Langstroth + Top Bar = A Very Confused Bee Hive

1 Jun

This here’s a little tale about how we supered our top bar hive. Yep, I hear the purists cringing and the aesthetes too. And they’re right — we’ve got a Frankenstein on our hands.

All super-ed up and ready to grow

All super-ed up and ready to grow

Why did we do it?

The Kerry hive is full beyond belief — every bar is packed with honey, pollen, and fresh worker brood. No matter how many bars I harvest, the girls are drawing more within a short week or two and showing no signs of a slow down. It’s a full house.

So, rather than fight the gift of a madly productive hive, we’re rolling with it.

How did we do it?

First, let me admit it’s all my partner’s idea.

He’s obsessed with Langstroth hives and secretly bought a couple to “experiment with.” Next thing I know, I hear myself saying it’s OK to add Langstroth honey supers to a top bar hive which, were I sober or not in love with him, I’d have thought the most perverse of sins.

So here’s what we did:

  1. Remove one bar from the back of the hive
  2. Cut spacers about 3/8 inch (enough to allow “bee space”)
  3. Put spacers between bars at the back of the hive
  4. Place an empty super on top of the spaced bars at the back of the hive
  5. To provide evenness for a cover, place an empty super at the front of the hive (there’s no space yet between the bars underneath this super)
  6. Place a cover on top of both supers

And here’s the photo essay version…

Our burgeoning top bar hive is about to be supered

Our burgeoning top bar hive is about to be supered

We added spacers between the top bars at the back of the hive

We added spacers between the top bars at the back of the hive

Here's a close-up of the spacers

A close-up of the spacers which leave enough room for bees to head "upstairs"

Place the super on top of the newly-spaced bars. Note, the top super is there just to balance the cover we'll place up top.

We placed the super on top of the newly-spaced bars. Note, the right super is there just to balance the cover we'll place up top.


18 Responses to “Langstroth + Top Bar = A Very Confused Bee Hive”

  1. Sarah Dolk June 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

    OMG. He actually did it. I told him I saw someone do it online, but I never sent him the link. Honest!

  2. Brian Morris June 2, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    I am interested to see what happens with this. Great photos!

  3. Gord June 3, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    Like you said, you didn’t want to fight the hive. Sure beats harvesting every few days or risking them getting honeybound and bailing out.

    • mistress beek June 3, 2009 at 10:54 am #

      Let’s see how it goes! We can hear ’em busy in the new super so that’s a good sign…

      • Velbert June 8, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

        Your thinking is right I would let both queens go about laying it will make for a stronger hive some time though at the season end the old queen will leave with a small swarm if you catch this swarm just kill the old queen and put the bees back into the hive. I have tried to save these a got a frame of brood from the hive and they still ended up leaving


    • Ron June 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

      I agree with Gord. Necessity is the mother of invention. Lord knows I’ve never seen this kind of setup. But you’re doing what you have to do with the circumstances you’re dealt.

  4. Kim June 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    So fun to hear about your adventures–I think your “hive rise” is cool!

    • Stevedore June 7, 2009 at 5:22 am #

      Interesting solution to a problem we all wish we had. Do you still have two queens in this hive? Does each side have it’s own entrance? You could put a divider in the center and manage it like two separate hives.

      • mistress beek June 8, 2009 at 7:55 am #

        Hi there! You know, as far as I can tell there are still two queens in the hive. There’s only one entrance at the moment and no divider. Very very provocative idea to add a divider and manage it as two hives…

        One of the queens is in her second season, so I’m wondering whether it might benefit the hive to leave it open and assume the new queen will eventually supercede her? Late summer is harsh for hives in Albuquerque so perhaps the massive build-up will help them surivive?

        Would love to hear your thoughts.

      • Stevedore June 9, 2009 at 3:49 am #

        I guess I’d be reluctant to change anything now, especially after so much success and with a dearth coming. If the piping has stopped, perhaps they’ve already settled on one queen. You may want to rethink gapped bars for the passage between boxes, as the bee space is already built in to your 1-3/8ths top bars. There’s a good thread on self-spacing top bars on the Biobees forums. Do the supers use top bars too, or frames & foundation?

  5. A Frederiksen July 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    I tried something simular, except that my super was also a KTBH. My orignal hive was short (3′) because I am old and though it would be easier to handle. I made the bottom board of the supper of plywood the width of the top of the bottom hive. It worked. But with the short hive there was not enough brood space in the bottom hive so I ended up with brood through the whole thing.
    I next made square boxes that fit my bars and stacked these up with a queen excluder and have had good harvests. The only problem is the bees build the comb from wall to wall and lock it in (they did not do this in my KTBHs) I like what you have done. I will build one next week or so an see how it goes.

    Thanks Andy San Diego

    • mistress beek July 17, 2010 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Andy, thanks for stopping by. I’m very interested to hear how your experiment turns out.

      Our difficulty with a supered TBH is that you essentially give up on checking the bottom box until you’ve removed the supers. It’s just too challenging to keep the spacers positioned. But if it’s the brood nest, maybe that’s just fine!

  6. Jay January 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Hi there

    I haven’t read through all the old posts about your Kerry hive, but I gather from the other comments that it had two queens for a while. I’m wondering if you’ve read the Longevity and Supersedure article on the Galtee Bee Breeding Group site:


  7. Kelly Johnson August 13, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Neat idea! I’m new to all of this but I’m thinking into the future. Is this still working?

    • mistress beek August 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

      Hi Kelly,

      Well, it was a temporary solution for us because it’s difficult to work the bottom top bars with spacers in between. When a hive is burgeoning, though, it’s a great way to add space and keep them from swarming while collecting loads of honey.

      Good luck!

  8. GG December 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Did you use standard Langstroth frames with foundation or top bars in the Frankenhive super?


  1. Gift from the Frankenhive « mistress beek - August 27, 2009

    […] beek 3:36 pm on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply We harvested honey from the monster this weekend. And 35 pounds of it too, which leaves the entire bottom hive to the girls this […]

  2. Suped Up TBH « Bees and Chicks - May 5, 2010

    […] things, I decided to make a super to fit my TBH. I’ve been wanting to try it since I read Mistress Beek’s blog post last year about putting two supers on her TBH. (Great blog by the […]

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