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I've read about a dozen threads here about building TBH's and think I know where to get plans.

My prime question - is one wood better than another?

This is for Northeast Mississippi, average January low temp 29 degrees.

This thread:
Hey there,

I'm getting ready to build my first top bar hives and was wondering what are the best materials to use for the walls, floor and ends and why. I have 3 books on top bar hives and only one suggests pine, cedar or redwood but gives no reasons for that choice.

Thanks for the help,

Daniel
Is really the only one I found TRYING to discuss material but the general consensus seems it doesn't matter, use what you've got.

Well, I've got a small sawmill and some maple, oak, sweetgum, and eastern red cedar in the form of 1" to 4" thick by 10" to 24" wide and 10' long (except for the cedar, that's only about 12" wide) that's dried, so I have a variety of untreated wood.

I was initially thinking cedar, but would that harm the bees?
 

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Nope you can buy cedar hives, they are pretty, you can use pretty much whatever you want, I ran 2 last yr, one made from store bought pine, the other was made from pallet lumber
 

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I'm a total newbie but i did just finish building my first hive. I built a TBH using a plastic barrel. It was a fun project and i can't wait to get bees in it next spring. Now about your question I did a ton of research before building mine and i don't think the bees care either way about what you build it out of and i've seen people use all sorts. My understanding is that the choice you make on the wood goes toward how long the hive lasts in the weather.
 

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I was initially thinking cedar, but would that harm the bees?
No, most companies that make TBH's give you a choice of pine or cedar, charging a lot more for the cedar. One of my hives is cedar from Beethinking; they play up the fact that their cedar is "Pacific Northwest" blah blah. They recommended sealing the exterior with Tung oil, which I did: just slapped it on liberally with a paint brush and let it soak in. It brings out the beautiful red cedar color but I'm sure the bees don't give a flying patootie how it looks. You can use treated wood for the legs, if you're going to make a stand for the hive. To be honest, I feel like beautiful wood is wasted on the bees...they really *don't* appreciate it. They just want some place safe, warm and ventilated...and to be left alone, I suppose.
 

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I've built 2 KTBH so far. The first is made from reclaimed redwood t&g siding and the second is made from an entertainment cabinet I was gonna toss. I set the entertainment cabinet turned KTBH out as a bait hive and bees moved right in.
Love Bruce
 

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I made our hives, several seasons ago, out of found wood ... torn-down sheds and barns. It was all untreated, weathered lumber.

I built the hives approximately to the dimensions posted in the various books: vertical end-boards a few inches higher than the sloped side-boards, wooden bottom. All securely screwed-and-glued together. A plywood roof, reinforced with two lengthwise bars that fit outside the hive sides (with about a one-inch gap), and two endwise bars that sit outside the ends. A light single coat of Thompson's Water Seal on all outside (but, not inside) surfaces. Three equally-spaced, wine-cork sized holes on one side, about four inches from the bottom.

The hives sit on cinder-blocks in a grove of trees in the middle of a pasture, shimmed with boards so they're level along both axes. The grove is a cool, shady place to be, even in a miserably hot summer, and it gets direct late-afternoon sun for a little while.

The top-bars are uniformly cut, with a saw-kerf down the middle into which wooden popsicle-sticks are glued with white glue. In addition, there's one perpendicular saw-kerf to make a slot into which the edge of the side-board naturally 'clicks,' making it easy to line-up the bars when first installing them. (Cut this perpendicular kerf first, before sawing-out the bars, so that every bar and the leftovers ... which become spacers ... will have it. Don't ask me exactly how wide they are; I don't remember.

Length? Well, long enough that I can reach down and grab the two metal handles on each end to pick up the whole thing.

Andd-d-d-ddd... that's it. I flunked Master Woodworking, but the hives work fine. I like beekeeping such that the only thing which I actually bought were those metal handles and a fresh saw-blade.
 

