So after deciding that a Top Bar Hive was the best and easiest way for me to keep bees, I went online and started scouring the old WWW for plans.
It was quickly that I found the Top Bar Hive plans by Phil Chandler aka ‘The Barefoot Beekeeper’ on his website http://www.biobees.com/ . The site has a wealth of info on beekeeping and plans for a Top Bar Hive and you can also find Phil Chandler on YouTube with some very informative videos and I recommend it is he has changed a few things as through time and experience with the Top Bar Hive.
I also found some great advice on the August Cottage Apiary blog and Andrew has even sent me two top bars of comb to put in the hive when it is built to try and lure a swarm!
So I ended up looking at various plans for Top Bar Hives and the various types of entrance and positions of entrance and from that I drew up my own plans.
I am on a tight budget and I don’t have many tools, couple that with being disabled and it meant I had to find a way to keep the budget low and also keep it simple!
Even though I intend to be fully involved with the build, I will have the help of my father in law who will likely be building it with me taking photos and putting in a couple of screws and taking the role of foreman!
I plan to use external ply for the build. Many people will tell you it isn’t as good as using actual planks of wood and it will be heavier, but after a lot of research it is the best method for me.
I will be using 1″ thick or 25mm external hardwood ply and I have figured out that I can get everything out of one 1220mm x 2440 sheet, except for the legs and the top bars.
The quote from our local Timber Yard is £45 for the ply and for a fee of £5 they will cut the ply for me.
This means that I will only need to be assembled using Gorilla external wood glue and wood screws that will be purchased from our local Screwfix.
The other timber required will be;
- Top Bars
- 35 of 430mm x 38mm x 22mm
- 4 of 800mm x 100mm x 45mm
Many people cut wedge shaped pieces of wood for the top bars as comb guides. the top bars of comb that I received from Andrew from the August Cottage Apiary had dowel glued and nailed to the top bars and this again will be easier for me.
The roof even though covered with ply, will be also then covered with some feather edge, this will give an extra layer of protection as well as looking good.
The hive will be painted and then protected using varnish, I need to make sure that the ends of the ply pieces are very well protected, otherwise over the years the laminated sheets that make up the ply could delaminate.
The roof will be hinged and will have a chain to hold the lid rather than allowing it to fully open 180° and I will attach a cord and toggle to the edge so that I can reach to pull the lid down to close it.
I have chosen not to add an observation window into the side for a few reasons. First it would mean me getting out of my wheelchair or hanging out of it to see in the side. I have also heard of some people questioning if it can cause a weakness in the build and also possible insulation problems. The bees can also build comb that attaches to the sides or cover with propolis and scraping it off with a hive tool would scratch the plexiglass.
Original plans from Phil Chandler show the base covered with a plastic screen with 2mm holes, the base board would be added in winter. However now this is not done, the screen can still be added but leaving it open can cause issues such as draughts, the queens pheremones around the hive being weakened by the ventilation and also issues with maintaining a constant temperature in the hive.
So I will be adding the screen and the bottom board on a hinge, that way I can drop it down and clean it and the screen will keep the hive sealed.
Many people also now use Phil Chandlers idea of an ‘Eco Floor‘ <– Click for video
Even though I have specified the legs at 800mm long, this may not be the final length. I will have the legs cut so that the hive will be at the correct height for me to access whilst sat in my wheelchair.
It is important to think it through if you are a wheelchair user, it will be important to make sure that everything is at the right height for you and adding little modifications will make your beekeeping life easier!