How to Build a Top Bar Beehive: Easy DIY Guide for Beekeepers

top bar hive

Welcome to this comprehensive guide on how to build a top bar beehive, suitable for both beginner and experienced beekeepers. Building your own top bar beehive allows for sustainable and natural beekeeping practices, and can be a rewarding project. This easy DIY guide will take you through the steps of building your own top bar beehive, from selecting the right plan to maintaining your hive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Building a top bar beehive allows for sustainable and natural beekeeping practices.
  • This guide is suitable for both beginner and experienced beekeepers.
  • From selecting the right plan to maintaining your hive, this guide will take you through the steps of building your own top bar beehive.

Getting Started with Top Bar Beehive Construction

Before starting the construction of a top bar beehive, it is important to gather all necessary materials and tools. Below is a detailed table listing essential materials needed to build a top bar beehive, including their purpose and any specific details:

MaterialPurposeSpecific Details
WoodMain structurePine or cedar recommended; untreated wood; thickness: 1 inch
Top BarsSupport for the combWidth: 1 1/4 inch (for brood), 1 3/8 inch (for honey); length: varies
Nails or ScrewsAssembly of the hiveStainless steel or galvanized; size depends on wood thickness
Hive ToolMaintenance and inspectionMulti-purpose; used for prying apart hive parts and scraping
Mesh ScreenVentilation and pest controlMetal mesh; size: 1/8 inch holes
Hinges and LatchSecuring the lidStainless steel or galvanized; size appropriate for lid weight
Exterior Paint or SealantWeatherproofingNon-toxic, eco-friendly; exterior grade
Roofing MaterialProtection from weatherMetal, shingles, or waterproof fabric
Foundation WaxStarter strips for comb buildingPure beeswax; cut into thin strips
FeederFeeding bees in times of dearthMason jar or commercial feeder compatible with top bar design
Entrance ReducerControl entrance size for temperature and pest managementWood or metal; adjustable design preferred
Observation WindowMonitoring without disturbing beesPlexiglass or glass; properly sealed to prevent bee escape
Ventilation PortsAirflow managementCovered with mesh to prevent bee escape; adjustable openings

This table includes the essential materials along with their purposes and specific details to help you build a functional and efficient top bar beehive.

There are also various top bar beehive plans available for free online. Choose a plan that best suits your needs and level of experience.

It is important to note that the construction of a top bar beehive requires basic woodworking skills. Therefore, beginners are advised to seek assistance from an experienced woodworker or beekeeper to ensure proper construction.

Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Top Bar Beehive

Building a top bar beehive can seem intimidating, but with the right tools and materials, anyone can do it. Follow this step-by-step guide to construct your own top bar beehive.

Materials and Tools Needed:

  • Plywood for the base
  • Wooden boards for side walls and top bars (pine or cedar recommended)
  • Nails or screws (stainless steel or galvanized)
  • Saw (hand saw or circular saw)
  • Drill (if using screws)
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal or shingles for the roof
  • Mesh screen for ventilation

Step 1: Assemble the Base

  1. Cut the Base: Use a saw to cut a piece of plywood to the desired size of your hive base (commonly around 36 inches long and 18 inches wide).
  2. Create Supports: Cut four wooden blocks (legs) to the desired height of your hive stand (approximately 12 inches high).
  3. Attach the Base: Screw or nail the plywood base onto the four wooden blocks to create a sturdy and elevated base for the hive.

Step 2: Add Side Walls

  1. Cut the Walls: Cut two long wooden boards to match the length of the base and two shorter boards for the width (e.g., 36 inches long for the long sides and 18 inches for the short sides).
  2. Attach the Walls: Attach the boards to the sides of the base using screws or nails. Ensure the walls are vertical and secure. The height of the walls is typically around 12 inches.

Step 3: Cut Top Bars

  1. Measure and Cut: Cut wooden bars to the desired length for the top bars, typically about 17 inches long to fit across the width of the hive.
  2. Sand the Edges: Sand the edges of the top bars smooth to prevent splinters and ensure the bees can move freely without injury.