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Use what you can get the cheapest. I use rough cut pine on my langs and top bars. I don't have a planer so some of mine look a little rough/warped but the bees don't mind.

hank
 

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Mine are made of plywood, or pine, or fir, or all of the above, depending on which hive you are looking at. If you look through the forum there is a guy who built one from a barrel and he has pictures of it. Use what is easiest to get and work with.
 

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I would stay away from plywood mainly due to chemicals in the glue and the likelihood that it will fail sooner, but other than that you can use just about anything. If you are getting free wood of any kind you should use it!
 

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I was the same way starting out. I would love to have pretty peaked roofs and nice stained boxes, but in a couple years they will look pretty rough.
 

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i had the same thought, but i have mine in the backyard and decided i wanted something 'nice' to look at.
The cedar hive sealed with Tung oil is definitely nice to look at: beautiful dark red cedar with all the wood grain showing through. A neighbor said it would make a nice piece of furniture in the living room...doh! Still...I wouldn't do it again (pay extra for cedar). They are a mismatched pair, for sure. Cedar on the left, pine sealed with SoySeal on the right.

tbh_to_go.jpg
 

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I built my last two out of 2" thick pine. Mostly because it was straighter and cheaper than the one-by at my local Lowe's. Both have overwintered well, one for 4 winters now (I'm in WV, USDA zone 5).
 

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I have used 1/2 inch pine plywood in the past, but the next one I build will be 1x6 pine for the sides and 5/8" pine for the ends and follower boards.
 

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The cedar hive sealed with Tung oil is definitely nice to look at: beautiful dark red cedar with all the wood grain showing through. A neighbor said it would make a nice piece of furniture in the living room...doh! Still...I wouldn't do it again (pay extra for cedar). They are a mismatched pair, for sure. Cedar on the left, pine sealed with SoySeal on the right.

View attachment 12666
i like it. looks good. IDK, i just like the warm feeling of natural wood.
 

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My hives are "nothing to look at." They're just boxes, sitting on cinder-blocks (no legs ...), with wooden boards as shims to make them perfectly level in both dimensions. I followed the interior-dimensions of the various hTBH plans (size and slope of side boards), fastening those side boards and a solid bottom between two somewhat-larger sides. The side-boards sit on the blocks. The top ... a flat piece of plywood on a square wooden frame ... sits over the end-boards such that they secure the roof in both directions. There's a space between the sides and the top, and between the top and the top-bars, to allow free air-circulation.

The hives are lightly coated with Thompson's Water Seal on all exterior surfaces, and on all surfaces of the roof. The top-bars themselves are uncoated.

A saw-kerf line runs down the center length of each bar, cut to half the depth of a large popsicle stick, and these sticks are glued end-to-end with wood glue in those slots. In addition, there's a perpendicular saw-kerf line on one end only (two were not necessary), into which the edge of the sloped side-board naturally "clicks" when the bar is properly centered. This makes it trivially-easy to line up the empty bars.

All of the little bits of leftover wood of various widths were kept from the top-bar cutting, and similarly kerfed to "click" on the sides. These are your spacers, and keep them handy. (I stack 'em out of the rain on the cinder-blocks, keeping a few more in a weather-tight storage box.) These are used to be sure that your top-bars maintain a tight fit, even as humidity changes.)

The whole contrivance is very-securely made up with wood screws and carpenter's wood glue. Two metal handles, one on each end, are the only thing (besides screws and a half-gallon of Water Seal) that I ever had to buy.

"Rough" though they may seem to be, I happen to like them. :) The hives sit under a cool grove of hardwoods in the center of a pasture, where also you will find a wooden chair and table (also water-sealed ...) which continues to be a favorite place for me to sit "in the cool of the evening, at the close of the day," watching the bees come and go. The hives are arranged in a semicircle facing out, leaving a convenient work-space in the center. They get late-evening full sun; otherwise, it's cool and shady even in a muggy northwest Georgia (USA) summer.
 
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