by Michael Ellestad
A top bar hive is a simple movable comb hive that has no frames or foundation; the bees build their combs, using natural size cells, downward from a top bar. There are different styles of these hives, the one I use has sides that slope inwards, as is the Kenya Top Bar Hive system.
There many reasons I like these hives: The main reason is that they are easier to use, the bees are calmer, and the hive is easier to work; there is more wiggle room in these hives than in the traditional Langstroth hive. I also find them easy and simple to build and the system promotes the use of “small cell” combs.
Mine did quite well this past winter and they built up very rapidly in the spring.
I think these top bar hives are great and they have opened up a whole new world of beekeeping for me that I never knew existed until I started learning about these hives. I think they are, in many ways, great for rookie beekeepers because of their simplicity. They are great for those who have back problems as there is no lifting of heavy supers or hive bodies. All one does is cut off the comb and crush and strain to extract the honey. I also believe they are good for many of those who do not want to spend a lot of money on a beehive because if one has the materials and equipment one can build a hive in just over a day, therefore top bar hives are great for people who DIY (Do It Yourself).