Picture of Make your own Honey Cow (Top Bar Bee Hive)
More information: http://velacreations.com/bees.html
More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/velacreations/sets/72157622528453587/

Beekeeping is an ancient DIY art, performed by amateurs and makers for centuries. Anyone can produce natural honey at home. People keep bees in many different kinds of hives, but we will focus on a cheap and simple design, called the Honey Cow.

The Honey Cow is designed to mimic nature as much as possible. Unlike commercial hives, it does not have frames, foundation or excluders. Instead, it just has top bars, allowing the bees to do what they would in a fallen log: build beautiful, natural combs. Because it is less intrusive to the bees, it's easier to make and manage, which makes it a perfect beginners backyard hive.

Once you have a hive, you will want to gather a few extra bits of equipment, like a veil, a smoker, and a bee feeder. With your equipment at hand, you can explore ways to get your bees, from capturing a swarm to buying a package or nucleus from a fellow beekeeper. After your bees have had a full summer to build up honey, you can start reaping the rewards of tending bees: wonderful, home-grown honey.

I encourage everyone interested in beekeeping to join a local bee club. These clubs are filled with wonderful people who love to help get beginners started. Don't be discouraged if folks in your bee club don't have the same type of hive as you. There are as many ways to keep bees as there are beekeepers.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

55 gallon plastic barrel, preferably food grade (makes two hives)
22 feet of 1”x2” nominal lumber
46 feet of 1½”x1” lumber
2 X 8 foot of 2”x4” nominal lumber
A 3 feet by 4 feet piece of tin
20 - 1½” wood screws
10 - 2” wood screws
8 - ½ “ screws
Bungee Cord or tie wire
45 feet thin moulding OR natural fiber string and beeswax

circular or jig saw
tin snips
tape measure and marker

velacreations (author) 4 years ago
Any questions related to management of a top bar hive, please make sure you visit this forum:

Most of your questions can be answered there by lots of folks that have more experience than me.
Niki-nicole1 month ago
I'm almost finished with mine but does the roof need any insulation to keep it from getting too hot?
velacreations (author)  Niki-nicole1 month ago
It depends on the material, give it some space between the roof and the top bars, you can always lay a sheet in there if you are worried about it
sarahfish4 years ago
Was SO excited to see this in the last MAKE, thanks so much for the ible!
The detailed pictures are great!

We just finished our first year with bees, and unfortunately, we're moving out of the country, so we won't get the big harvests off the established hive. I can't wait to get one of these set up when we get settled, but easier to come by than traditional hive boxes!
velacreations (author)  sarahfish4 years ago
thanks for the kind words! Let us know if you get any set up when you get settled!

I'm thinking about making a honey one , any info I can get on how to put it together not enought picd lol?

rasimmonds2 months ago

Thanks to the creator, I have made this (without the legs as it is on top of a hen house). Thankfully a local bee keeper found a swarm and a week in they are building comb on bars 4-9 already.

I have made this with my grandson, now we need to know how do you feed the bees?

velacreations (author)  debbie.durham.9254 months ago
You can make a simple syrup feeder with a water bottle and a small hole in the lid. Fill with syrup and hang at the entrance. If you want to feed inside the hive, just set a feeder right inside, or just a tub of fondant or sugar.
Neat and simple. i may try this.

Can this be made using a 55 gallon metal drum instead of plastic?

velacreations (author)  chriskepics1 year ago
You probably could, but plastic is better.
Don't use metal. You will cook the bees in Summer!!!
The wax will melt and the bees will die or move out.
Noooooooo!! U can't use metal. You're bees eill cook in the simmer. Sll the beeswax will melt and if they don't die they will go and live somewhere else.

This is awesome! Great instructable guys. VERY COOL!

mdeblasi14 years ago
Did I miss how one gets the honey out of the barrel?
Does it just come out of the bung hole in the bottom?
Isn't it bound up in discrete capsules of wax.

