Feeding Your Bees _ How Much
By Corwin Bell

Should I Feed My Bees?

When fall arrives there is a great challenge for the bees because there is no available nectar. If this nectar dearth is combined with unusually warm weather, what we see is bees that are still very active looking for any food sources they can dip their little proboscises into.

Read more: Feeding Your Bees in the Fall

Article by Corwin Bell

 Installing a package bees into a hive, an easy approach

 Have you ever seen how a package of bees is installed into a hive? I was shocked at the process, after 15 years of only installing swarms I had never installed a package of bees, ever. Since I have a lot of people asking questions of how to do it, I decided I should know what it is about.

Read more: Installing a Package of Bees: A better approach

Article by Corwin Bell

 Looking through top bar hive window
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)

It's fall and there are only a few bees when I look through the window. There could be several reasons why in the Fall you might be seeing fewer bees through the window of your top bar hive.

One possibility, is the number of bees in the colony naturally decreases in the fall. Usually there is little nectar available in the fall months, so there is no need for a huge amount of worker bees. 

Read more: Where did all my bees go?

Urban Conversion's national debut on Create TV Tuesdays &Thursdays at 11:30 & 5:30 ET.
Check your local listing at Create TV for  The "Burbs and the Bees" Episode!

Urban COnversion Burbs and the Bees PBS Corwin Bell

Corwin shows bee-neophyte, Rodman, how to easily setup bees in his own backyard without having to run and hide from the bees. Rodman from Urban Conversion, a media group in Colorado, wanting to get the word out about being green and sustainable in your own backyard, visits Corwin's Eldorado Apiary and learns about the bees.

Read more: 'The Burbs and the Bees ' featuring Corwin Bell on PBS!

Article by Corwin Bell
Insulation Panels on a Bee Hive for Winter
(Photo credit: Karen Sadenwater)

In regions that have big fluctuations in temperatures during the winter months, it is optimum to insulate bee hives. In Colorado we have experimented for many years by insulating half of our hives and on the other half not using any insulation. What we found is that if the bees have sufficient honey stores, insulating the hives does not increase the overwintering abilities of the bees.

With this said, we have also found that insulating hives has two important effects. First, if a hive has marginal honey stores, insulating greatly increases its chances of overwintering. Secondly, because the bees create warmth by eating honey and using this fuel to generate heat by flexing their wing muscles, a hive

Read more: Overwintering Bees with our Insulating Panels

Our Cathedral Hive "Passage Bar" design is now available for the Golden Mean and Original BackYard Hives.
Integrated top bar feature we call the "Super Highway"

Specially designed top bars that improve the bees efficiency, health, ability to self ventilate the nest and improves overwintering,
by providing passages for the bees to efficiently migrate through the honey stores.

New Vented Top Bars for Golden Mean Hive
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

Read more: NEW Passage Bars for our Top Bar Hives

Article by Corwin Bell
White Asters Honey Bees Pollinate
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
The strange hive smell of sour dirty socks slowly turns to the brilliant scent of butterscotch!
I have been walking by my hives in the last several weeks and smelling the peculiar scent of dirty socks or sour laundry. At first it kind of smells like bee bread, that wonderful smell of baking bread that is so familiar in the spring when bees are rearing brood. I first encountered this smell of dirty socks emanating from my hives years ago and I thought that my hives had contracted some odd disease. When I did some research I found out that the smell was from the nectar of the Aster flowers.

The white asters don't seem to be the culprit...

Read more: Season of the Asters

Article by Corwin Bell

Installing Honey Bees into the new Cathedral Hive top bar
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
Simple techniques that will make installing bees in your Cathedral Hive a breeze.

One of the first things you will notice with your new Cathedral Hive is when you line up the hexagonal
top bars across the hive on the support ledge, they are delicately balanced. This will soon change after the bees
begin to draw out comb and 'glue' everything together with propolis making the bars sit firmly in place.
To make everything good and stable for installing the bees, you will want to make sure you have the front blank board
and the falseback in place. Use the falseback to keep the bars upright as you continually add more bars toward the back.

Read more: Installing Bees into your Cathedral Hive

Article by Corwin Bell
Top Bar Hive Nuc_Nucleus

The Golden Mean and BackYardHive Top Bar Hive Nuc (short for nucleus)

A Nuc is a hive in miniature and can house a functioning colony of bees. Our Nuc is about half the size of our full hive. The Nuc can be a temporary home for the bees, whether you just caught a swarm or made a split from your hive. The intent of the temporary home in the nuc is to transfer the colony from the Nuc into a full hive, so that the colony has time to fully fill out a regular size hive.

Read more: The Top Bar Hive Nuc (Nucleus)

Honey bees clustered on the front of the hive, bearding during hot weather
Bees bearded on the front of the hive.

