There are 3 main types of beehives – the Langstroth, the Warre, and the Top Bar. The Langstroth is the most commonly used type of beehive today, but another great option is the top bar beehive.
Top bar beehives have less parts than Langstroth beehives. They do not use frames and are not stacked. This article will discuss the basics of top bar beehives, including where to buy top bar beehives for sale.
What is a Top Bar Beehive?
A top bar beehive is a single box hive with wooden bars across the top. Top bar hives differ from Langstroth hives in that everything is contained to one box, whereas Langstroth hives make use of several stacked boxes.
You can find top bar beehives for sale with different dimensions, but they all have this in common – top bar hives do not use frames. Instead, several removable wooden bars lay across the top of the hive body. The bees build comb hanging down from these bars.
Because no frames are used in a top bar hive, harvesting honey is a little different. To harvest honey, beekeepers cut honeycomb off of the bar. The comb is then crushed and the honey is strained using a strainer or cheesecloth. It is a simple method that requires little equipment.
Benefits of a Top Bar Beehive
Top bar beehives have many benefits.
- Harvesting honey – Like I mentioned before, harvesting honey for a top bar hive is simple and easy. Unlike the Langstroth hive that requires special tools and equipment to extract honey, top bar hives use the crush and strain method. You likely already have everything you need to harvest honey from a top bar hive in your kitchen now.
- More wax – Because the entire comb is removed to harvest honey, you also harvest a lot of beeswax. Beeswax can be made into candles, lip balm, furniture polish, and other household items.
- No heavy lifting – Since everything is contained in one box, there is no heavy lifting required when using a top bar hive. In contrast, Langstroth hive boxes can weigh 50+ pounds and must be lifted and restacked. Top bar hives are also built at waist level, so no bending or crouching is required either.
- Docile bees – During hive inspections you only open a small portion of the hive at a time, so bees are more docile.
- Full length observation window – Many top bar beehives now feature a full length observation window on the hive body. It’s very useful for checking on the colony without disturbing them.
- Natural comb structure – The top bar beehive allows the bees to build a comb structure similar to one that they would build in the wild. Therefore the queen will be free to move about the hive as she pleases.
Disadvantages of a Top Bar Beehive
Top bar beehives also have a few disadvantages.
- Colonies cannot grow very big – Because you cannot add on to a top bar hive, colonies can only grow so big. Once they reach full capacity they will swarm or stop producing honey.
- Harvesting honey destroys the comb – Harvesting honey from top bar hives uses the crush and strain method, which means that the comb cannot be reused by the bees. Conversely, extracting honey from a Langstroth hive leaves the comb intact, so it can be returned to the hive to be reused.
- Less honey – Top bar beehives yield less honey than Langstroth hives. Therefore, top bar hives may not be the best choice for commercial beekeepers. They are great for backyard or urban beekeepers, though.
- May be difficult to find – Of the 3 types of beehives (Top bar, Langstroth, and Warre), I find that it is harder to find a top bar beehive for sale than the other types.
Parts of a Top Bar Beehive
There are 3 main sections of a top bar hive.
The main part of a top bar hive is the box. That’s where the bee colony lives. Top bar hive boxes come in different dimensions and shapes, but they are always at least 3 feet long.
The long pieces of wood that lay across the top of the box are called top bars. The number of bars used will vary based on the length of the box. A standard top bar beehive is 42 inches long and uses 28 top bars.
In addition to top bars, some beekeepers also use a comb guide. The comb guide hangs down slightly to help the bees build straight comb.
The top of a top bar beehive is a cover that protects the hive from the elements.
The legs of a top bar beehive is similar to the stand of a Langstroth hive. The legs purpose is to elevate the hive to a comfortable waist level.
Where to Find Top Bar Beehives For Sale
As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to finding top bar beehives for sale, you may have to do some digging. For some reason, they just aren’t as available as Langstroth hives. If you have some construction or woodworking knowledge, you may be able to make your own top bar beehive. For more information on building a top bar hive and links to plans, see here.
I often recommend Amazon as a resource for buying beehives and beekeeping supplies because of their free shipping and great return policy, but as of right now they don’t have any top bar hives listed for sale.
There are other manufacturers that have top bar beehives for sale online.
Bee Built is a fantastic company that sells beehives and beekeeping supplies. They strive to be industry leaders in sustainability, which means that their goal is to help bees without harming the forest. The wood they use in making their hives are FSC Certified, which means that it is responsibly grown and harvested. Bee Built is also a B Corp status pending.
In addition to this, Bee Built ships orders in 1 day and offers free shipping on orders over $75. Great deal, if you ask me! Bee Built has a few different top bar beehives for sale.
The Standard Top Bar Hive is made of kiln-dried FSC® certified Sugar Pine. It includes the hive body, 28 top bars, a weatherproof roof, and more.
The Classic Top Bar Hive is made out of FSC® certified premium California limited edition Redwood. Redwood is beautiful, rot resistant, and durable, making it a great choice for beehives. This hive includes 40″ long hive body (all parts pre-drilled), a 45″ long hinged roof with a shingled design, full length viewing window, moulded legs, and more.
Another cool option that Bee Built has is top bar hive plans and hardware kits. These are plans and kits for those who would like to build their own top bar beehive. There are 3 different options that include different things.
Founded in 1983, Mann Lake is well known for selling beehives and beekeeping supplies. In fact, their Langstroth hive is a best seller on Amazon. Mann Lake offers free shipping on most orders over $100. They also offer a 30 day warranty for any defective items.
Mann Lake offers a great economical top bar beehive for sale. Made of precision milled pine, this top bar hive is easy to assemble. Nails and instructions are included, as well as a corrugated roof, 1 follower board with feeding port, and 28 top bars. Mann Lake’s top bar hive measures 33⅜” x 5113⁄16″ x 30⅞”.
Etsy is a website well known for selling handcrafted products, but did you know that you can buy top bar beehives there too? Etsy offers a few gorgeous handmade top bar beehives. This one by CustomWoodSolutions, is made of cedar wood and has a metal roof. It comes with 28 top bars and 4 cedar legs.
A top bar beehive is a single story hive that uses bars instead of frames. Top bar hives require no heavy lifting and have legs that keep them at a comfortable waist level height. You can find top bar beehives for sale from reputable online retailers such as Bee Built, Mann Lake, and Etsy.