I would love to keep some urban bees here in Columbus, this may be the idea for me.
velacreations (author)  mdeblasi14 years ago
The bees make honey comb on the top bars throughout the barrel.

To harvest, you pull out each bar at a time, cut off the comb into a bucket. At that point, you can chop and press the comb to get the honey.

To get started with bees, please check out the information, videos, and kits at http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/ . You'll learn a lot about how these hives are maintained and what is going on inside. The kits they have are really good for beginners, because they come with equipment and everything you need to get going.
first question - is with the top bar hive - that comb would have bees all over it - how do you get them off to cut off the comb? Smoke, brush, water spray bottle??
And I have seen people use plywood with a top bar cut to size placed in between or behind the last top bar. Wouldnt something like that keep the queen away from the honey comb? Or would that keep everyone away from everything??
When you cut off the comb, I assume leaving some at the top would give the bees something to rebuild on. ?

Nice instructable! This looks like a great design for a hive, but you seem to have no method of excluding the queen from the honeycombs you are harvesting.

Bee keepers rely on a queen excluder (usually a wire mesh) to stop the large queen accessing some of honeycombs so that only the worker bees can access them and fill them with honey. Without a queen excluder - as with this design - the queen will lay her larve in most or all of the cells, preventing you from harvesting usable honey.

Please don't get me wrong, I think what you've done here is great, and I'd like to try it myself, but how do you overcome this issue?
velacreations (author)  jam9064 years ago
We don't use queen excluders, and we never have an issue. the Queen tends to lay in the front of the barrel, and that is the brood area.

Most commercial setups use a queen excluder because their hives are quite smaller than this. The queen is restricted to a smaller brood area than she would naturally have.

Allowing the hive plenty of room to make their brood area large, but manageable, allows for the queen to keep the brood concentrated, not throughout the whole hive.
Ah I see, after some research into natural beekeeping it makes allot of sense. We have 2 of the commercial hives you described, but I we'll definitely be giving the natural approach a try.
velacreations (author)  jam9064 years ago
that's a good idea, try a different approach and let us know your results. It is good to have 2 different types to compare.
Queen excluders aren't entirely necessary

mjohnson842 years ago
have the honey bees - need the hive. I have bees every year and also think who is enjoying the honey these guys are making from my borage! ;/
ljfresh2 years ago
Question: Where do you get the wax that you rub on the wooden slats? Ive been scouring the web looking for bee wax for raising bees.
wingedfish3 years ago
This is very cool. I would like to try it. We live where the winter temp are friquently -20 or below. How would I keep the hive from freezing?
It gets to be -20 where I live and we have no trouble overwintering our bees in our top bar hives.
what is a top bar hive
umm, the thing the instructable is about. That is a top bar bee hive.
ari2lj4 years ago
It seems that the inside of the barrel has the potential to get to hot in climates such as where I live. Any ideas on whether that would be a concern?
hsteinbe ari2lj2 years ago
Place it under the shade of a tree and it will do just fine. You can also cut a long 3" slot along the entire bottom of the hive for ventilation in hot climates. We screen the slot and also add a hinged board that we then close in the winter.
mpilting ari2lj3 years ago
If the barrel was made of metal it might get too hot, but since this one is plastic it should be fine. I've read stories about metal hives - not a good idea, since they heat up in the sun and the wax melts.
SIRJAMES094 years ago
that was awesome!!!
wish I lived out in the country & had my own place but instead I live in a city apartment. 8=(

I always wanted to raise bees, but just never had the money for it, or I never had the opportunity. I know that getting started is not cheap...getting all the tools, the hives, etc can be expensive.