Step 4: Add Top Bars

  1. Position the Top Bars: Place the top bars across the top of the hive, ensuring they are evenly spaced. The space between each bar should be about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch, which is approximately the width of a bee.
  2. Secure the Bars: The top bars can either rest on a lip inside the hive walls or be attached with small screws or nails. Ensure they are easily removable for inspection.

Step 5: Create the Roof

  1. Cut the Roof Supports: Cut two pieces of wood at an angle to form the sloped roof supports. The angle and length will depend on the desired pitch of your roof.
  2. Attach the Supports: Attach these angled supports to the top edges of the hive walls.
  3. Cover the Roof: Cover the roof with a piece of metal or shingles to protect the hive from the elements. Ensure the roof extends beyond the walls to provide adequate drainage and protection.
(example measurements)

Step 6: Final Touches

  1. Add Ventilation: Cut small ventilation holes near the top of the side walls and cover them with mesh screen to prevent bees from escaping.
  2. Finish and Inspect: Check all parts of the hive to ensure they are secure and smooth. Apply exterior paint or sealant if desired, ensuring it is non-toxic and eco-friendly.


  • Regular Inspections: Regularly inspect the hive for cleanliness, pests, and the health of the bee colony.
  • Cleaning: Keep the hive clean and free of debris to promote a healthy environment for the bees.

By following these steps, you can build a functional and effective top bar beehive. Remember to prioritize the safety and well-being of the bees throughout the construction process.

Design Considerations for a Top Bar Beehive

When it comes to building a top bar beehive, design considerations are crucial for creating a functional and effective home for your bees. Ventilation, entrance size, and bar positioning are all important factors to consider, among others.


Proper ventilation is important for regulating the temperature and humidity inside the top bar beehive. Without adequate ventilation, the hive can become too hot or too humid, leading to stressed and unhealthy bees. Consider adding ventilation holes or a screened bottom board to your top bar beehive design to ensure proper airflow.

Entrance Size

The entrance size of your top bar beehive can affect the bees’ ability to defend their home and control the temperature inside. Larger entrances can lead to more aggressive colonies, while smaller entrances may cause congestion and decreased airflow. Aim for an entrance size that is proportionate to the size of your colony and suits your local climate.

Bar Positioning

The positioning of the bars in your top bar beehive can impact the bees’ ability to build natural comb and store honey. Positioning the bars too close together can lead to cramped and deformed comb, while spacing them too far apart can lead to wasted space and decreased honey production. Consider spacing your bars between 1.25-1.5 inches apart to create a suitable environment for natural comb building and honey storage.

Here is a table with various design considerations for a top bar beehive:

Urban Beekeeping - Managing Hives in City Environments
  • Carter, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 194 Pages - 02/28/2024 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Design ConsiderationDescriptionDetails
Hive SizeOverall dimensions of the hiveCommon dimensions: 36″ long, 18″ wide, 12″ deep
Top BarsNumber and dimensions of the top barsTypically 17″ long, 1 1/4″ wide for brood, 1 3/8″ wide for honey, 20-30 bars
MaterialsTypes of wood and other materials usedPine or cedar recommended; untreated wood to avoid chemicals
VentilationProper airflow within the hiveInclude ventilation holes with mesh screens near the top of the side walls
Roof DesignShape and materials for the roofSloped roof for drainage; made from metal, shingles, or waterproof fabric
Entrance SizeSize and position of the hive entranceAdjustable entrance reducer to control access; typically 3/4″ to 1″ high and 3″ wide
FoundationWhether to use foundation stripsThin strips of pure beeswax or no foundation to encourage natural comb building
HeightHeight of the hive off the groundHive should be elevated on legs or a stand, approximately 12″ to 18″ off the ground
WeatherproofingProtection from the elementsNon-toxic, eco-friendly exterior paint or sealant
Observation WindowAbility to monitor the hive without disturbing beesOptional plexiglass or glass window on the side, properly sealed
AccessibilityEase of hive inspection and maintenanceRemovable top bars; consider hinge or latch system for roof access
Pest ManagementMeasures to prevent pests from entering the hiveMesh screen for ventilation holes; design entrance to minimize pest entry
FeedingMethod for feeding bees during dearth periodsIntegration of a feeder, such as a mason jar or commercial feeder, that fits within the hive design
Comb ManagementEase of managing and harvesting honeycombAdequate spacing between top bars; bars should be easily removable without damaging comb
Expansion CapabilityAbility to expand the hive if neededConsider modular design elements or space for adding additional top bars

