Bee Sequel: Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

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top bar hive bees

Open House: New Top Bar Beehive 

In my first Bee Movie, Gone With the Swarm, half of the beehive was homeless, six and half pounds of buzzing bees dangling from a pencil-thin grapevine while scout bees searched for a new place to live. Before you could say, “Pass the honey, Honey” we (meaning my friend Heidi) captured the bees in a swarm bucket. And that is where we left off.

The bucketful of bees weighed close to seven pounds, which is an attention-getting number as swarms go. When David returned from Eastern Washington, he brought over a top bar beehive to house the large swarm, which was resting quietly in a cool shady place.

COPY CODE SNIPPET

beekeeper installing top bar hive David sets up the new high bar hive, making sure it’s level.

When I saw the size and stateliness of his homemade bee condo, I had to start singing “The Jeffersons” theme song, “Oh we’re movin’ on up…to the Eastside…to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” (Did I mention, I live alone?)

As the video shows, the top bar hive is quite a bee pad, a roomy horizontal wood palace replete with a viewing window and easy access for the beekeeper and the bees. David removed the lid from the bucket and turned it upside down over the open hive. After a couple shakes, the bees dropped en masse to the awaiting hive box. The frame slats were placed over them and the metal roof returned, all was well in my world of bees (for once).

top bar hive honeycomb start Several of the top bar slats have empty honeycomb attached to encourage the bees to stay put.

At the front of the hive, David placed temporary grills, wide enough to allow worker bees to go about their business but too narrow to allow the queen bee to escape. In a day or two, the grills will be removed when the bees have settled in.

top bar hive bees

 Some beehive. David made it out of recycled bamboo flooring planks.

For now it’s business as usual, the bees feverishly collecting nectar and pollen, the orchard a delightful backdrop for their comings and goings. The original hive is about ten feet away and equally busy as a honeybee’s favorite forage reaches full bloom: Blackberry brambles!

15 COMMENTS

  1. W-O-W! What a gem of a hive. Very clever, thanks for the show and tell. Became somewhat distracted by the makings of a vegie patch in the background and the surrounding orchards. Looks like fun.

    • Jacqui, sounds like video orchard and veggie patch tour are in order. I’ll share shortly, once I get through planting the veggie patch; I’m pretty late this year, but around the Northwest, that really doesn’t matter, I’ve found. They don’t call it June-uary for nothing.

      • How about pointing your camera at the greenhouse also? You promised pictures of the doors:-) With all this excitement on the farm, you must not be getting much hammock time;-(

        I always enjoy your writing and pictures. Between you and Clare at Curbstone Valley, I have been getting a real education this spring!

    • Thanks Ina, yep David is a generous soul, he is, and hopefully we’ll get honey this year. I’ll certainly tell you about it if we do.

  2. Hi, Tom!
    Since the swarming and “re-hiving” events at your place. I have noticed a complete drop in the numbers of honeybees visiting the watering stations I had been tending for them over here during the past few weeks. Yesterday I only had one sad hornet trying to backstroke across one of the water “saucers”. Thanks for posting this delightful bee “saga” for us.
    Neighbor Kate

    • Kate, come on over any time and I’ll open the “window” to the top bar hive so you can get a closer look at your other neighbors. 😉

  3. Tom, I hope you won’t mind that I’ve shared your blog/URL with a blog friend in England (Tunbridge Wells). He mentioned swarming bees in his recent post and I immediately thought of your fascinating apiary adventures.

    Did they ever get the dead bee out of the hive entrance?

    I’ve enjoyed this series so very much. Thank you!

    • Oh course Martha, always feel free to share anything you find here. One early morning I took off the wire guards and brushed out the dead bees, and then yesterday we removed the guards altogether. We opened the hive to check on the queen, and she is busy, active and healthy. The bees were doing this amazing thing called festooning where they hang down the frame like a bee necklace of sorts, that the bees link together to measure appropriate distances within the hive for the honeycomb. I wish I would have filmed that.

      • Now you’ve done it, Tom! I’m off to cruise the internet to learn about festooning, bee-style, and anything else I can find.

        Their behaviors speak of greater intelligence than I’d have thought insects possess. I must learn not to be so specie-arrogant.

        Thanks, again.

  4. Hi, Tom,

    I just discovered your blog while looking for Vashon honey! Very cool blog. But the reason I was looking for honey is that I would like to buy some!

    Your neighbor,
    Linda Kozak

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