Kenyan Top Bar Hive

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62 Responses

  1. I just build this hive just a tiny bit smaller and man it looks huge in comparison to the TBHs iv build 🙂 Im wondering if such a big comb will collapse? Did you have issues with honeycomb collaps when handling?
    I made a small change and will go with Top Entrance instead.

    Thank you

    • -bW says:

      Hi Che

      Yes, it’s big. It’s equivalent to one of my 3 deep box Lang hives as listed in the criteria. And it’s a great hive for my Wyoming location. But it’s not a hive for everyone. It’s import to fit a tbh design to local conditions.

      I didn’t have any comb handling problems. But I was careful with the comb, especially when the comb was new.

      But I did have some problems with comb collapse until I realized that all tbhs need ventilation above the top bars during hot weather. And that they shouldn’t be worked when the weather is too hot.

      Once I propped up the cover and scheduled work in the cool part of the day, no problems.


      • Ok I see. So you dont use the top bars in the T-shape right? I was thinking today to make the T-top bar but it seemed too much work and I could not see it in your Kenyan plans anyway.

        When you say local climate … what hive would you personaly choose in a country like South of Sweden; cold winters (but not as cold as yours), humid (summer 70%-100%, winter 80%-100%), windy (down south especially).

        I chose for my latest hive design your box size because of the cold winter and Bush’s Top Entrance because of the damp weather.
        You wrote somewhere on this site that long TBH are well suited for warmer climates and the shorter version yet taller and wider for the cold climate like yours.

        I just started my beekeeping path this summer and find my self fortunate to have stumbled upon people like you, Michael Bush, Phil Chandler, … so on the start Im developing the gut feeling which sais “Condenser Box” not “Ventilator Box” 🙂

        Now, your hive, Bush’s and Chandler’s (the design without the mesh floor) are with closed floors and with only one entrance (you have the second entrance on the same side in case extra ventilation is needed).
        You dont get mould but do get water on the floor (low entrance), Bush doesnt get any mould nor wet floors nor rotten floors (top entrance), and Chandler gets rot and mould in hives with closed floors (low entrance).

        I know this is a local question but I have no Top Bar Beekeeprs around me to ask questions, most of them I know give conventional answers;You Must Treat Against Varroa with Oxalic Acid otherwise your colony will die in 4 years time and VENTILATION, VENTILATION, VENTILATION 🙂 almost as hypnotised it feels 🙂

        I value your opinions.
        Thank you Dennis

      • -bW says:

        Hi Che

        Great site. Thanks for the link.


  2. veena says:


    Thank you for this wonderful website, what an surprising resource. I’ve been reading your recommendations about choosing the best tbh for the climate, etc.

    What is your recommendation for Oakland, CA, an urban environment with mild winters and decent nectar flows year round. I currently have 2 langstroghs that are doing quite well.

    Would appreciate any advice before I start building.

    Oh, and do you have any plans or dimensions for the One Room Hives? Also known as Einraumbeute in German? They are based on the golden mean, I have seen several of them at Steiner College and Melissa Gardens here in CA but can’t seem to find any plans for them.


    • -bW says:

      Hi Veena

      Thanks for your note.

      I once corresponded with some tbh beekeepers in Oakland. They belonged to a bee club there. Sorry, I’ve lost the contact information. But I would check locally. I suspect there are a few active tbh keepers in the area.

      The One Room German hive I’ve familiar with had top bars that ran down the length of the hive, rather than across it’s width. Is this the same hive? It’s been more than a decade since I chatted with the German author. It was based on a traditional hive. But I don’t remember much more than that.

      And thanks for the Melissa Garden link. A interesting and beautiful place to spend some time.


  3. Hi Dennis,
    I wonder how do you winterise you KTBH? I was looking around your site but found nothing about it. I know your winters are harsh as they can be in Sweden too, so would like to know what your practice is. Thank you.

    btw, Erik Osterlund sais hi

    • An additional question 🙂 sorry for bugging you (I hope all is well with you)

      As I already told you before I built a KTBH with this hive of yours in mind just a bit smaller to accomodate swedish Lagnormal hobby frames. So lets say 45cm wide top bars and 45cm deep
      When I compare it to my Chandler size top bar comb it just looks too deep and I have a feel that the comb will snap off …
      Here is the pic, please tell me what do you think. Should I go with a T-bar to re-enforce the comb? The hives will not be exposed to much sun at all + they all will have proper roof with ventilation under.

      Be well

      • -bW says:

        Hi Che

        Top bar comb is fragile no matter how tall it is. And I suspect my taller comb must be handled more carefully than shorter combs under the same environmental conditions. But I haven’t handled combs much smaller than these.

        Initially, I worried about comb collapse and used various methods to reinforce them. But once I unlearned my frame based comb handling skills and learned how to handle tbh comb properly, I’ve found re-enforcing tbh comb to be an un-necessary complication and a waste of time.

        I haven’t had any problems with my taller combs when:

        – there’s ventilation above the cover.
        – the weather isn’t too hot.
        – all attachments are cut.
        – the comb is handled properly.

        And I can even rotate older combs and set them down on their topbars without problems.


    • -bW says:

      Hi Che

      With climate warming, our winters are nothing like they used to be.

      I’ve got a draft page on wintering and need to finish it up. The colonies must be healthy and have enough feed. Then:

      – covers with 2″ of blue foam insulation are securely fasten.
      – hives are positioned to face the long side and entrance for minimum wind/maximum sun exposure.
      – entrances are reduce to 3/8″ x 4″.
      – hives are blocked up to prevent water from pooling.

      My overwintering, much like my beekeeping, has gone from the complex to the simple. I once wrapped them and even overwintered them indoors. But winter doesn’t hurt healthy, well fed bees. And like Brother Adam, I’ve discovered winter is actually an asset.


      • Hi Dennis and thank you for replying.

        I guess your bees too stop brood rearing in September and are filling up the brood nest with more honey for the winter. With that size comb I guess 8 combs of honey is more than enough for the bees to overwinter. If so then Im interested whether you reduce their space with a follower board so to keep them warmer? Or do you give them the whole hive body as it is?

        Kind regards, Che

      • -bW says:

        Hi Che

        I leave 4 or 5 full combs of honey behind the broodnest. That way, I don’t have to disturb or feed them the following spring. Those combs act somewhat like a follower board during the winter. So, I don’t use a follower board.


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