How to Build Top Bar Beehives


The oldest and most natural beekeeping method, the top bar beehive, uses wooden slats set over a box or container opening. The container serves as the hive, while the slats create the foundation for honeybees to build wax combs. Although there are no hard and fast rules, most beekeepers agree that a trapezoid shaped box is convenient for inspection and extracting wax and honey. The bar's width, which serves as the comb surface, is also an important measurement. The hives are inexpensive and sometimes free to build using recycled material. They are ideal for beginners and backyard beekeeping. Start out with a basic 36-inch top bar beehive, then make adjustments based on personal preference.

Things You'll Need

  • Untreated lumber in the following sizes:
  • 2 boards, 3/4 inch by 12 inches by 15 inches
  • 2 boards, 3/4 inch by 12 inches by 36 inches
  • 30 boards, 3/4 inch by 1 3/8 inches by 17 inches
  • Hardware cloth
  • Wood screws
  • Beeswax
  • Measure and mark 2 ½ inches from each bottom corner on the long side of a board that is 3/4 inch by 12 inches by 15 inches.

  • Draw a line from the top right corner to the right most bottom mark, then draw a line from the top left corner to the left bottom mark.

  • Saw along both lines, then repeat the process on the other board that is 3/4 inch by 12 inches by 15 inches. These are the end pieces and will measure 15 inches across the top and 10 inches along the bottom.

  • Drill several holes in one of the end pieces. They should be about 3/4 of an inch in diameter, located anywhere from the middle on down and serve as entrance holes.

  • Attach a board that is 3/4 inch by 12 inches by 36 inches to each side of the end pieces to form a box. Use at least 3 wood screws per side.

  • Staple a sheet of hardware cloth to the bottom of the box. Many beekeepers prefer the mesh bottom to keep the hive clean from debris and mites. Enclose the bottom or set the hive on a board during the winter for warmth.

  • Cut the bars. Cut 30 boards that are 3/4 inch by 1 3/8 inches by 17 inches. Set two bars aside, then mark a line down the center of each board, leaving 2 inches at each end. The unmarked bars are empty spacer bars for each end of the hive.

  • Cut a groove along those lines. You could use a circular saw or a carving tool to create the grooves. They should be about 1/8 of an inch deep.

  • Pour melted beeswax into the grooves. This creates a base for the bees to start building their own wax combs. Leaving the edges clean prevents the bees from attaching the comb to the walls of the hive.

  • Place a clean bar at each end of the hive, then lay the waxed bars across the top of the box, waxed side down until the top is covered.

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  • Photo Credit bee bees apises beehive hive insect image by Pali A from
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