DIY Network

Beekeeping Methods: Top-Bar Hives (page 2 of 4)

Our in-house beekeeper interviewed Melissa Elliott of Melissa Bees about her frameless beehives.

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Why did you choose the top-bar, over the Warre, or other frameless hives?

I built a Kenyan style top-bar on legs with a screen across the bottom, and my beekeeping students can climb under the hive and watch the bees at work. It allows you to see the brood and some honey comb in its entirety — you can see the bees making new comb, feeding and cleaning out the hive. It's particularly fun to sit under the hive and listen to their murmuring at night. Kids really love that.

Observation Hive

Courtesy of Melissa Bees

Unlike the Kenyan, the Warre is suited for someone with a few years of beekeeping experience who understands the seasonal ebb and flow of the bee body. It also requires someone who is comfortable with "nadiring" (adding boxes at the bottom instead of "supering," which is adding boxes to the top of a Langstroth hive) to increase its size.

It can get tricky adding boxes, lifting a heavy hive and not breaking comb, particularly in nectar-rich areas where a Warre can become a tower! Expert Warre keepers have a mini-forklift they use to lift hives. I've found that in our area, bees in Warres have better long-term survival rates than Kenyans, that is, of course, if managed properly. My guess is this is where architecture comes into play — the bees need a deep, vertical hive to survive cold weather and the Warre capitalizes on the Venturi effect (like a chimney) to regulate the temperature and moisture inside the hive. My Langstroths are also top-bar, meaning the frames contain no foundation and the bees build their own comb within the brood chambers. I do however, keep foundation in the honey supers to ensure the comb isn't damaged in the honey harvest.