Top Bar Hive Beekeeping

An Alternative to Conventional Beekeeping

What's New

This website is devoted exclusively to collecting and distributing information about beekeeping with top-bar hives (tbh's). Tbh's offer many beekeepers an inexpensive but satisfying way of keeping bees that produces less (but better) honey and more beeswax.

Enjoy your visit to this website, learn about tbh's, and give them a try.

three hives on a stand, which
permits working the hives without bending over.

These top bar hives are on a stand, which permits them to be worked without bending over.




Organization of the information

Files of frequently asked questions (FAQ's) are maintained at this website to answer most of your questions about this method of beekeeping. You may have other questions which, if you will ask, can be incorporated into the files as they are edited.

These files of "frequently asked questions" and "not so FAQ's" pertaining to beekeeping in top bar hives (tbh's) were compiled and edited with the help of many others, especially Joel Govostes. I include my personal opinions, but also those of others who made comments to the tbh thread that was on BEE-L. Please send me any corrections or offer different opinions to these questions if you wish. I'll edit this file to include them. If you make your comments referenced to section and question number, it will aid me greatly. For example, you will see how I have inserted responses from Tim Haarmann throughout the files.

I shall always be indebted to my email mentor, Paul Magnuson of Pretoria, South Africa, who gave me the initial information that started me into the delightful endeavors of beekeeping in tbh's. If you read this link first, you'll get a good overview.

James D. Satterfield ---a bit about your host

Plans for Top Bar Hives??? You want plans? Here are plans...

Many of you first visiting this site will undoubtedly be interested in plans for building tbh's primarily. Plans are on this site, but may be buried a little deeply in some of the pages. To help you, I've pulled the links out to be more accessible, but I urge you to read the text that goes along with the plans. Some of the suggestions will be helpful and vital.

Modified Tanzanian Top Bar Hive. From Paul Magnuson, Pretoria, South Africa:

The complete top bar hive

The hive body with top bars removed

The five boards which make up the hive body

The dimensions and construction of top bars

An inexpensive solar wax melter

Link to Conrad Berube's website with plans for a KTBH

Conrad's site is very popular. Here are links to his pages describing the use of the Kenya top bar hives and plans for construction.

Conrad has also recently done some interesting work in Nepal dealing with tbh's and other type of hives.

Plans and Suggestions for Observation TBH's

This page on observation top bar hives has a number of photographs which will help you develop an observation hive to fit your desires. The page also shows a beautiful hive made from a tree section. And...would you believe a catenary observation hive made from clear plastic????


Building and Using a Honey Press

Beautiful comb honey is produced in tbh's, but if you want "extracted" honey, how can you get it out of the comb? A honey press works well. This link shows the construction and use of a press.


For those who have requested more photos on tbh manipulations...

This section will contain links to pages with photos and information specifically dealing with manipulation of the tbh.

Working top bar hives.

Preparation of Top Bars and their use.

Queen rearing in top bar hives.

Supering top bar hives.

And now for the answers to your questions.....

To begin, look at the questions which give an overview and history of top bar hives and their development as well as advantages and disadvantages of tbh's. What is a "honey cow" anyhow?

Next, you will surely have questions about the construction of tbh's and the associated items such as top bars, the use of foundation, and many related topics.

Questions on the management of tbh's include topics that relate growth of colonies, treating for diseases, making splits, hiving swarms, rearing queens, etc.

If you decide to establish a tbh, you will be dealing with the products of the hive. Questions about the harvesting of honey and wax will span the area of how to extract, how to render beeswax, uses of beeswax, and much more.

Finally, there are a lot of miscellaneous questions that always crop up...Where can I learn more? What is honey pop? These questions and others all relate to the wonderful experience of keeping bees in tbh's.

I have zipped the five sections of FAQ's into a 41Kb file which you may download if you wish, install the file into a directory on your computer, unzip the file, then use your browser to read the FAQ's locally. Of course, any links that are in the FAQ's will not work unless you are online.


Jimmy Mahuron and his Kenya Top Bar Hive

Jimmy constructed a KTBH based on an article in APIS and an article by Conrad Berube in the American Bee Journal. Later he was able to download plans from Conrad's website and found that his hive was very close to the specified dimension on that website.

There are seven excellent photos provided by Jimmy on this webpage. The photo of the hive hanging under the catalpa tree is worth the visit alone.

Peter Gibb from near Cape Town, South Africa...

Peter provides us with a report of his beekeeping activities in his Langstroth hives and compares them with his top-bar hives. He has some excellent photographs including one of a queen excluder fitted into his KTBH's. His "bee yard" is on the roof of his house!


John Caldeira has a website with good pages on the KTBH...

Go to John's website and look at the splendid photographs of his tbh's. Read the associated text, then visit the rest of his site as well. It will be time well spent.



Other top-bar hive beekeepers

Here is a list of individuals who are keeping top-bar hives or who will be keeping them soon. If you wish to have your name added, send Jim Satterfield a note to that effect.