Bees bearding or clustered on the front of the hive is normal during the summer months. Bearding occurs when the hives have  increased their colony size to take advantage of the nectar flows that are happening in the spring and summer. During these months it is peak season when the bees have the opportunity to collect nectar to make honey stores for the winter so they need more worker bees that can forage during the nectar flows. Since the bees do not want to overheat the hive with it's delicate balance of  a consistent broodnest temperature, some of the bees will hang out on the outside of the hive.

Read more: Bearding Bees

 Article by Karen Sadenwater

Bees Robbing a hive_comb crumbles at entrance

Why do bees rob another hive?
Robber bees will rob another hive if the hive is weak or if there are drought conditions and there is a lack of nectar sources. Normally a hive that is being robbed is a weaker hive or is low in numbers and they are not able to fully defend themselves. Normally you will only see robbing in the fall time, going into winter when bees, yellow jackets and others are all looking for that last source of food before winter sets in. Yet with the drought conditions and warmer temperatures we are now experiencing, robbing is also happening in the spring and late summer as well. 

Learn how to identify robbing and how to stop it!

Read more: Bees Robbing A Hive

by Corwin Bell  

(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)

While I'm a crappy salesman and not a great promoter, I do get excited when I have a cool idea or have found a good solution in beekeeping equipment and want to share my experiences. I also don't like to sell anything that I don't like to use myself. So this brings me to the bee suits we have been selling.

Read more: New Bee Helmet & Veil : Why we love this new product!

Honey Bee Swarm Colorado

How to catch a swarm of honey bees. My bee-wrangling journey began very simply, with a call to a bee supply company in a neighboring town. I was looking for a swarm to purchase; the woman I spoke with informed me that they were out of swarms (I called in June, too late in the season), but that she could put me on their “swarm list” if I wanted. (A “swarm list” is a list of people who volunteer to remove bee swarms that show up in people’s yards.) I had no experience with swarms whatsoever—I’ve never even seen one in person—but I had a friend who had told me about catching swarms and who I knew I could call for advice...

Read more: Catching A Honey Bee Swarm - By Will Dart

 by Claire Anderson

Bee Guardians Closely Inspecting Combs
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)  Bee Guardians closely inspecting combs during the Bee Doctor Intensives

The BackYardHive Bee Doctor Intensives felt like a summer honeybee retreat and a sweet, intensive-learning holiday. We all gathered in Eldorado Springs early in the morning around 8am, before it would get too hot to work the beehives. It was a pleasant time of year with the smell of summer in the air. We sat on Corwin’s back porch sipping green tea and creating a plan for the day. I enjoyed the dynamic variety of people who showed up. Some people were fairly new to working in hives and others were seasoned bee guardians.

Read more: Bee Doctor Intensives - Closely Working with the Bees


Honey Harvest Top Bar Hive

I want to share with you a very simple method of processing harvested comb from a top bar hive. This should give you an idea of the potential yield and the relative simplicity of working with the top bar hive. The best part of this single comb harvesting method is that it can be done in less than 30 minutes and you will still get to the office on time!  

Read more: A Simple Harvest

(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
"Before the City" - Bees add p
ropolis to their hive entrance to winterize and defend from robber bees.

What do Black Bees and Propolis have in common ?
When early civilizations observed a bee hive they must have seen the hive as a city” of productive inhabitants. These early observers of nature witnessed the bees using a bright, yellow and orange substance to form a protective entrance to their city. They also noticed when fall came, the bees would slowly close up their entrance, until finally in the winter, all but a few small holes, just the size of a single bee remained.

Propolis they called it. Aristotle had detailed writings about the bees use of Propolis and called it “the Defender of the city”.

Read more: Propolis : The Defender of the Hive

Looking through window of beehive

All You Need to Know for Winter Feeding
Ideally, in the winter bees will hibernate by forming a ball where they circulate in a "dynamic system", an inter-weaving pattern much like penguins in the antarctic use to keep all the members warm. In a continual flow, the bees on the outside move inward into the center of the ball, and the bees in the center move toward the outside of the ball. If you were to put your hand in the hive in the winter you would find it pretty warm in there. Honey is passed from one bee to the next until all the stomachs are well fed. Their biggest challenge is to slowly move as a ball of bees to a new honey store as the old is depleted.

Read more: Winter Feeding in a Top Bar Hive

(Photo credit: Corwin Bell.)

There is an old saying many people have heard, you can only move a beehive “3 feet or 3 miles”. This saying implies that you can move a beehive up to 3 feet from it's original location and the bees will still find their hive but if the distance exceeds 3 miles or more, the bees figure they are not in Kansas anymore and they reorientate. ie... when the bees wake up to a new location, the landscape looks very different and their GPS is a bit off.

Some folks setup their hive in their yard and for whatever reason they want or need to move the hive to a different location. Moving the hive will disrupt the colony for the first day or so. After many years of helping folks move their hives, these are some of the ways we have found work.

