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Hybrid Top Bar Hive – Barry Birkey

Barry Birkey – bbirkey@gmail.com

The idea for this hive came about from talks with Dennis Murrell in Wyoming. The two things I have heard over and over from other TBH users has been the fact the bees can and will attach the comb to the sides of the hive interior when only top bars are used. Various methods have been shared on how people break this attachment to allow for the removal of the comb and top bar. The other comment was how fragile the comb is and how easy it can break off the top bar.

I decided to approach my design with these two elements in mind, trying to figure out a way to avoid them. I felt a “bottom bar” was the surest way to prevent the bees from attaching comb to the hive interior. Wanting to keep the comb as close as possible to the natural shape bees build it when hanging freely, I decided to simply use a very thin wood strip that is bent in an arch and attached to the top bar ends, giving it the desired shape. I also decided to give added support to the “bottom bar” by simply attaching wires from the top bar center to the bottom bar at three different locations. Once I have had a chance to see how the bees deal with this, I may do away with the wires or change their positioning.

I will try various ways to get the bees drawing comb from the top bars. Starter strips will be used on some frames that will have no cell imprint. I may also use a full sheet of foundation that again has no cell imprint. The goal will be to see what cell sizes the bees build on their own and where they place the various sizes.

Dimensions are as follows:

  • Top bar: 24″ long, 1-1/4″ wide, 3/4″ thick.
  • Bottom bar/slat: 49-3/4″ long, 7/8″ wide, 1/8″ thick.
  • When the bottom bar/slat is installed into the top bar, the distance between the top of the top bar to the bottom of the bottom slat is 19″.
  • Hive width: 26-1/4″
  • Hive length: 30-1/4″
  • Hive depth: 21″
  • Total frames: 22 (20, plus a follower board on each end.)