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Top Bar Bee Installation


We will be installing our first two colonies of bees in a few weeks. We have top bar hives. I had a discouraging visit with the apiary from whom we are purchasing the bees. I was told that the main reason top bar hives don’t make it is because they are too open for the bees, who want a small space. We are committed to the top bar hive. My question is how big of a space to allow them into when we first put them in? In other words, how many bars would you allow at first?


Hi there! Your Top Bar Hives should have divider boards that you can use to adjust the amount of space within the hive that the bees are working in. When you start, you will put one divider board against the wall, and one divider board about 8-10 bars in. Once they fill that space in, you can move the divider board down and add more bars for them to build in. This process is made easy by the observation window, since you can peak in at any time without disturbing the hive to see how much space they have. I hope this helps!

Bee well!
Rebekah + Bee Thinking


Thank you, Rebekah! Installation day is April 16. I hope our bees like their new home!


Rebekah, what is the purpose of putting a follower board against the wall?


I also would like to know what is the purpose of putting one follower board against the opening side wall, when installing a package of bees. It’s been about 3 weeks since I installed a package of Italian bees. I tried to give them a head start by giving them old combs from a dead hive, tied with kitchen string onto the bottoms of the top bars. Yesterday I went into the hive with embroidery scissors and cut out as much of the string as I could, since the bees have now attached the old comb to the bars with their own propolis and wax. (They’d been trying to chew through the string to destroy it, but needed some help since there was so much string.) I removed that opening side wall follower board, since it appeared they could use the extra space on that side of their developing brood “nest”. Was this a mistake?


Hello! The follower boards are the ‘walls’ of the internal cavity. This prevents the bees from attaching their first comb to the side of the hive, and provides a starting point for entry when you are doing hive maintenance. The follower board will be the first component to be removed, and this will give you space for horizontal prying action to crack the propolis seal, and remove the top bars with comb for inspection.


Hello! You can absolutely give them extra space on that side of their brood nest, however, I would recommend doing this by sliding the rest of the bars down, and giving them an extra top bar between the follower board, and their current brood nest. This just makes sure they do not attach comb to the side of the hive cavity, while ensuring correct bee space between the follower board, and their first comb.


Beethinker1, it still seems to me that the follower board on the brood nest side merely reduces the volume of the entire hive. I wouldn’t need it to access the comb, because I would start opening the hive on the far side, where no comb has been built out yet. But I suppose there may be some other benefits to it that I’m not seeing. If the bees did attach come to the side of the hive cavity, couldn’t I just detach it with a hive tool?