These design considerations will help ensure that your top bar beehive is functional, efficient, and supportive of a healthy bee colony.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Top Bar Beehive

One of the most critical factors in beekeeping is selecting the right location for the beehive. When choosing the location for your top bar beehive, there are multiple factors to consider to ensure the hive’s survival and productivity.

The following are some things to keep in mind when choosing the optimal location for your beehive:


Bees thrive in warm temperatures and require sunlight to regulate the temperature inside the hive. Therefore, it is crucial to position the hive in an area with plenty of morning sunlight. A location with at least six hours of sunlight a day is ideal.

Protection from wind

Strong winds can make it difficult for bees to enter and exit the hive. It can also cause the hive to topple over, leading to damage to the hive and potential harm to the bees. Therefore, it is essential to select a location that is shielded from strong winds.

Accessibility for maintenance

It’s important to choose a location that is easily accessible for maintenance and monitoring of the hive. Bees require regular inspection and care, so selecting a location that is easy to access without disturbing the hive is critical.

Maintaining Your Top Bar Beehive

Keeping a top bar beehive healthy and productive requires consistent maintenance and attention. Here are some important guidelines to follow:

Regular Inspections

It’s essential to inspect your top bar beehive regularly to ensure that the bees are healthy and the hive is functioning properly. Check for signs of disease, pests, and hive damage. Inspect comb construction and make sure the queen is present and laying eggs.

Hive Hygiene

Maintaining a clean hive is critical to the health of your bees. Remove any debris, dead bees, and old comb regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria and pests. Make sure to clean the hive tools and equipment after each use to prevent the spread of disease between hives.

Pest Control

Pests such as mites and wax moths can significantly damage a top bar beehive. There are various ways to control pests, including the use of natural remedies, chemical treatments, and regular hive maintenance. Make sure to research and choose the best pest control method for your beehive.

Harvesting Honey

When it’s time to harvest honey, make sure to do it correctly to avoid damaging the comb or harming the bees. Use a bee brush or smoker to gently remove the bees from the area you plan to harvest. Be careful not to break the comb or spill honey in the hive.

Remember to leave enough honey for the bees to survive the winter.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Top Bar Beehives

While top bar beehives offer many advantages for beekeepers, they can still encounter common issues that require troubleshooting. Here are some of the most common issues and how to address them:


Overcrowding can lead to reduced honey production and increased stress on the bees. To address this issue, consider adding more space by adding a new top bar or splitting the hive into two separate colonies.


If the hive appears to be queenless, it may be necessary to introduce a new queen to the colony. Some beekeepers may opt to let the bees raise their own queen naturally, while others choose to purchase a queen from a reputable source.


If the bees seem overly aggressive, it may be due to external factors such as disturbances or weather conditions, or internal issues such as disease or overcrowding. It’s important to identify the root cause and take appropriate action, such as providing more space or treating for disease.

By addressing these common issues, beekeepers can ensure the health and productivity of their top bar beehives.

Advantages of Top Bar Beehives

Using a top bar beehive can provide several advantages for both bees and beekeepers. Below is a detailed table highlighting the advantages of top bar beehives for both bees and beekeepers:

