My father & I built a Kenyan Top Bar Hive (KTBH) from the plans in Phil Chandler’s ebook “How to Build a Top Bar Hive.” We chose to make it from rough cut lumber because we heard the bees would use more propolis to line the inside of the hive & since propolis is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, I thought “more propolis is good for bee health.” Propolis is created from tree resin and other plant sources and the bees use it as calk or glue in the hive.
Ventilation holes in the roof with window screen to keep out the bees and the hardware cloth to keep out the mice. Windowscreen along the top vent. We have little pieces of wood that can swivel and either open the ventilation holes in hot weather or close them in cold weather.
Observation window being assembled on the back side of the hive, so no one has to disturb the bees coming and going at the entrance, to look in the window and see how the bees are. We used window screen to cover this observation window.
Some exterior latex paint, over primer. I chose grey paint for the roof. It would be good if it were black in the winter and white in the summer, but the closest I could get to both was using this leftover paint from our porch. I also thought porch paint would be sturdy in the weather.
Looking down inside the “eco floor” and a follower board on the right with a 1 inch hole opening down in the bottom. There is a second follower board that has no hole. Sometimes bees sneak past these anyway – maybe because we had to make little notches in the follower boards to accommodate for the observation window as we built it.
The eco-floor is described in Phil Chandler’s YouTube video linked here. His idea is that in nature, bees live in horizontal hollow logs with other insect species, like earwigs, in an ecosystem, and maybe they help regulate mite levels by ingesting them. The organic material of the floor could support these species and also absorb some of the moisture condensation and keep the hive humid, which he believes bees like. So mine has a mixture of mulch, straw and dirt in it.
Little corks at the outer lower edges of the observation windows show you were the back entrances are. Their location was suggested in the “Top-Bar Beekeeping” book by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell. Having entrances front and center, plus 2 back ones on either side, would allow me to keep 2 or 3 separate colonies in one hive by giving the bees different entrances if the populations were separated with a follower board or two.
I also added some top entrances to the front as suggested by Phil Chandler in another YouTube video, but I didn’t add his “cover”. His idea is that varroa mites drop from the comb and they won’t drop on the incoming bees if they’re coming in on the top near the upper edges and not down under the comb, like they have to with a bottom entrance. He does point out that the hive will lose more heat through these entrances. I haven’t used these top entrances yet.
Feeder jars installed without a follower board. It was hot weather so I wasn’t worried about the the bees ability to keep the brood nest warm. I also wasn’t sure how well the bees would find the feeders at first (silly newbie beekeeper!).
In cooler weather, and upon thinking about it more, I installed the follower board that has a 1 inch hole in the bottom to give them access, so the bees had a smaller area to temperature regulate. Although now, there are bees all over this area as they have snuck above the feeder board, so I give them a one-top-bar-wide gap between the follower board and the feeder board, so they can find their way back under the feeder board, through the hole in the follower board and back to their colony. Otherwise, this chamber above the feeders has no entrance/exit once the top bars are installed again.
So my dad and I built this hive in the summer of 2013. And after attending a lot of local beekeeping meetings in 2013, I decided not to run this hive my first year (2014) because I wasn’t going to have any local mentors to help me. And I kept hearing that overwintering a horizontal top bar hive in upstate New York state is really difficult. But then I caught a swarm of bees June 2014 (with my dad’s help) and I had no other empty hive so I installed them in the KTBH. And so far, I love this hive. We’ll see if I keep feeling this way.