TY for sharing Sir. it was a great read! 8-D
You can set up hive on the roof. Share the honey with the super to gain access. Bees in the city make more honey then bees in the country.
I bet you could raise bees, even in your apartment! I know, it sounds crazy. But what if you built a shelf that you could set a couple supers on your window sill out side your window? As long as you keep that window shut, the bees won't bother you any, and you really only have to open it once or twice a year. When you open it, just leave it open until night, when all the bees go back into the box. I bet if you read all the contracts and rules for your apartment, they probably left bees out because they didn't think it would come up. If this doesn't work out, you can ALWAYS ask the local arborists if you can leave boxes in their orchard. Any farmer would be crazy to say no to an apiculturist wanting to leave a hive near their crops, even if they already have one. because the bees will be pollinating their crops, it benefits them. Just don't let them charge you; farmers pay migratory beekeepers $200 a box per season to let their bees pollinate their trees. In fact, there are people who are constantly moving their hives north and south along the west coast to keep up with all the apple, almond, and cherry pollination that needs to be done annually.
ldestevens4 years ago
How do I make sure I don't end up with Killer Bees?
Don't believe what they show you in the movies.

Killer bees do not exist.

If you do something really silly and upset any colony then it is possible they could attack you en masse which, if you did not have any protection, could be fatal.

There are some bees that are very aggressive, so called africanised bees, we don't have them in the UK and they are not in all parts of the world. Not sure how bad they are, if they are really bad, I guess you could re-queen or kill the lot of them.
We have them in TEXAS. VERY AGGRESSIVE. Not all the wild bees are africanized.
Killer bees do exist; that's the colloquial name for Africanized Honey Bees. They may not be as bad as depicted in movies, but they do exist and they are excessively aggressive. And they may not be in the UK, but they are here in the southern United States.


Re-queening is one idea. Praying to my impotent god (who thankfully did not end the world today) might also be a good idea. :p
When you work bees, it is like Tai Chi, you move slowly and deliberately. If you move fast, the bees pick up on it and think 'attacker!'. If you move slow, you're just a moving branch, nothing to look at, move along...

Don't wear leather or wool around bees; they don't like either one. Don't wear perfume, aftershave or use hair/body products with a lot of scent. Wear wellies you've duct-tapped to your pants; in a pinch, a Tyvek painter's overall and veil ought to keep you going until you get a good suit.

Find a beekeeper to mentor you so you can see what is going on and how to do things. S/he should tell you what tools you should get, how to spot disease or problems, and you can ask lots of questions then.

Queens usually determine the gentleness/aggressiveness of a colony; you can get queens with different temperament by choosing by variety.

Buying a starter is the easiest way to be sure. Capturing a swarm in the Northern states that are killer bee free is the next best bet. Though, from the looks of it, they aren't that common


DeeRilee3 years ago
I know I'm reading this a year later.....but I've got to say, that the 'debate' between barrem01 and velacreations (the author) quickly made me lose interest. And beekeeping is something that I've always wanted to try.......now, maybe not.

As someone who knows very little about beekeeping, barrem01's arguments were very distracting.
this probably won't fly in the city, huh. Too bad, cuz i LOVE honey!
velacreations (author)  captain Jack4 years ago
I don't see why not. Check your local ordinances, but most cities allow beekeeping!
To be more precise, with the recent advent of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) many states are repealing any previous restrictions they had on bee keeping. Indeed, in New York, they're even encouraging hobbyists to keep bees on the top of their apartments! Honey is the one food product that is completely unregulated by the FDA, and the other bonuses (Propolis, Pollen, Wax, etc) you get from the bees make them a well worth-while hobby! Plus, they're absolutely fascinating. For instance, the little "bee dance" they do to communicate the location of resources to other bees we now fully understand and can translate. They're truly one of the most interesting insects in the insect world. I'm getting my first queen in two weeks! EXCITED!
z7eightball4 years ago
I see alot beehives painted white but inTasmania in Australia it 's cold most of the time could you paint it black.
Molinos4 years ago
In this picture I see some strings hanging down. What are these for?
velacreations (author)  Molinos4 years ago
that was a hive we moved, so we tied the combs to the bars, those strings were there only temporary.
Would it be too late in the season to try to get a Hive up and going? I live in the north east (New Brunswick, Canada)
At this time, I am NOT  a beekeeper, I'm only in the research/study stage, BUT...  from what I've gotten from going to a couple of local [SE Texas next to Louisiana, and about 8 or 9 miles in from the Gulf of Mexico] introductory beekeeping seminars it now [down here] is TOO LATE to begin a new hive.

