Tag Archives: top bar hive

Interview with a commercial top bar beekeeper

28 May
Les Crowder, photo by RD Managain

Les Crowder, photo by Jeff Spicer

Bioneers’ RD Managain just interviewed Les Crowder, a veteran commercial beekeeper in New Mexico.

Crowder on varroa resistance:

 I started keeping bees when I was a kid. It was then I read an article in the American Bee Journal was reading about the varroa mite in Europe, written by an Italian who was researching the Italian honeybee in its natural state. He calculated how many feral beehives there were throughout Italy. When the varroa mite arrived, many of the feral hives died.

About eight years after the arrival of the varroa mite, he noticed a general increase in the feral Italian honeybee population in the wild. He concluded that they had developed a natural resistance to the mite. And, of course, nobody applied any miticide to those bees. They’re just wild bees out in nature. So, honeybees left alone will naturally develop mite resistance.

On antibiotics:

Antibiotics interfere with their digestion, just like if we take antibiotics we get diarrhea sometimes because we kill off our natural flora. My wife just recently wrote an article for the American Bee Journal, which they declined to print, indicating that the use of antibiotics can set up conditions for things like Candida and Nocema cerranae [a pathogen tentatively linked to colony collapse disorder] in honey bees. In beekeeping, they advise you to give antibiotics to bees, every beehive, every year as a preventative. It is administered in the winter to prevent them from getting sick in the summer, which doesn’t make any sense.

[Read the full interview with Les Crowder]


Free diagram and plans for a top bar hive

3 May
Updated: Oct 2012

Looking to build your own top bar hive?

If you’re a new beek, consider reviewing this pragmatic comparison of TBH vs. Langstroth hives. And if you’re ready to build, here are some designs:

Standardized Top Bar Hive (TBH):

Standard Top Bar Hive design

The standardized Top Bar Hive design by TJ Carr

I recommend using a standardized TBH design for innumerable reasons, including the ability to share resources between your hives and with others in your community. Here are my favorite plans by longtime Albuquerque beekeeper and retired engineer, TJ Carr, and John Bradford.

Other TBH Plans:

Or, do you prefer to buy one?

Photo of Swarm vs. Supercedure Cells

20 Apr

How can you tell the difference between a swarm cell and a supercedure cell? 

As a new beekeeper with energetic girls, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn the difference. Now predicting what happens when a hive starts building these cells is anyone’s guess…. but here’s what look like and where you can find ’em on the comb.

In a Top Bar Hive:

  • Swarm cells are typically built on the edge, side, or bottom of a comb.
  • Supercedure cells are typically built smack in the middle of the comb.
2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

In a Langstroth Hive:

Things are slightly different in a Langstroth hive, but here’s a useful discussion indicating that in a Langstroth:

Ready for Bee Day

14 Feb

Like a long awaited lover or maybe a flourless chocolate cake, our new hive arrives tomorrow morning. We’ve conned the whole family into helping us  prepare for Bee Day.

Pawlik paints the bee stand

Pawlik paints the bee stand

Top Bar TJ’s Mad-Mad Honey Harvesting Method

4 Aug

TJ's honey filtration system for a top bar hive

Albuquerque bee-man TJ Carr is endlessly engineering new tools and methods to ease the plight of top-bar beekeepers like myself. His latest nugget of beekeeping wisdom is a gravity-filtration system for honey harvesting from top bar hives.

This weekend, I tried it for myself. With a filtration system dependent totally on gravity and 24 lazy hours, let’s just say it fit right into my schedule.

Gravity Honey Filtering

Gravity Honey Filtering

Wanna try it for yourself? Here are some more details to get you started.
Continue reading


19 May

Got me bees. Got me a queen. But I’m a little short on information since much of America focuses on beekeeping with commercial-style Langstroth hives. Thus, I do hereby highly recommend the following website:

With delectable bee porn and homey misspellings, it’s a website rich with information for hungry newbeeks like me. Dive in and enjoy!

It’s bee day

2 May

I started my first urban beehive today with the help of a nucleus colony ordered from Texas and the advice of local bee sage, TJ.

Here’s the story.

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Hive a waitin’

2 May

Like a lady in waiting, here’s my hive. Tomorrow its occupants arrive, all 10,000 of ’em. I’m so juiced, I can barely sleep.New top bar hive

Dear neighbors

25 Feb

Here’s the letter I left my neighbors last night regarding my upcoming insect invasion:

Dearest neighbor!

I’m thinking of inviting 10,000 of the world’s best pollinators to live in my backyard this summer. They’re quiet, docile, and oh, did I mention they produce honey?

I’d like to start a beehive. But before I do, let’s talk.

Do you have questions or concerns about bees? Is there anything you want to alert me to before I start a hive?

Of course, you’re always welcome to come and see them. In the meantime, here’s some information about how it all works. Continue reading