Since my childhood I’ve heard stories of beekeeping. My dad and his brother, when they were young boys, would head over to their neighbour’s hives when they needed cleaning. Bare feet, and wearing only cut off’s, they would stand next to the hive, put cotton balls in their ears and nostrils and breathe only out of the very corner of their mouths while the beekeeper smoked the hive. The bees came up out of the hive and landed on my dad and his brother. They grinned from ear to ear, standing as still as could be. When the hives were ready, the beekeeper smoked the boys and the bees lifted up off of them and returned to the hive. Dad said their skin was glistening after. They had been picked (tickled) clean!
This sounds rather fantastical, and I was enamored, imagining this scene as a child. In my mind’s eye, I saw trees swooning in the summer breeze, mountains in the distance and lots of farmland.
So, here I am now, a city girl. It’s not a practical time in my life to make the move back out to the country, and fortunately, country living is not a prerequisite for beekeeping. Apparently, bees LOVE the city. It’s warmer in the winter, and the plant variety is amazing. I think of the gardens of my neighbours to the left and right of me and it’s a veritable bee oasis here in Montreal.
Top Bar Hive
In researching the best hive for my situation (not a lot of storage) I came across the Top Bar Hive. It’s heralded as a more natural approach to beekeeping and does not require a lot of equipment.
I found plans to build this particular hive at the Barefoot Beekeeper. Honestly, it was the first wood project we’ve ever built from scratch, and it was pretty straight forward, once we got over the feeling of overwhelm at the thought of embarking on the process. I say we, because everything is better with friends. I had much help from my good friends, also novice wood workers (a special shout out to Rosalind for her can-do attitude) and a whole bunch of school aged children. Seriously, if we can do this, you can do this.
We used one sheet of 3/4″ plywood and had the fellas at Home Depot make most of the cuts for us. But you can use other wood – see the plans at the link above for suggestions. All in, I spent less than $100 on the supplies for the hive, and we had a lot of fun, learning as we went. The kids were so tuned in and thrilled to be sawing, and building and painting.
The plans mention putting in an observation window to provide a view to the busy bees with minimal interruption to them. You can do it in one long panel, or two shorter ones, like we did. I bought the glass and had it cut at my local hardware store (Rona). It was inexpensive.
We were a little unsure as to where to put the entrance/exit holes. Different sites recommend different things, so we ended up putting three in the center on one side of the hive and one on each end on the other side of the hive (these apparently come in handy if we want to split the hive, should the colony grow large enough for such an action).
I should mention this series of youtube videos that is also worth watching if this is a first time project for you. Very helpful.
Here’s a photo tour of an overview of our process:
|Measuring out a Top Bar.|
|Sawing. Kid power!
It gets a paint job. The kids LOVED this part.
This was built with help from our greater homeschooling community. Why not get some friends together and build one, too? There are so many great beekeeping resources on the web. You can find a few on my pinterest board, All About Bees.