The reason that was given is that a new hive populaiton MUST HAVE ENOUGH TIME to collect enough nectar and pollen to ESTABLISH an adequuate winter FOOD SUPPLY of honey to CARRY THE HIVE THROUGH THE WINTER, AND the more cold the winter, the larger supply of honey is needed.

We here are in a temporate area just out of the tropical weather patterns, and surely where you are located is too harsh a climate to allow a hive started now to survive.

As the Author said, I STRONGLY suggest that you contact local beekeeping groups for your local information, AND NOT TRY to start a hive now, just before winter.  BUT INSTEAD... start now reading, researching, and learning so that when spring comes to your area, you will be completely READY to begin a new hive.

Good luck!
velacreations (author)  johnny3h4 years ago
It greatly depends on your local conditions. We don't get freezes until late Nov/early Dec, and bees are swarming right now. The major nectar flows start in late July in our area. So, we can easily start a hive right now.

It just really depends on your local conditions.
velacreations (author)  Molinos4 years ago
I am not sure, as I am not familiar with your local climate. In our area, hives are just starting to send swarms, so yes, getting a hive going right now is perfectly feasible. In your area, however, it might be different. Try and find a local bee club or some beekeepers for advice.
ayusuf34 years ago
according the last image,u make a straight long hole,what is that hole for?
velacreations (author)  ayusuf34 years ago
it is optional, but we make a slot in the bottom for ventilation.
owh..understand then,good instructable guide
Devrimm4 years ago

It is really very nice and easy to make! And very usefull. I have some bee hives too. But, most of them are dead next winter. I have only one very weak hive.
May be this way is much better for control inside sometimes.

Thank you.
OPiffle4 years ago
I am just beginning as a beekeeper, but made special note that in my books it states that USDA law requires all kept hives to be of the Laggstroth (sp?) type construction and be available for inspection at any time.
How does this top frame construction meet legal requirements?
velacreations (author)  OPiffle4 years ago
There is no such law. They may recommend it, but they do not require it.
bowow08074 years ago
hey can i use a steel drum? i have a 60 gal steel drum which i bought under 10 bucks with the cover cut out and the inner pain i sanded it out. can i still use it? i was planing to make a smoker but it never pushed through though and i live in the city will i shill be able to get some bees?
You can check out the original design, and other low-cost solutions, along with further discussions at http://robo.bushkillfarms.com/beekeeping/barrel-top-bar-hive/

It also appeared in Backwoodsman magazine (Jan/Feb 2011)

velacreations (author)  BushkillFarms4 years ago
I'm glad you built one of our Honey Cows! How did it turn out for you? Judging from your photos, it looks like you have a nice hive in there!

If you have any tips for builders, please feel free to post them here.

The Honey Cow was featured in Make Magazine Vol 25, Jan 2011. You can also view details on our web site: http://www.velacreations.com/bees.html
glauzon4 years ago
Where the heck do you get those barrels?
Ev glauzon4 years ago
Try commercial food production places, bakeries, etc. They get bulk ingredients in big drums.
barrem014 years ago
While there are some advantages of the top bar hive over the more traditional Langstroth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langstroth_hive, I have to take issue with your comparison.

1) is a top bar hive less "intrusive to the bees" than a Langstroth hive? In the wild bees live in cavities in upright (usually living) trees. They tend to build vertically rather than horizontally. Top-bar hives coerce the bees to expand horizontally.  Both top-bar and Langstroth hives encourage bees to build straighter comb than they would normally. Harvest from a top-bar hive requires destruction of comb, which the bees will have to rebuild. This is not required in a Langstroth hive.  I don't think it's accurate to describe a top bar hive as "less intrusive to the bees".

