Top Bar Hive Management: How to Care and Harvest Top Bar Hives

Top bar hive management is essentially letting the bees do what they do best, with as little disruption and interference from us. This makes it very attractive to hobby beekeepers and organic beekeepers. This system of raising bees creates a sustainable, bee-friendly and human-friendly way of beekeeping.

For those who are accustomed to the traditional Langstroth box and frame type of beekeeping, top bar hive management may appear to be too carefree, and not as productive as what you are used to. After all, top bar hives are known to produce less honey than your traditional hive. But, if you want a system that is sustainable and works with the natural rhythm of the bees, then this style is something you should seek to adopt.

Top bar hive management is basically getting to know the habits of your bees and creating a hive that respects the needs of the bees while maximizing production within the limits of what is natural. In terms of equipment, there is very little that you need apart from the actual hive. There is no need for harmful sprays and chemicals, no need for an extractor, no need to exclude the queen, and no need for heavy lifting.

When caring for a top bar hive, here are a few things that you need to consider:

1. One thing you will notice in a top bar hive is that honey will not continually collect in the comb, as what you may expect in a Langstroth hive. You will need to move empty bars into the front of the brood nest and behind the first honey comb. Try to put the empty frames in between two straight combs to encourage the bees to create a straight comb. Bees naturally favor forming curved combs this close to the brood nest.

2. When handling combs, do not turn them sideways. The weight of the comb may break it. What you should do is hold them vertically and rotate them vertically if you need to.

3. When inspecting the beehive, the top bar hive system allows you to do so with minimal disturbance to the entire colony. You just lift sections or bars that you want to inspect one at a time. When taking out more than one bar, be mindful of the order of the bars and return them the same order that you got them.

4. To harvest honey from a comb, simply cut the comb from the bar, leaving about 1/2" of comb intact. The left-behind comb will guide the bees when rebuilding it. Only harvest bars that are well filled and capped. Adjacent bars are often removed for harvesting. Once they are removed, 1 bar is replaced into the hive for every 3 bars removed. Additional bars are added once comb development is underway.

5. To obtain liquid honey, press this comb to squeeze out the liquid honey. Honey is then strained to filter away any solid particles. The dried wax should not be discarded. It can be washed and melted into a block and used in making candles or soap.

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