Height and Width: Building a Top Bar Hive on the Cheap – Part 1

Whether you’re measuring a top bar hive in inches and feet, or by the effect it has on your wallet, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. My wife and I set out to build our own hive in anticipation of catching a swarm or splitting our existing colony. We scoured the internet for weeks before beginning, and we’re ending up with a hodgepodge of ideas from many different people. We didn’t follow any one set of instructions.

It’s important to state our objective: something that doesn’t cost a lot to build but has a little more capacity than our existing hive. Also, we are very concerned about insulation. We’ve ready many stories about bees freezing to death over winter, so we’re going to see if using thicker boards will help fight that. Finally, we wanted a screen bottom board on this hive so that we can more easily measure mite activity.

We are starting in stages. The first step is to build the hive body. We spent a grand total of $24 on this. All the wood (all untreated) below came out of:

  • 1 – 10 foot 2 x 12
  • 1 – 8 foot 2 x 8
  • 6 – 8 foot 1 x 2s

We took advantage of Home Depot’s saw, saving us time and work. They cut everything for us on the spot, making is super easy to fit in our minivan. Our cut list included:

  • 2 – 42 inch 2x12s
  • 2 – 18 inch 2x12s
  • 1 – 45 inch 2×8
  • 30 – 17 inch 1x2s (the top bars).

Preparing the wood to cut:

After the cut:

After we attached the ends:

With the top bars in place:

For the second stage of our project we made the legs out of two 2x4s and attached them with 3.5 inch carriage bolts. The legs were cut to 37 inches in length and the tops and bottoms were cut at a 20 degree angle. The materials for this step were only $8.

Top Bar Hive Bolts

Top Bar Hive Legs

Here is what we have left and will be documenting in other parts of this series:

  • Install the screened/solid bottom board combo
  • Build the lid
  • Make a follower/spacer board
  • Add wedges to each top bar
  • Add entrance holes and landing strip
  • Paint the Hive

Right now we are at $32. We’ll see where we end up. Stay tuned!

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