Home arrow General arrow 6 Beginner Steps to Get You Started With a Top Bar Hive
6 Beginner Steps to Get You Started With a Top Bar Hive

If you are just starting beekeeping or thinking about starting, then this is the time to
catch the wave to get setup for bee season. The first year of caring for
bees in the top bar hive is a simple setup.

You will need to:

Purchase or build a hive
2) Find a resource and order bees
3) Find a location for your hive
Purchase protective clothing
5) Coat the top bars with beeswax
6) Install the swarm or package of bees

1) Get a Hive: Purchase a BackYardHive or build your own from the plans on our website. If you build a hive from our plans, we highy suggest you purchase top bars or the top bar pacakge which includes top bars, a false back, spacers, and an entrance reducer.  We find that having percise demensions for the top bars encourages the bees to build  straighter comb which leads to a better beekeeping experience in the hive.  We also suggest that you build the hive with the window, this is an amazing feature that you will not want to leave out.  The window allows you to observe the progress of the bees without having to disturb the colony.  This also gives you the opportunity to check on your bees anytime you'd like. 


2) Find a resource for a swarm, or order bees: Now is the time to order bees or get onto a swarm list. Refer to the Resources link on our website for a list of Swarm Removers or the list of apriaries selling packages of bees.


3) Placement of the hive: You will want to place the entrance of the hive away from foot traffic. The less foot traffic at the entrance of the hive the better for the bees ,you and your friends. You'll need to consider the winter weather in your area and the dirction of the wind. Face the hive entrance away from strong winter winds. The ideal direction would face somewhere between east and south. It is a good idea that the hive gets some shade in the afternoon in the summer and plenty of sun in the winter months.  A great place for this is under a deciduous tree, where it is shaded in the afternoons in the summer, or on the east side of a building where the hive gets the warmth from the dawning sun and shade in the afternoon.  You may also want to raise the hive off the ground a few feet so that it is easier to work with; a couple of cinder blocks works well for this.

Protective clothing means different things to different beekeepers.  When bees are being installed into the hive, they are not as agressive or defensive as they can be  once they have established.  This means that they won't be concerned with stinging because they  are concered with finding thier new home and colony. But you may want to wear a veil and protective clothing when first starting out with beekeeping. This helps you feel comfortable around the bees, allowing more concentration on your task. Purchase a beesuit or wear thick clothing closing all arm and leg sleeves. Wrapping duck tape works well for this.  And if you are in question about being allergic, you should get tested by your doctor.  

Coat the top bars with melted down beeswax  (paraffin will not work it needs to be natural bees wax) Coat only the 'spine' of the top bars. This encourages the bees to build comb on this 'spine'. You can order beeswax  on our website or purchase it from your local art supply store.

6) Install the bees: Put all the top bars on the hive.   Now it is time to install the bees into your hive. How many top bars you will need to remove and where you choose to put the false back, depends on the size of your swarm or colony.  Typically, we suggest to insert your false back 10 bars from the front of the hive, this is important  as it helps to establish the brood nest in the front of the hive.  Remove 5 or more bars between the entrance and false back to install the bees into  hive.  If it's a package of bees the queen comes in a separate cage. Place this on top of the hive until the bees are installed in the hive.  Give the box with the bees in it, a couple good stern shakes as you empty the bees into the hive.
If needed give the box another stern shake, to get most of the bees into the hive.  If the queen came in a cage you can put her into the hive with the bees; suspend the cage between the 3rd and 4th bars from the entrance.  If you are installing a swarm make sure you locate the ball of bees on the lid of the box and carefully move the ball above the opening and give the top of the lid a stern pound, or shake.  Then genlty yet firmly shake the bees in the bottem part of the box into a corner, turn the box upside down and shake them into the hive.  There will be bees flying all around.  Hopefully, most of them are in the hive. Put all but 1 bar back on the hive.Whether it's a package of bees you bought ,or a feral swarm, you will want to make sure the queen is in the hive.  They will soon start to fan, this is the bees calling out to each other "Hey, we are over here..the queen is here everyone get in!!" It can take about an hour or so for all the bees to find their way into the hive, replace your last top bar.   In a couple of days, release the queen over the hive into the top of the hive , it is important that you do not drop her on the ground, so do all of your work over the hive where the top bars are removed  so if she falls, she goes into her home.  In 3-7 days move the false back all the way to the back of the hive, put in your spacers, and move the bees and combs 3 bars from the hive entrance, this will get the brood nest right where you want it.


For more information, beautifully filmed and animated to show you how to work in your new hive, check out our brand new DVD!
That is it for now! You are setup and ready to be a bee guardian! Let the bees do their thing. It is best not to disturb them for the first few weeks and just observe them from the window and watch them as they carry out their deserved title 'busy as a bee' !