AdvantageDescriptionBenefits for BeesBenefits for Beekeepers
Natural Comb BuildingBees build comb naturally without pre-formed foundation.Allows bees to build comb according to their needs and preferences, which can lead to healthier colonies.Reduces the need for artificial foundation, minimizing potential chemical exposure and costs.
Less Intrusive InspectionsHive inspections disturb fewer bees due to the ability to remove one top bar at a time.Reduces stress on the colony during inspections.Easier and less disruptive inspections, leading to more comfortable beekeeping experience.
Improved VentilationEnhanced airflow due to design and positioning of ventilation holes.Better temperature and humidity control within the hive, leading to healthier bees.Reduces issues with condensation and mold inside the hive.
Horizontal LayoutHive structure is horizontal, making it easier for bees to move throughout the hive without climbing.Easier movement for bees, especially in colder climates, as they can cluster and move horizontally.Simpler hive management and manipulation due to accessible height and layout.
Cost-EffectiveGenerally cheaper to build and maintain compared to traditional hives.Utilizes natural materials and reduces reliance on expensive hive components.Lower initial investment and maintenance costs, making beekeeping more accessible.
CustomizationAllows for easy customization and modification to suit specific needs.Hive can be tailored to better suit the local environment and specific bee behaviors.Flexibility to adapt the hive to personal preferences and requirements.
Foundationless FramesAbsence of pre-fabricated frames or foundation.Encourages natural cell size and comb formation, reducing the risk of disease and pest issues.Simplifies hive construction and maintenance by eliminating the need for frame assembly and foundation replacement.
SustainabilityTypically made from locally sourced, untreated wood.Promotes a healthier environment for bees by avoiding chemical treatments.Eco-friendly beekeeping practice that supports sustainable and organic methods.
Less Heavy LiftingTop bar hives do not require lifting heavy supers.Less disturbance from moving large hive components.Reduces physical strain and risk of injury for beekeepers, making it more accessible for all ages and fitness levels.
Pest ManagementEasier to manage pests due to hive design and inspection method.Reduces the presence of pests like varroa mites and hive beetles through more targeted inspections.Simplifies pest management procedures, leading to healthier hives with less chemical intervention.
Honey HarvestingSimplifies honey harvesting by allowing comb cutting from top bars.Less disturbance to the colony during honey harvests.Provides pure, raw comb honey, which can be more valuable and desirable for consumers.
Educational ToolServes as an excellent educational tool for learning about bees and beekeeping.Provides a natural environment for bees, which is ideal for observation and study.Ideal for teaching beginners and children about beekeeping and bee biology in an accessible and engaging way.
Disease ManagementReduced risk of disease spread due to unique hive design and natural comb management.Healthier colony environment with reduced need for chemical treatments.Easier monitoring and control of diseases, leading to overall healthier hives.
Minimal EquipmentRequires fewer specialized tools and equipment for maintenance and management.Less disruption and stress from tool use and hive manipulation.Simplifies beekeeping practice and reduces cost and storage needs for additional equipment.
Observation WindowsOften includes observation windows for non-intrusive hive monitoring.Allows for monitoring of hive activity without opening the hive, reducing stress.Provides a unique opportunity to observe bee behavior and hive conditions without disturbing the bees.

These advantages highlight why top bar beehives can be a great choice for both bees and beekeepers, offering numerous benefits that support healthier colonies and a more enjoyable beekeeping experience.

Top Bar Beekeeping Tips for Beginners

Starting out with beekeeping can be both exciting and daunting. Follow these tips to help you get started with your top bar beehive:

  1. Choose the right location: Before setting up your top bar beehive, find a location that provides plenty of sunlight, shelter from the wind, and easy access for maintenance.
  2. Acquire bees from a reputable source: When acquiring bees for your top bar beehive, it is important to find a reputable source. Consider purchasing bees from a local beekeeper or apiary.
  3. Monitor for swarm prevention: One of the challenges of beekeeping is preventing swarms. Regularly monitor the size of your colony and remove excess queen cells to prevent swarming.
  4. Keep your hive clean: Regularly inspect your beehive for signs of disease or pests. Keep your hive clean by removing debris and dead bees.
  5. Join a local beekeeping group: Joining a local beekeeping group is a great way to connect with other beekeepers and gain valuable knowledge and mentorship.
  6. Be prepared for unexpected challenges: Beekeeping can present unexpected challenges such as aggressive bees or queenlessness. Research common problems and develop a plan for how to address them.

