Winterizing Tips for Top Bar Hives

| 11/1/2011 9:23:59 AM

Tags: Top Bar Hives, Standard Hives, Bee Culture Magazine, Gold Star Honey Bees, Kim Flottum, Christy Hemenway, natural wax, TBH, TED, TEDx, Thinking Beekeeper, Christy Hemenway,

Kim!  The top bar world is not so bleak and desolate as all that!!!  Goodness gracious...  you sound so alone!  You may not know it yet (I’ve been waiting to sound off about it until the contract’s in my hand) but there’s another top bar beekeeping book in the works too - by yours truly.  The expected publication date is Fall of 2012.  Watch for it!!!

So about that feeling of being alone... a quick look at this map of Gold Star top bar beekeepers and customers will show you there are a goodly number of top bar hive beekeepers, and the numbers are growing!  And since this map is only Gold Star customers, you know there are a lot more out there - but as you know, corralling beekeepers is a lot like herding cats - it’s very difficult to get a grip on how many there are.  

Let’s move on to this winterizing question.  This is the single most frequently asked “technical” question that we hear about top bar hives.  There’s a perception that it’s harder in a top bar hive than in other kinds of hives.  I don’t know about that - with reports last year of winter losses between 30 and 50%, and with most of those numbers being conventional hives - I have to conclude that winter is just hard.  Of course, I might just have sort of a bleak attitude from living in Maine - whattya think?  We had snow for Halloween here!

We “button up” a Gold Star top bar hive this way.

Tools we gathered included:  
R-13 fiberglass insulation bat, bagged in plastic.  
Tar paper - a 63 inch long piece is sufficient to wrap the body of a Gold Star hive.  

Then we gathered up our supply of corks, our screwdriver, staple gun,, nylon straps, razor knife, and a 3” x 6” piece of 1/4 inch mesh.

The Steps we took: 

 -- Close up your removable bottom boards

 -- Cork two of the three entrance holes 

  -- Insulate inside the roof.  We use bagged R-13 fiberglas bats for this, and here’s why... there’s a little bit of space between the gable roof edges and the ends of the top bars.  There has to be, due to the  hive’s design.  So that means there’s air movement above the top bars.  We don’t want that - so we fill that space. That same little bit of space is large enough for mice to get in and nest above the top bars in that lovely, protected “attic” space created by the gable roof.  We don’t want that either.  So we fill the space as much to stop air movement as to keep mice out.  It works well for that.

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