Beekeeping is a great hobby, whether you keep bees for pollination, honey, profit, medicinal uses or all of the above.
They are also the most prolific pollinator. Whitout them, many fruits and vegetables are less productive. But getting started with bees can cost more than $200 and building conventional hives and frames is time consuming at best. But there’s a simpler, less-expensive and more natural option: Top-bar hives.
The top-bar method of beekeeping allows you to make simpler, inexpensive hives. You can build them from scrap lumber. With the top-bar system, you build simple box hives with slats (bars) of wood laid across the top which bees attach their wax comb.
With growing concern over colony collapse disorder and the systematic decline of pollinators, gardeners might consider maintaining a top-bar hive of bees to increase vegetable and fruit yeilds through better pollination.
Top-bar beekeeping is for both urban and rural dwellers who want to keep bees on a modest scale. Above all, Top-bar beekeeping is for people who love bees and understand and appreciate their role in the pollination of many wild and cultivated plants.
So if your goal is to obtain the absolute maximum amount of honey regardless of all other considerations, Top-bar beekeeping is not for you. This style can produce adequate amounts of honey; but the emphasis here is on sustainability and keeping healthy bees rather than maximizing a honey crop. Beekeeping does not have to be complicated. And you need none of the stuff in those glossy catalogs to keep healthy, happy bees.
Bees love to make choices. In a top-bar hive, the bees are encouraged to build their wax comb (which holds the cells to the top bar) from a thin strip of “starter wax” applied to the wooden bars, which simply rest across the top of the box. To extract honey from this wax comb, you crush it in a strainer and allow the honey to drain into a jar.
In a top-bar hive the bees get to make the many choices that increase their chances of a successful happy colony. Not conform to a managed hive for honey production. This system of beekeeping is the Popeil way: set it and forget it.
If you’re thinking of starting your own little bee project for a garden or small orchard, Top-bar is something to look into.
For questions or commentary write to: The Honeybee Conservancy, 5711 C. R. 109, Mt. Gilead, 43338