Manage Top Bar Hives

The Idea


Check out the management pages. They’re organized around the seasons, as a colony’s life cycle is intimately connected with the season. It’s not complicated. And natural beekeeping takes only a small amount of time. See for yourself:

The Details

If beekeeping is a new experience, keeping top bar hive bees will teach you the best skill set possible.You will learn how to:

  • move appropriately
  • handle comb carefully
  • regard and respect bee life

And you will learn those skills in the best beekeeping environment possible. There will be:

  • fewer agitated, flying bees
  • less smoke
  • less heavy lifting
  • fewer inspections

Top bar hive comb is fragile compared to a frame based comb. If you have worked bees on frame based equipment, some comb handling habits must be discarded.

And top bar hives can’t be worked when it’s too hot. When it’s too hot, it’s better for the bees if the beekeeper just stays out.

Time? If you’re used to commercial beekeeping’s frenetic pace , working a top bar hive will seem like you’re stuck in molasses.

So, frame based beekeepers often find them frustrating. But:

  • give it a little time
  • pick up a few basic comb handling skills
  • and then relax

Top bar hive beekeeping can be an enjoyable way to keep bees. At least that’s been my experience.


4 Responses

  1. hives bee says:

    Just come across your site and thank you for such good information. There is so much to learn and I am enjoying beekeeping, though I have only been doing it for a while. I have bookmarked your site and wondered if you can recommend any other resources that I can look at?

  2. Rick Crites says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I need some advice on my TB hives. I am fairly new to the TB hive game, and need your recommendation.

    I have two TB hives. Both seem to currently be queenless, and both seem to have a laying worker. The brood pattern is patchy and there are drone cells everywhere. How they got this way is a long-ish story, and probably not particularly important to the question.

    The question is this: If I had the same situation in a Langsroth hive, and were going to introduce a mated queen, or split a strong hive into the queenless hive and let them make a queen, I would usually shake out the hive to try to get rid of the laying worker (or at least disrupt the colony enough that they will accept (or make) the new queen. I have failed to get the queen accepted (or raised) in almost every instance where I have not taken this step. The problem is that I cannot figure out how to do this with the TB hives. I obviously can’t be shaking bees off of unsupported natural comb.

    If one of the hives were queen-right I might just try to merge them for a while and then re-split. But that is not possible.

    I don’t know if you have run into this situation. But, I thought you might have, or might be able to give me some idea what to do. One of the TB hives is pretty strong and viable, except for the lack of a queen. I don’t want to loose them from inaction.

    Can you give me a workable idea?

    Thanks in advance for your help. I like your website, and much respect your opinions.


    • -bW says:

      Hi Rick

      A hive with laying workers is a tough situation no matter what. Almost every beekeeper has been taught to shake out the bees as you’ve described. And I’ve done it as well, with mixed results.

      Dr. Wyatt Mangum did some experimenting with laying workers in observation hives in his bee house. He marked the laying workers. Then shook the hives out as we’re all taught. Results, the laying workers returned to their hives just like any of the other bees. That probably explains the mixed results I’ve experienced.

      As a commercial beekeeper, I’d seldom waste a new queen or the time it takes to mess with such a hive. It would be done away with. The bees were shaken out to find a new home in a hive of their choice. The brood and frames went to another hive in need. And any other equipment was set aside for a new split.

      So, what to do in your case? The bees can be brushed off the tbh combs with a yellow, plastic bee brush. That will get them out of the hive, but ultimately won’t solve the problem.

      Rick, I’m not sure of your climate and how much time you have left to work with the bees. But if you can create a situation where the laying workers can’t lay new eggs and there’s a period of time for the colony to adjust to the new queens pheromones, you might be successful. Maybe this would work:

      1. Get all the bees combined and off any combs. Feed them light syrup. Point hive entrances in a different direction.

      2. Let them set for a couple of days and then add a caged queen to the cluster. Be sure the candy hole is blocked off so the bees can’t eat the candy and free the queen.

      3. Continue to feed them. And let them start drawing some comb.

      4. After a week, check and see how the bees are treating the caged queen.

      5. If no eggs in the new comb and the bees aren’t biting the queen cage, release the queen. And put the drawn tbh comb back into the hive.


      • Rick Crites says:

        Thanks for getting back to me on this. For some reason I never got notified of your reply, and just happened to find it today when I read your post about the miners.

        What I ended up doing was to shake/brush all the bees out of both hives, put several frames of eggs, brood and honey into each from my regular hives, and hope that they will make a queen. We will see in another week or so whether that worked.

        I am in Florida. So I have some time yet before the cold weather hits. We are still in (or at the end of) our fall honey flow (Brazilian Pepper, etc.).

        If this doesn’t work, I will do what you suggested and just disburse the bees and parts into other hives as best I can. I can try again next year to get my TBHs going.

        Thanks for your help and advice.

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