Top-Bar Hive Beekeepers are Philosophers too...

Marty Hardison has been keeping tbh's for 17 years in New Mexico, USA. He has held workshops to teach tbh beekeeping, and he has published several articles. In the "Miscellaneous Questions" FAQ, for example, there is a reference to his article on rearing queens in tbh's which was published in "Developmental Beekeeping". Marty shares some of his personal philosophy in this article, Toward an Appropriate Beehive.


Notices of Classes for Learning about TBH Beekeeping

From Layne Westover...

A photograph of Layne

Layne removes some top bars from one of his hives.



Layne sends us this report on his class at College Station, Texas USA:

"My class this Spring was a success. I had 8 students register (up from 4
the previous time), and several of the students either have bees now or
previously had bees and wanted to start up again. There was a lot of
interest and there were a lot of questions asked. I took in lots of
equipment for demonstrations and as visual aids for my presentations. One
student even had a package of bees arrive in the mail and they hived it
during the course of the class. They did some things differently than they
had previously planned to do because of what they learned in the course. I
included a field trip to one of my bee yards in the course and demonstrated
smoker techniques and opening and examining a hive. I also showed them
what a queen cell looks like, and showed them several variations of home
made top bar hives. The students said that actually seeing the equipment
really helped them understand what I meant in my lectures much better. One
student was particularly interested in the top bar hives and plans to build
some since he only wants the bees for pollination. An interesting
observation was that before I started the class each evening after the
first one, the students would be in heavy discussion with each other about
what they had done or planned to do and asking and answering each other's
questions. I even decided to try a few things I hadn't done before because
of those discussions. The most common comment received in the course
evaluation was the answer to the question, "What other classes would you
like to see us offer?" and the response was "an advanced beekeeping class."
I judged the class a success and that the students were able to take away
useful and valuable information that will help them along their way in
keeping bees and that will help them keep bees in top bar hives if they so
desire. My next course will be offered in the Fall of this year. The date
has not yet been set."

From Marty Hardison...

Marty will be teaching some TBH seminars this spring, and perhaps summer too, in Kiowa, Colorado. He is doing this in association with a business that is called ECOBEE which will be marketing TBH's and beekeeping equipment. Marty sent the announcement of the seminars to me. I converted the information to HTML and have posted it at this link.

From Thomas Carroll in East Africa...

Here's a link to a website that appears to be doing some important work:

Tom describes his website as:

"Information on sustainable beekeeping development in the African context
focusing on honey and wax production and marketing from traditional African
systems of beekeeping and top-bar hives"


TBH Beekeepers Assistance Needed...

Allen Dick has brought to my attention the fact that a discussion is taking place with respect to cell size that honeybees build in natural combs compared to combs drawn from foundation. He would like TBH beekeepers to help generate some data for comparisons.

I encourage you to go to his webpage and view the discussions, then contact him to be added to the list that will deal with the matter.

Set aside some time to spend exploring Allen's pages. You'll find a delightful assortment of topics and information.

For a Gateway to Conventional Beekeeping...

If, after browsing these pages, you decide that your interests lie more in the realm of conventional beekeeping, then here is a link that will connect you to major resources in the world of beekeeping: List of Resources


Many have assisted me in getting this web page together. I'm indebted to my brother, Gary Satterfield, who scanned images for these pages. A delightful friend, Kathy Duggleby, has been of immense help in my wrestling with HTML, and she has offered many helpful suggestions. My thanks to all who have helped in any way, but especially to Georgia State University for providing this old retired biology faculty member an account and space for creating this website while continuing to piddle with the wonders of living organisms.

I invite you to visit my other websites...


The June 2001 TARSUS Event

Learn about the wonderful world of Arthur Ransome's books. Get acquainted with The Arthur Ransome Society. The first Georgia TARSUS event is over, but click on the photo to see the fun that we had. Join TARS and read the adventures of John, Nancy, Peggy, Susan, Titty, Roger, and others.


Detachment 45, 848 AC&W Squadron, Hokkaido, Japan

I was in the USAF 1953-56. From 1955-56 I was stationed at this radar detachment. We were the ground control intercept station for northern Japan, playing "games" with the Russians who were on adjacent islands during this period of the Cold War. We were the first line of defense for the armed forces. Come along and see what life was like in this remote, sometimes cold, but also beautiful area of the world.

Mother Crochets

Mother is 92 years old now, and her arthritis prevents her from using her hands well... not much crocheting now. But do go to the web page to see some of her beautiful creations.



Old Jim's Fowl Page

Come along and meet the Indian runner ducks, Charliedog, and the celebrated Private Detective Sam Drake. Read my "Ode to Mucking Boots", and, no, you don't need a license to drive a chicken tractor.


Disclaimer: The information contained within this Web page does not necessarily reflect the views of Georgia State University.
Copyright ©1997 by James D. Satterfield. All rights reserved.
James D. Satterfield email: Website established January 1997