We commonly move hives 2 miles... so much for the 3 mile saying ! , but if you are needing to move a hive more then 5 or 6 feet feet you want to help them reorientate to the new location. So lets understand how the bees orientate and then get back to that old saying.

Read more: Moving a Bee Hive: Learning How Bees Orientate

Wood Covered Blue Insulation Foam Panel

Winterizing Your Top Bar Hive for the Colder Months
Here in Colorado we experience very cold winters. Most of the content in this article is directed toward those who live in cold winter climates. Insulating the beehive, and keeping a full hive of honey is important in areas where you will experience below-freezing temperatures for many days at a time. Obviously, if you live in a very warm climate like Florida it will not be necessary to winterize your hive. Understand that you may need to adjust this information for your specific climate and area.

Read more: Winterizing and Insulating Your Hive

Article by Corwin Bell

Harvesting Honey Comb top bar hive
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 

It's nearing fall and your hive is full of beautiful combs. The number one question everyone wants to know:

How much honey do I harvest and when?
We have a very different idea about the needs of a colony during the winter months. Typically beekeepers harvest in the fall and often feed the bees back sugar water to replace the honey. Obviously the sugar water would have to be evaporated and all that moisture will chill the bees.

Why harvest in the spring?
The biggest reason to harvest in the spring, is that the bees need the honey as fuel and for thermal mass to regulate the nest temperatures. We will want to leave a full hive of honey for the bees to overwinter on. The bees will use these combs of honey as fuel to create thermal heat. The bees do this by consuming honey and flexing their wing muscles, this generates heat in cold temperatures.

Read more: Harvesting Honey from a Top Bar Hive

Top Bar Hive Spacers

The spacers are the thin strips of wood (1/4" thick) that come with our top bar hives and are described in our hive plans. Bees in natural habitats do not create equally-spaced combs. In a tree hive, for example, the bees will create two basic spacings. The typical space between brood combs is 1 3/8" (normal bee space), but the spacing for honey combs is slightly larger at approximately 1 5/8". The 1/4" spacer, when placed adjacent to a topbar, will create the larger space needed to accommodate the fatter honey combs. The spacers are a unique development that Corwin designed after observing for the last 18 years how the bees built their comb in the top bar hives.  The use of spacers in the honeycomb area of the hive encourages good alignment of the combs throughout the hive.


Read more: Using Spacers in the Top Bar Hive

Bee Hive Plans for the Ventilated Roof

Ventilated Roof for the Top Bar Hives

We have had many requests for ventilated roof plans for the Golden Mean and the Original Back Yard Hive.
We now have easy to follow plans available for all of our hives in a full sheet architectural drawing, 24" x 36" ;
the Golden Mean, Original BackYardHive and the new Cathedral Hive. All 3 roofs are included in one drawing.

Read more: Ventilated Roof Hive Plans

Comb attachment to sides of hive
Bees attach comb to the sides of a top bar hive to brace the comb, holding this amazing engineering feat in place.

The side walls of a top bar hive are sloped inward towards the bottom so the bees will build less comb attachment to the walls of the hive. This is the reason for the angle of the sides of the hive. If the hive were a square box the bees might attach the comb they draw out along the entire side of the hive. This would make it very difficult to harvest the honeycomb from the hive.

Read more: Honeycomb Attached to Sides of Hive - Brace Comb

A Bee Guardian's Fears
By Corwin Bell

It's the first week of December and after a week of single digit temperatures, the the cold breaks and the temps climb past the 50 degree mark. I look at the ground outside the hive and there are dead bees everywhere. I look in the window and see no sign of my bees. Did my bees die?

Bees dead on ground in front of hive Winter
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell) 
Bees on the ground outside hive from 'house cleaning' during winter warm days

Read more: After the First Cold Snap

Top bar honey comb of worker brood, capped honey and open honey (nectar) cells
(Photo credit: Corwin Bell)
Several types of cells in one comb

Top of comb: the white wax coverings are capped honey cells

Middle of comb: Open cells in middle are uncapped nectar (soon to be honey). 

Bottom of Comb: Light yellow capped cells from middle to bottom of comb are freshly capped worker brood cells

When just starting out with a hive of bees it can be challenging to identify what you see in the cells of each comb in the hive. Soon after working in the hive several times you will soon learn the differences between capped and uncapped honey comb, capped worker brood and capped drone comb. You will also recognize heater bee cells, pollen and emerged bee cells.

Read more: Honey Comb Identification - Brood Nest

Glass and Fine Wood Honey Comb Buffet Brunch Stand


How many times have you pulled a beautiful honeycomb from your top bar hive and you just can't bring yourself to crush and strain the comb? In fact, I find myself wanting to preserve its beauty in order to amaze guests and friends. What a great way to show children and others the wonders of the hive by having a honeycomb on display. They get to see an amazing creation by the bees and the intricacies of its construction.


Read more: Honeycomb Display Stand For Harvested Combs