Building the Hive

The first thing I needed to do was build a hive.  There were several hives available for purchase online, but they all seem to run from $300 – $450, which seemed pretty steep considering that one of the advantages of top bar hive beekeeping was suppose to be that it was considerably less expensive than more contemporary hives.  So, I downloaded some plans from Phil Chandler’sNatural Beekeeping Site, biobees.com  

I’m not much of a carpenter and have only limited space and tools to work with, but the Kenyan top bar hive is fairly simple to make with only basic tools.  I decided to make it 48″ long allowing lots of room for a colony to expand, or to house 2 hives if necessary. I also decided to add an observation window to the side since I wanted the ability to monitor what was going on inside the hive without having to open it all the time.

 

I had hoped to use cedar for the hive, but ultimately went with pine to keep the cost down a bit.  I have a lot of old plywood around which I could have used, which would have cut the cost down to a fraction of what I spent, but for the cold winters here I wanted something a little heavier, and I didn’t feel that the plywood would last long in the weather.

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I assembled the hive body easily enough.  As I’ve said, I’m not a great carpenter, but it seemed to come out ok.  I then made top bars out of some 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ board cut to 19″ lengths.  I nailed a piece of square dowel to these and coated the dowel beeswax to act as a comb guide.  Only time will tell if it worked.

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There were no instructions for building the roof and I got a little carried away.  I made it with large overhangs on both ends and shingled it with roofing shingles.  It turned out to be way too big and heavy to handle, so I had to cut it down a bit to make it manageable.  I also made the legs too thin initially and had to replace them with 2x4s which were a bit more sturdy but I didn’t get them cut to fit the roof quite right.  Ultimately, I doubt the bees will care too much about my lack of carpentry skills.

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Once the hive was completed I treated the outside with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and melted beeswax.  I also splashed some lemongrass essential oil around the inside because several people recommended doing so as bees supposedly like the aroma of lemongrass.