I have been thinking of keeping bees for a while now and I have done research into the different options that are available. What initially struck me was the cost and the amount of gear required to run a conventional hive. To buy a new hive and all the required tools can easily set you back $800.
The other surprise is the amount of equipment required and the amount of space required to store these. Searching for a cheaper and easier alternative led me to the Top Bar Beehive. This is one of the oldest and simplest ways of keeping bees and requires little skill. Sounds perfect for me! These hives have been around since the 1600's and are popular in African countries as there are few tools required and the hive is easy to build, practical and productive.
Basically a Top Bar Bee Hive is a wooden rectangular box with sticks across the top which the bees build honey comb from. It is a more natural and sustainable way of keeping bees as the bees are allowed to build honey comb to their natural dimensions with no interference from us. The honey is harvested as honey comb, one bar at a time.
Honey production is not as high as in a conventional hive but you do get more wax. This can be used to make candles and furniture and leather polish. This type of hive is perfectly suited to the home bee keeper as it is a simple design, management of the bees is very 'leave alone' and there is evidence that this type of hive reduces the incidence of Varroa mite infection.
It particularly suits people with disabilities, bad backs and women, as there is no heavy lifting of super boxes, which can weight up to 50kg when full of honey. When talking to professional bee keepers about Top Bar hive's don't be put off if they look at you blankly. Most bee keepers have not heard of this way of keeping bees and indeed Top Bar hives are not an option for a professional bee keeper as the honey production is not as high as with a conventional hive.
These hives are becoming more and more popular in the UK and America, where people are looking for a more natural and cheaper way of keeping bees. A great website to start your research is Phillip Chandlers Biobees. Here you can download free instructions to make your own hive, if you are handy.
You can also buy his book ,The Barefoot Beekeeper which describes the management and care of a Top Bar Hive. I have bought his book, have attended a ½ day introduction to beekeeping course and bought a Top Bar Hive. Armed with this new information I am embarking on a new journey into self sufficiency and becoming a backyard bee keeper. Please consider joining me. Help a declining bee population, get all your edibles pollinated and have honey to enjoy.