Before starting to construct my bee hives I purchased The Barefoot Beekeeper and read it from cover to cover. I then trawled the web finding out as much as I could regarding the different designs of top bar beehive.
(Since writing this blog entry I have written a book for beginners titled Natural Beekeeping please check it out at www.topbarbeekeeping.com)
I settled on the design by P J Chandler available free from www.biobees.com One other design I considered was available from www.cornwallhoney.com. (The plans in this instance are not free but available on a CD with a construction video)
The main difference between the two designs is the entrance. The P J Chandler hive has the entrance in the middle of one of the long sides and the Cornwall Honey version has the entrance on one end.
The disadvantage with the end entrance is that to see brood requires the bars to be lifted. The central entrance design has the advantage of having two followers (false movable walls) so both ends of the bee colony can be looked at with minimal disturbance to the bees. One advantage with the end entrance as far as I could see was that the colony could be added to in one direction expanding to use the entire hive with the brood one end and the honey the other. The centre entrance version requires that the expansion be in both directions away from the brood. The honey stores can therefore be on both ends of the central brood section.
So I decided to modify the Chandler design and off set the main entrances a little giving more space to expand in one direction. By doing that I was limited to adding one entrance on the opposite side of the hive allowing only one split rather than two in the original Chandler design. (see biobees for more information)
I did leave sufficient space to add a follower fitted with a feeder attachment. This was copied from a design also on Biobees. The feeder is an upturned jar with a metal lid that has small holes punched in it. The upturned jar is placed over a metal grill (I used some spare verroa mesh for the grill) The grill prevents the bees from gaining access to the open area behind the follower. The feeder is inside the hive avoiding any robbing from other bees and wasps while still being able to be refilled without disturbing the colony.
I purchased the wood from a local DIY store. It did turn out to be a little more expensive than I had hoped but it was still far cheaper than purchasing a ready made hive. To make best use of the available lengths of wood I constructed my hives with an overall length of 44 inches
There seem to be a lot of variation in the design of the guides used to encourage the bees to construct their comb along the top bars. As there was only small square section moulding available at the local DIY store I decided to use it rather than what seems to be the more popular triangular design (there was no triangular moulding available) Another method is to cut a central slot then fill it with molten bees wax. Cutting the slot in each bar would be difficult without a fixed circular saw. So the square section it had to be.
After reading the pros and cons of each method I decided in addition to the square guide to dip each guide into molten wax.
I set up a baking tray over a deep tray filled with boiling water. The deep tray was then placed on one of the cooker rings to keep it hot. Wax blocks were then melted in the shallow tray.
Each bar was then roughened with a wire brush and dipped into the molten wax.
The bars were then set to one side so the wax could set.
I then painted the outside of the hive with water based Cuprinol wood preserver. In addition when it was dry I coated the roof with two coats of linseed oil to make sure it was totally waterproof.
Detail showing the feeder follower board. (The mesh moved as I stapled it but I thought the bees would not care if it were not quite stright!)
Internal detail showing the two followers (Note the slot for bee access to the feeder)
Detail showing the other side of the followers. (The eyelets and wire are to secure the upturned feeder jar and prevent it from falling over)
The hive with the top bars fitted for the initial bee introduction
The finished hive with the entrances reduced using corks. It is ready for placing in the woods. Now I have to wait for the bees to become available. (End of April)
No update on Guardian Generations. I am still waiting for the first edited draft from the publisher.