I love top bar hives. They are simple, effective and efficient.
I have been using top bars in our beekeeping business for the past 4 seasons and spent the 2016 season converting my best stock into top bar hives exclusively. During the conversion process, I used top bar hive "supers" to get my bees in Langstroth boxes to build the combs I would need to expand my numbers. These short top bar hives have holes in the bottom to allow the bees to move up into the top bar box. I blocked the bottom entrance and forced the bees to go through the top bar entrances. Since bees abhor empty space, they quickly started drawing combs off of my bars and before I knew it I had 10 fully drawn combs to use.
I would then move some of the drawn combs once they had brood in them to a bigger top bar hive. Where we are located, small hive beetles can really take over a growing colony. To combat this, I built these much shorter than what is typically recommended. I halved Les Crowder's length and went with a 22" length box. The bees were able to maintain this space very well and kept the beetles to a minimum even during the prime beetle time of July and August.
I think that the 22" hive is still a bit too short for my "production" hives. This year I am building the full-size hives at 30". This gives them a volume that fits in with Tom Seeley's recent research covering the benefits of smaller hives for bee health. The standard length usually varies between 4'-5', but every time I've seen a top bar hive in that range locally, the hive beetles have decimated it.
I still have a need for smaller mating nucs and hives to start splits in, so my other length has now been adjusted to 12". This creates a top bar nuc situation and my plan is to use them for housing my queens that I will raise and sell this year. This size allows for 8 top bars, which will be easy to move to new yards.
With Spring quickly approaching, I am very excited about the upcoming season and what will happen. I will continually update this site and our YouTube channel with the progress. I learn new things every year and I know this year will provide more opportunities to grow as a beekeeper and learn about these fascinating insects.