Although I’m still not finished with my hive, I did make quite a bit of progress this weekend, even with the never-ending deluge we’ve had for the past year. Actually, I should say “we,” because I couldn’t have managed this part of the project without my sweet hubby! He’s always so good to help whenever I need an extra pair of hands.
If I had used straight pieces of purchased lumber that are the correct width, this project would have been completed much quicker. Also, it would have made the job easy enough for one person to handle alone. My scrappy project only cost me a small box of 1-inch screws because I ran out of that size before I finished. But even if you purchased all of your supplies up front, this would not have to be an expensive project. Truly, anyone, on any budget, could make these beehives. They are very simple and affordable to build.
So, let’s pick up where we left off. Last week, I notched the ends of my bars so they would hang in the hive box. Here are exterior and interior views the “lip” I made on the sides of the box by screwing a 1×2 strip about ½-inch above the edge of the top horizontal board.
I made the hive box from the straightest pieces of lumber I could find in my woodpile. Most of what I have is reclaimed 1×6 fencing. The boards are actually ½ x 5 ½ inches, which must be taken into account when measuring. The finished box needed to be 19-19 ½ inches across as the interior measurement and 48-ish inches long as the length. The depth needs to be just enough to house the brood frames I hope to get from a local beekeeper. I’ll put in the bottom of the hive when I know for sure what depth I need. It should be somewhere between 7 and 10 inches.
I made the sides and ends by laying two 4-foot lengths of board on my table horizontally, which created about 11 inches of depth for me to work with. Then, after placing the lip, I attached several short sections of board vertically along the 4-foot length with 1-inch screws. The screws will hold this old lumber more securely than nails. Having two layers of wood will also help insulate the hive in extreme weather. The total thickness of the walls of my hive is one inch.
Even with two layers of wood, I still had some drafty little gaps, so I filled the interior holes and gaps with wood filler and sanded it smooth. Wood stain would make it look nicer, but is harmful to the bees, so I just left it plain. Trust me, the bees will be laying propolis (bee glue) all over the place and remodeling it to their satisfaction anyway. They really don’t care about our sense of interior design.
The 2×4 legs are cut at a 15-degree angle to make the hive sturdy and hard to tip over. I made the ends of the boards long enough to stick out as far as the bottoms of the legs to prevent me from tripping over them. I’m a bit of a klutz. When working out the plans, I could just visualize me moving around to the end of the hive with a comb of honey and accidentally kicking one of the legs causing an uprising of ticked-off bees. That would really mess up my day! Ha!
The hive legs are 30 inches high so the hive will be at a comfortable height for my vertically challenged body to work with. I stood at my kitchen table, which is about the same height, and pretended to lift a frame from that position. I didn’t have to bend over to reach the pretend-comb of honey, or lift it too high to get it over the edge of the pretend-hive. When making your hive, be sure to make the legs at a height that is comfortable for your back and arms to lift and move the bars. Because my bars are 19 inches long and the hive will be 7-10 inches deep, each bar will weigh around 5 pounds when filled with comb and honey. Remember, these bars must be held out away from your body and moved slowly and evenly when working with the bees.
A shorter bar length and shallower depth would create less weight to work with, but would require even more frequent visits to the hive to keep the bees from running out of room and swarming (leaving the hive). When deciding on the size of your hive, you’ll need to keep these things in mind. Your own needs and preferences will be the determining factors in the size of your hive. For me, using wood from my woodpile was preferable to purchasing the wood, even if it took me a little longer to build. That may not work for you. Top Bar hives can be built less than 4 feet long, but I preferred having the equivalent of a brood chamber and 2 supers because that’s the size of my previous vertical hive. Do a little research before determining the size you build. While you are surfing the web, you’ll see designs for the straight sided Tanzanian style, like mine, as well the slanted Kenyan style. I chose the straight side for my first hive for reasons I’ve already mentioned, but you may like the Kenyan better. Actually, I think the Kenyan design is sleeker, and the pre-made ones I’ve seen for sale on several websites are much prettier than mine. These Top Bar hives are a wonderful choice for an aging back, but most American beekeepers prefer the more common Langstroth style. One is not better than the other, each just has different advantages and disadvantages. To each his own.
My next bee post will about building the top cover of the hive, as well as the bottom portion if I’ve located my supplier. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve found out about bees and Top Bar hives. I love sharing information!