2) Is a top bar hive "easier to manage" than a Langstroth hive?  It seems to me that devotees of the top bar hive tend to believe in less management. They seem to think that letting the hive die is the best way to deal with disease.  Obviously, if you're not going to check for and treat disease, you're going to have less "management" to do.   Unfortunately, until your sick hive dies, your bees will become a disease and parasite vector to infect my bees when they meet at flowers or water sites.  But having a philosophy of less management does not mean that the hive itself is easier to manage.  Top bar hives are a little bit harder to examine and harder to get feeding equipment for.  I don't think it's accurate to describe a top-bar hive as "easier to manage"

3) Is a top bar hive "easier to make" Yes. Definitely. But if you're going to pay $50 for a package of bees, don't you want to give them the best chance of making it through the year?

I may be a bit shrill on the subject of disease because my bees in Queens, NY are still verroa (an insidious bee parasite) free.  There are very few places in the US that can claim that.

If you happen to be in the New York City area and want to learn more about beekeeping here, please join our group http://www.nycbeekeeping.com/ we have a very extensive free class and group extraction parties.
Barrem01 - Great points. I live in NC, and work both types. I have captured a swarm, and taken bees from a good hive to start the top bars. The swarm did not make it, due to wax moths, and the other hive is doing great. I think that the difference comes down to how much one wants to pay to start, as the top bar can be made for very little if one has access to scrap. Also, I was able to put a viewing window in my top bars so observation is easier. If you go to Velas links, he has what appears to be a good plan to capture a swarm.

We have 24 Langstroths, and I am sure you can figure out why.....$

I really would have to say that it is up to the individual. Anyone helping the bees is ok in my book, and thanks for posting this, but for the hobbiest, just read about it, and determine which one you like. Also, I highly recommend anyone that would like further reading, Try this guys site! http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

velacreations (author)  barrem014 years ago
1) if you are not taking comb, you are making foundation, which means that you are dictating cell size to the bees. This is extremely intrusive, and natural cell size is a decent deterrent to varroa. Langstroth also requires that you open the entire hive for inspection, whereas a top bar you can remove one comb at a time. Every time you open that hive it disturbs the bees.

2) There is no question that top bars are easier to manage. Or one thing, they are very "hands off". Letting a hive die is not the best way to deal with disease. Natural cell size, less disturbance, large populations, and selective genetics are the most appropriate ways to deal with disease.

Lifting one bar at a time is easier than lifting a whole super. No need for an extractor. Top bars are easier to examine, and we never have an issue feeding our bees.

3) Top bars and natural beekeeping enjoy a higher survival rate than the typical 30%-50% loss the Langstroth is currently experiencing. The best chance for bees to survive is a less intrusive bee handler. Feral hives are not experiencing the same level of die off as the commercial hives.

What sort of procedures do you take to prevent varroa? Chemicals? Management techniques?
1) It's true that if you use standard foundation, you'll affect comb cell size. I haven't seen any peer reviewed research that indicates cell size affects hive health. Please post references for that assertion. I assume by "open the hive" you mean "remove the cover that prevents the bees from getting rained on". You've got to do that to inspect no matter what kind of hive you have. But maybe you're talking about separating supers which you have to do with a Langstroth hive but don't have to do with a top bar hive. On the rare occasion when I feel the need to completely deconstruct the hive, my supers are laid out next to each other side by side. That provides about as much open surface on top as an open top bar hive. You haven't convinced me that inspection of a Langstroth hive is more disruptive than inspection of a top bar hive. On the other hand, I know I'm less likely to break comb inspecting a Langstroth hive, which allows the bees to attach comb to fixed frames on the sides as well as at the top (which they do in nature) than when inspecting a top bar hive. Breaking comb is disruptive. But I'll allow that with care, it probably doesn't happen often and the difference is probably not significant to the health of the hive.