Expanding Your Beekeeping Journey with Top Bar Beehives

Building and maintaining a top bar beehive can open up many opportunities for beekeepers. Below is a table detailing various ways in which a top bar beehive can expand your beekeeping journey:

AspectDescriptionBenefits for Beekeepers
Simplicity and AccessibilityTop bar hives are easy to construct, maintain, and inspect, making beekeeping more accessible to beginners and hobbyists.Encourages new beekeepers to start with minimal initial investment and technical knowledge.
Natural Beekeeping PracticesPromotes more natural beekeeping methods, such as foundationless comb building and minimal chemical use.Allows beekeepers to adopt more sustainable and eco-friendly practices, enhancing the health and well-being of their bees.
Educational OpportunitiesProvides a hands-on learning experience about bee biology, behavior, and hive dynamics.Offers a practical way to educate oneself, children, and community members about bees and beekeeping.
Customization and ExperimentationThe flexible design of top bar hives allows for easy customization and experimentation with different beekeeping techniques.Enables beekeepers to experiment with hive design, comb management, and other practices to find what works best for their bees.
Diversified Honey ProductsAllows for harvesting comb honey, which can be sold or used in a variety of ways.Expands product offerings beyond liquid honey, potentially increasing marketability and income.
Reduced Physical StrainEasier on the body due to the lack of heavy lifting required with traditional hives.Makes beekeeping more accessible to those with physical limitations, enabling longer participation in the hobby.
Enhanced Hive ObservationOften includes observation windows for non-intrusive hive monitoring.Provides valuable insights into hive activity and health without disturbing the bees, improving management practices.
Improved Pest and Disease ManagementEasier to manage pests and monitor for diseases due to the design and inspection methods.Leads to healthier hives with reduced need for chemical treatments, enhancing the longevity of bee colonies.
Community EngagementActs as a focal point for community education and engagement about bees and their importance.Builds awareness and support for beekeeping, potentially leading to community projects and collaborations.
Cost-EffectivenessLower cost of materials and maintenance compared to traditional hives.Makes it easier to expand apiaries without significant financial burden, allowing for scaling up beekeeping operations.
Therapeutic BenefitsEngaging in beekeeping with a top bar hive can be relaxing and rewarding.Provides mental health benefits, such as stress reduction and a sense of accomplishment, enhancing overall well-being.
Pollination ServicesIncreased ability to provide pollination services to local farms and gardens.Supports local agriculture and ecosystems, fostering goodwill and potential income from pollination services.
Connection with NatureEncourages a deeper connection with the natural environment and understanding of ecological processes.Enhances appreciation for biodiversity and the vital role bees play in ecosystems.
Holistic Beekeeping ApproachIntegrates beekeeping with other sustainable practices, such as organic gardening and permaculture.Promotes a holistic approach to sustainability, aligning beekeeping with broader environmental and agricultural goals.
Increased ResilienceTop bar hives can be better suited to handle certain environmental stresses and challenges.Builds more resilient bee colonies that can adapt to changing conditions, ensuring long-term success in beekeeping.

These aspects illustrate how using a top bar beehive can enhance and expand your beekeeping journey, providing numerous opportunities for growth, learning, and enjoyment.

How to Build a Top Bar Beehive – Conclusion

Building a top bar beehive is an excellent way to practice sustainable and natural beekeeping. It provides numerous benefits for both bees and beekeepers, including increased bee autonomy, reduced risk of diseases, and the potential for small honey businesses.

By following the step-by-step guide in this article, even a beginner beekeeper can construct a top bar beehive. Remember to consider design factors, choose an optimal location, and maintain the hive regularly.

For those just starting out, there are specific tips tailored to beginner beekeepers, such as managing swarm control and finding local mentorship. However, the benefits of using top bar beehives extend beyond just starting a new hobby. It can also lead to expanding your beekeeping journey and even becoming a mentor to other beekeepers.

Overall, building and maintaining a top bar beehive is a rewarding experience for both the bees and beekeepers. Take the first step in your beekeeping journey today and start building your own top bar beehive.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honey bees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

Last update on 2024-06-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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