February 20, 2011 by Christy Hemenway original post on Honey Bee Heroes Wordpress blog

Just how big should a top bar hive be?

There is often lively discussion on beekeeping forums about the appropriate size for a top bar hive.  And frequently this data is given in inches – such as the length of the hive, or in numbers, as in the number of top bars the hive will hold.

But from the bees’ point a view, an important consideration is the VOLUME of the hive.  Just how big is the space they are planning to live in?  Being able to calculate the volume tells you more about the size of the cavity WITHIN the hive – and since bees are “cavity nesters” – meaning that they will go inside this cavity and create the structure of their nest – the honeycomb – then VOLUME is probably what the bees are concerned with.  It doesn’t really matter how tall a tree is, or even how big around it is – if the volume of the hollow cavity inside the tree isn’t large enough for the bees purposes then it isn’t a suitable home.

Now some of us can measure the time since we sat in a geometry class in units called decades, so conjuring up a formula to calculate area or volume might be a bit of a challenge.

Combined with the fact that most top bar hives have sloped sides in an attempt to ask the bees not to build their honeycombs attached to the sides of the box – which creates a trapezoid instead of a rectangle — and now things are really complicated!

Just how do you do the math on a three-dimensional trapezoid?

dairy goat


Aug. 5-6, 2017
Albany, Ore.

Discover a dazzling array of workshops and lectures designed to get you further down the path to independence and self-reliance.