2) I'm glad to hear you don't believe in letting hives die as a response to disease, but you haven't explained HOW a top bar hive is easier to manage or exactly what you mean by "hands off" if you don't mean "let nature take it's course" You mention the cell size argument again without citing any research to back your claim. I'm happy to agree with you that good breeding is an excellent tool in bee health. You mention the need for an extractor, but there is none. An extractor is an option available to frame based hives that is not available to top bar hives. I can squeeze wax as easily as the next guy. I'd rather not because our club makes extraction a party, not a chore, it wastes less honey, and it leaves me with drawn comb that the bees don't have to manufacture next year. I'm glad to hear you haven't had a problem with feeding your bees, For my edification can you direct me to information about feeding equipment for top bar hives?

3) I suspect that you're comparing apples to oranges here. Commercial beekeepers are experiencing huge losses. That's probably because their hives get carted around the country from month to month and are exposed to a much higher variety of diseases, parasites and pesticides. In addition, they are kept at greater population densities - hives per square foot of apiary - than occur in nature. Top bar hives are typically not carted around on trucks to various farmers to pollinate their crops. If you have any peer reviewed research that compares the health of stationary top bar hives to stationary Langstroth hives, I'd be glad to read it.

Top bar hives have been around much longer than Langstroth hives. Yet they are a small minority of hives under human management. If you want to say it's cheaper or more fun to keep a top bar hive, fine. But if you want to say it's better for the bees, or requires less management, I just want to see some evidence.

My bees were a mite resistant strain that were treated for varroa before they were brought across the Hudson. Since then, I've been doing monthly drop tests (O.K. I skipped Dec and Jan, the snow was too high). If (probably when) I see varroa, I'll treat with medicine. I use Frontline to keep tics off my dog and I'll use Mite-away to keep parasites off my bees. In my experience when something is sick, medicine is usually better than not medicine.

Besides genetics (which I use) and cell size, what do you use to treat varroa?

And if I've mis-characterized your approach, if you do treat infected hives and are vigilant to catch disease as early as possible, I apologize.
velacreations (author)  barrem014 years ago
1) you can look at the various top bar forums for evidence directly from top bar beekeepers....

"I assume by "open the hive" you mean "remove the cover that prevents the bees from getting rained on". You've got to do that to inspect no matter what kind of hive you have."
The difference being that the top bars for a solid "roof" underneath the official roof, whereas the Lang has gaps between frames, effectively opening the hive to the sky. Every time you remove the roof or a super on your Lang, you are greatly affecting the internal hive climate. You're open surface is at least 3X the open space of a top bar hive when removing honey.

If you inspect the brood chamber at all with a Lang, you are definitely disrupting the hive significantly, whereas the top bar only require one bar at a time.

2) "hands off" means that I am not adding supers, cleaning supers, making foundation, and applying chemicals to your hives. That's a lot less work right there. Lifting a minimum 30 pounds for a super or lifting a 3lb top bar. Feel free to google for top bar feeders, I just insert a 1L bottle inside the hive with a small hole in the lid. You can also feed dry sugar in the base. I keep feeding to a minimum. biobees.com forum has tons of top bar information.

3) In my bee clubs locally, even the commercial keepers who do not move their Langs are still experiencing significant losses. And they spend 3-4 times the annual maintenance as the top bar keepers.

"Top bar hives have been around much longer than Langstroth hives. Yet they are a small minority of hives under human management." do you have evidence to support this claim? outside of the developed world, Langs are a minority, mainly because of cost.

I use diatomaceous earth to keep ticks off my dogs, and powdered sugar if I have any sight of varroa (none yet).

"In my experience when something is sick, medicine is usually better than not medicine."
who is medicating the feral hives?

