Kenyan Top Bar Hive

Kenyan top bar hive
A Kenyan top bar hive designed for Wyoming’s climate.

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I used the following criteria for a functional top bar hive:

  • easily built
  • use conventional material
  • 3 to 4 deep supers in volume
  • low to the ground preventing wind or cattle damage
  • easily moved with a hand truck
  • wind tight
  • suitable for over wintering in Wyoming’s harsh climate

Hive Body

The top bar hive bodies are built from 1″ x 6″ x 6′ lumber.

  • the sides are three boards high
  • the bottom is three boards wide
  • the sides slope 8 degrees off vertical

The shallower slope of this top bar hive, allows standard deep frames to set beneath the top bars.


This hive has two entrances, one near each end. This hive is normally run with one entrance plugged. The second entrance provides more management options. A nuc can be run behind a follower board. And the second entrance provides more ventilation when needed.

Spacer Cleats

A spacer cleat sets on top of each end. The spacer cleat is a 1 1/8″ wide top bar that is fastened to each end of the top bar hive.

Top Bars

Top bar dimensions.

I’ve settled on a 1 1/4″ top bar width. They are 1″ thick. And 22″ long. A 1/8 inch saw kerf is run down the center of the bottom surface.

I’ve reduced the starter strip to a minimum. I fill the saw kerf with hot molten beeswax. Then I run a second bead of cooler melted beeswax on top of the first one. A slightly raised beeswax line results. It is firmly attached and runs down the center of each bar.

This top bar is easy and fast to build. It’s strong and stores readily.

I build several extra top bars and rip them into 1/4″ strips. They take the place of a couple of top bars toward the rear of the hive. These strips are inserted between top bars, in the honey storage area, when the bees want a wider comb width. And they are removed when the wood swells to allow easy top bar hive removal.

Two additional top bars are ripped to 1 1/8″ wide. The are used as spacer cleats.


Completed Kenyan top bar hive.

My top bar hive covers have a frame of 3/4″ lumber covered by 1/2″ OSB. I insulate them with 2″ of blue foam. They telescope down to cover the ends of the top bars. Sloped covers can be singled to water proof them. Sheet metal or corrugated roofing waterproof the flat covers.

My first covers were sloped. They looked great, provided an attic space and shed precipitation. But they required much time and effort to build.

Although flat covers are ugly, I’ve switched to them. They are fast and easy to build. They are easily insulated with blue foam board. And empty top bar hives can be stacked on top of each other.