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Cleopatra, my Kenyan Top-bar Hive

April 30, 2010

My Kenyan Top-bar Hive

The top-bar hive concept is probably thousands of years old, starting as baskets with sticks across the tops and graduating to more substantial materials as time and available resources progressed.  The modern top-bar hive maintains its heritage as a low-cost, easy to construct hive.  It is in used primarily in non-industrialized or impoverished locations, but is growing in popularity in the West as part of a more natural approach to beekeeping.

The simple design of the top-bar hive allows for the re-use of common materials such as old fencing, packing

Cover all - showing the 30 top-bars

crates, drawers, wooden boxes, etc.  As long as it can be made weather tight, defensible from the local pests and supports bars being placed across the top, just about any (non-toxic) material will do.

There are several sites that offer either plans and/or operating instructions at no charge.  Here are a few links:

Top-bar with comb guide

I have a Kenyan top-bar hive.  I must admit that I didn’t build mine, I bought it from Custom Woodkits International (  Its about 4 feet long and has 30 bars, an observation window and screened bottom.

View of feeder inside behind the follower board

The stand that it is on was built by my 16 year old son. I got this hive because I wanted to experiment and see how it compares to my Langstroth hives.  In particular I’m interested in seeing if the bees are healthier, more productive and over-winter as well in a top-bar. Since I do not move my bees from yard to yard or crop to crop, the relative immobility of top-bar does not concern me.  I also believe I’m going to find the management of it a bit easier, no heavy honey-supers to move!

My hives are named after great queens.   Since the design of this one has its origins in Africa, I’ve named it Cleopatra.

Screened bottom w/removable solid board

View w/observation window

Side entrance w/#4 wire mesh - lets bees in, keeps mice, etc out

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