I personally don't have to catch disease, because I haven't had any instance of it, yet. I monitor my hives weekly, just keeping an eye out for abnormalities.
O.K I'm beginning to see where you're coming from. Because it takes less physical effort to pull every frame out of a top bar hive you're equating that with "less management", It seems you still inspect the hive as often as I do, but perhaps you can do it a bit more quickly.

But you're confusing the issue in a couple of places. Yeah, I have to lift a 30 lb super a couple of times a year, but 90% of that weight is honey. You may only be lifting a 3 lb bar, but you're going to have to make 10 trips to my one. Unless your hive produces less honey than mine.

Our differences on the value of "natural" vs. "medical" responses to disease and parasites really aren't important to the discussion of the relative merits of the hive design. You can treat a top bar hive with medicine, or you can treat a Langstroth hive with powdered sugar. I doubt you would argue that it's less effort to sugar each frame of a hive than it is to drop in a mite-away strip, but that's really beside the point. Either approach could be used in either style hive.

I'm sorry to hear about losses in the commercial members of your club, but again, I don't think it's reasonable to compare the losses of high population density commercial apiaries with small scale hobbyists. And while one club's experience over one or two years is evidence worth examining, it's not a controlled study.

It's true I don't have proof of my assertion that most hives under management are Langstoth hives, but looking at the top 10 honey producers in the world, http://www.suite101.com/content/top-honey-exporting-countries-a34780 my goggling couldn't find top bar hive pictures for any of them (except the US where we know top bars are a minority). Still not proof, but I honestly looked for contrary evidence to my assumption and couldn't find it. Have you got any? It's true that cheaper hives are more common in the poorer areas of the world, but that's not where the most honey is produced, so I'm guessing that's not where most of the managed bees live.

Speaking of proof of assertions, did you have any for yours that cell size is important to hive health?

I wrote a great argument here about medication and feral hives, but it's off the topic of hive design, so I'm going to leave it out.

I'm glad to hear your bees are healthy. I wish you and your bees a long and disease free life.

I'm surprised (but glad) to hear you've got no varroa. Are you on an island in Maine?
velacreations (author)  barrem014 years ago
I don't have to lift the 10 X 3lb bars all at once. I take 2-3 every 3 weeks or so, depending on the honey flow. I cut them right there into a bucket, so at most, I am carrying 10 lbs every few weeks. For those of us with bad backs, it does make a big difference.

I don't necessarily open up the hive every week for an inspection. I can open a far bars to see if anything is suspicious, if I think it is needed. I rarely open the brood part of the hive, and if I do, it is usually one or two bars.

You're right, any hive can be managed in any number of ways, so the hive design itself isn't necessarily what makes a management technique more successful. I recommend that new keepers use the cheapest, easiest system they can find. For me, that is top bar hives (both vertical and horizontal). The start up investment is low, and the management most commonly associated with this type of hive is very low.

Just watching and observing your bees seems to be the best thing a beekeeper can do.

If you sugar a hive, usually you blow it in as a dust. You want to cover the bees, not the comb.

I have to question the logic that the majority of honey isn't produced in the majority of the world. Records of honey production are really only available for commercial activities. I rarely see a hobbyist report their honey production. Does that mean that their production doesn't exist? no, it means that it isn't reported. The question here might be are there more hives under hobbyist/non-reporting keepers or commercial operations.

As far as the cell size issue, yes, lots of people have had success with that. Please follow the links to the discussion forums, and a google search will yield plenty of examples.

I also wish you great health with your hives. At the end of the day, we have the same goal, healthy bees. I imagine that there are numerous path towards that goal.
From what I've read, it seems that when "feral" bees are allowed to build their own comb, they do so with smaller cells than if they build on printed foundation. This limits the size of the full grown bees, which then have smaller trachea and therefore just aren't susceptible to tracheal mites. That's usually the case against the traditional Langstroth, at least if printed foundation is used. Starter strips in Langstroth frames and top bar hives appear to be relatively similar in terms of bee health.
velacreations (author)  greatpanda4 years ago
printed foundation can also carry disease and additional costs for the beekeeper.

