Monday, March 17, 2014

Building a Top Bar Bee Hive by the woodworking challenged - Day 1.

Last summer my bees disappeared, I had the traditional Langstroth hive body that you see around the country. My 'Honey Man' thinks my hive was over crowed and they swarmed, the bees gather up the queen and fly the coop, so to speak, for more roomy digs such as some hollow tree. One day I had lots of bees, a couple of days later only a few robber bees were poking around the homestead. I was heartbroken. I loved my bees, I loved their honey, I REALLY loved their honey.

Since my 'Honey Man' owns the honey extracting equipment and one day will pass it on to one of his kids, I decided now was the time to try a Top Bar Beehive. It is a more natural way for the bees to produce honey and the only extracting equipment you need is a couple of 5 gallon buckets and some cheese cloth. A Top Bar will not produce as much honey as a Langstroth but I think I can make do without 7 1/2 gallons a year.

My sister, Rosanne, has been wanting to try a Top Bar also so we both have been reading and watching U-Tube video's on building our own Top Bar, looks like a piece of cake. I found a source for package bees near me so ordered 2 packages, one for me and one for Rosanne, we were committed! Or we should be committed!! Weather permitting, the bees will arrive in April so we have to get serious about building hives.

There is no lack of information on building Top Bar Bee Hives on the internet, it's just sorting out the one that seems to be the most do-able for someone who is woodworking challenged, namely me. Most of them say, "This is a project that can easily be done in a weekend."

Since it is mid-March and April is creeping closer, today was the day to begin my construction, this is what I have for plans.

It's just part one but I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew or saw more than I could screw together. When Bruce cleared a small grove in the late 90's, his father, Leo couldn't bear to see all those trees go to waste. He hired a guy with a portable sawmill to come and make lots of lumber, LOTS and LOTS!

This is just one stack I had to choose from, there are two more like this in other buildings. But of course the boards I needed were on the bottom, it never fails. 

After much huffing and puffing, I extracted 3 boards from the bottom of the pile that I felt I could make work.

The boards are what you call, rough cut, different widths in one board with bark, not all trimmed up nicely like the lumber you buy, another problem for the woodworker challenged.  I needed 4 boards 11 1/2 x 42 inches and the hardest was finding them wide enough.

The next step was squaring the boards, I needed to run them through the table saw to cut off the rough edges but they are too long to handle. But if I first cut them to 42", how did I know I was getting a square cut? After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I cut the boards to 46", then trimmed each side to make them 11 1/2" and then back to the radial arm saw to trim each end to nice a square 42" length.

After spending an afternoon in Leo's shop, I was the proud owner of 4 side boards for two, yet to be constructed, Top Bar Bee hives, a weekend, REALLY?? Anyone remember the book, "Thin Thighs in 30 Days?" I bought into that fantasy also.

So I went home and got my Murphy fix, she brought her rabbit out from the kennel and pummeled him into submission before turning to her rawhide chew bone.

Life is good when you are the baby.


  1. Good luck on your bee hive. I look forward to seeing it in action.

    And of course, Murphy is always so cute !! :-)

  2. Julie, I would like to help you when I get back from Arizona, I feel bad you are doing this alone - sister Rosanne

  3. Wow, I am impressed as always with what you can do! Good luck on your project!