Eggeby gård were built following instructions by the Swedish beekeeper Patrick Sellman.