Many natural beekeepers enjoy less varroa infection than their commerical counterparts.
That doesn't seem likely to me, but I suppose it's possible. This 5 year study on the effect of cell size on tracheal mite infestation by the USDA found no correlation

fuzzface0094 years ago
I think I would have a problem if I set one out. I am in NE PA and we have bears. how to keep them from the hive?
put a electric fence around yr hives, no bears in oz but have seen it done in the US
I guess you could situate the hive up somewhere high up - like on an upper desk, patio, or roof rack, but you must be sure its safe from wind blowing it over, and that you can safely access it.
Z.Backas4 years ago
Thank you very much for this! Because of it, I am definitely going to start beekeeping this summer. I'll post my hive when it's finished.
velacreations (author)  Z.Backas4 years ago
be sure to read as much as you can on beekeeping, and attend some local bee clubs before you get started.
I have tried twice to populate this exact hive (down to the blue barrel) with bees. Both times the bees left as soon as they liberated the queen. The second time, we forcibly confined them to hive for a period (several days I think), but they still left the minute they had the chance.

I talked to a professional beekeeper, and he thinks the bees left because it was not a comfortable house for them, particularly on account of the lack of foundation. For our frames, we cut a groove, and waxed in about an inch of foundation. There was one other difference - we cut out the bottom of the hive and attached screen mesh in place for mite control.

After the two failures, we tried a standard hive body, frames & foundation in the same location, and no problems. Any ideas on why we can't make the topbar hive work? Could it have been due to the lack of a bottom? The langstroth hive we built also had a mesh bottom, but it sat on bottom piece that had plywood under it, so from the bees perspective I would think it was enclosed.
velacreations (author)  ProvideYourOwn4 years ago
was your barrel food safe?

I wonder if the bottom screen lets in too much light?
velacreations (author)  ProvideYourOwn4 years ago
I imagine that your barrel may have a smell or some other deterrant. Wash really well and then coat the inside with something like beeswax.
I don't really think it's the lack of foundation, (although vacated existing comb is one of the things that attracts a wild swarm to a new site). My first guess would be the former contents of the barrel bothered the bees.

You also might want to check out Tom Seeley's excellent book Honeybee Democracy http://www.amazon.com/Honeybee-Democracy-Thomas-D-Seeley/dp/0691147213

Dr. Seeley has been doing scientific research on how honeybee swarms choose a new site for many years. The thrust of the book is about communication within the hive, but much of his site selection research is covered as well.
marcintosh4 years ago
Excellent! Thank you!
I've been dragging a 15 gallon blue barrel around with me for years.  I knew that I'd find a home for it sooner or later.
I just couldn't bear to toss such a large wad of plastic into the land fill. Recycling wouldn't take it - no markings.
PLUS I've been looking to make a top bar hive - and now I've got the goods for TWO.    I WIN!
thanks again,
velacreations (author)  marcintosh4 years ago
Just make sure it is food safe.
lucek4 years ago
I looked into this some years back. It seemed an interesting hobby, Then I saw the zoning and red tape.
thank you very much for this as i needed a very cheap way of making hives was looking at topbar hive so this is what i was looking for i can pick up plastic barrel for 10$ so a very cheap hive
iPodGuy4 years ago
Great instructable!

I appreciate a good 55 gallon drum project and I really like i'bles about bees. And, an added bonus for me - you showed your completed project in use.

Nice work and thank you!
thanks heaps, i have always thought it would be interesting to get a hive and learn how not to kill bees,
2 small questions
1. for people in australia any ideas where to get the bees to start with (and maybe what type, victoria slightly cool climate)

and 2 if u alradey have a few bees around your place would they kill or out compeat a hive?
velacreations (author)  thelastonekills4 years ago
1. the best thing would be to talk to local beekeepers and/or join a bee club in your area. They'll be more knowledgeable about the bees available in your area.

2. No, usually they do just fine.