Top Bar Hives

What is a top bar hive?

The top bar hive is the oldest and most commonly used hive style in the world. It features individual bars laid across the top of the hive cavity. The bees build their comb down from these bars naturally, without the use of a 4 sided frame or foundation. Generally the bars are a wooden wedge or strip with a guide to ensure combs hang straight.


With a horizontal top bar hive, beekeepers don’t have to lift heavy boxes, purchase an expensive honey extractor, use foundation full of chemicals, or agitate the bees as much as box-style hives when managing the colony. Traditional honey supers and deeps can weigh upwards of 50 pounds each, which takes its toll on the body of the beekeeper. The heaviest comb you’ll need to lift with this style is a single 3-7 pound, honey-laden top bar! They do not require honey supers, extra frames, foundation, queen excluders, uncapping knifes, extractors or other expensive tools; they are almost fully self-contained beehives. 


• No heavy lifting, crouching or bending is required for hive inspections

• Combs are easy to remove

• Full length observation window

• Simple honey harvest

• Quick inspections

• Bees are more docile during inspections since you are only opening a small portion of the hive at a time

Advantages of using a top bar hive

History of top bar hives

Top bar hives have likely been used for thousands of years. There is evidence they were once used in Greece in the form of a pot or basket with sticks laid across the top. They are one of the most basic methods of managing bees, as they are simple to build, simple to manage and are more advanced than a skep or cavity from which the comb cannot be easily removed.


Basic management of a top bar hive requires frequent monitoring to ensure your bees have adequate space. These inspections, however, will be short and easy with the use of our full length window. 

As the colony grows, slide the divider board, like a moving wall, down the hive cavity and add empty bars. After final honey harvest, you can shrink the size of the hive cavity, so there is less space for your bees to heat during the winter months.

In a top bar hive, bees tend to attach their comb to the walls of the inner hive cavity. This requires an extra step: detaching comb from the hive before pulling it out. With our  Ultimate Hive Tool, this is made easy.  

Honey harvest in a top bar hive is simple with few tools needed. You will simply cut the comb from the top bars, crush and strain. 




The finest hives begin with top-quality lumber. We're proud to offer lumber options that are not only ideal for housing bees, but are environmentally conscious and long-lasting. Both of our wood options are FSC® certified. That means they come from forests that are strictly audited to promote growth, protect ecosystems, protect indigenous right, support surrounding communities and prohibit illegal logging. We don’t compromise our environmental standards when we source our wood, and we don’t compromise quality either. Both Western Red Cedar and Sugar Pine are stable, long-lasting woods that provide excellent insulation for bees. Both are harvested just a few hours from our mill in the Pacific Northwest. Whichever wood you choose, you're choosing a hive that is not only kind to the bees, but kind to the environment and the beekeeper. 

FSC certified beehives


Viewing windows come standard with our horizontal top bar hives. The window runs the full length of the hive, giving beekeepers an unhindered view of their colony without disturbing the bees. After you are done peeking at your bees, be sure to close the window. If too much light gets in the hive, your bees may choose to leave and find a new, darker hive location.



Most available top bar hives are too small to allow a strong colony to thrive. In our experience, colonies outgrow horizontal hives shorter than 36”. Our hive bodies are 42” long, 18" wide and about 13" deep allowing ample honey storage space to support the colony through winter with excess for the beekeeper to harvest. This longer hive body makes ours the largest readily available top bar hive.


Hive roofs can be heavy and hard to attach, which is why we invented a roof that hinges and easily lifts up out of the way. Most other roofs attach with bulky hinges that rust or break over time. Our roof uses grooves and bushings, allowing for easy opening and closure, and simple removal and attachment when needed. Its high pitch allows for optimum rain runoff and the its handsome shingled design elevates the aesthetic of the entire hive.


Improve the life and appearance of your hive by adding a beautiful copper composite roof. Not only will it help with rain and snow run off, but you’ll never have to paint or seal the roof. Copper composite doesn't corrode and leach into the soil like standard copper used in roofing. This composite material retains its color, insulates and reflects heat better than regular copper. 

The optional, precision milled, lap-joint stand elevates the hive to a convenient counter height. Simple to use, our stand allows the hive to set easily in the cradle, making any future lifting and relocation of the hive effortless, without any need for tools or disassembly.

Shop >



Bee Built top bar hives come with a precision milled, lap-joint stand. This elevates the hive to a convenient counter height, which eliminates the need for bending and crouching during inspections. The hive rests easily and tightly in the cradle, making any future lifting and relocation of the hive effortless, without need for tools or disassembly.


Wedge top bars have proven to be the most effective design to promote straight comb attachment and longevity. Our wedge bars are made from a single piece of wood without any need for glue or staple construction, allowing for optimum quality and stability. We manufacture our bars on precision equipment, and have used and trusted them for years in our own apiary. Bee Built top bars for the horizontal hive are designed to lay flush against one another along the top of the hive cavity. Appropriate bee space of ⅜” is preserves between the wedge comb guides.


Our hives ship out with simple assembly instructions. We pre-drill all components for easy assembly, and our roofs always come pre-assembled.


Our top bar hives ship free to the lower 48 United States. We ship anywhere in the world – if you’re outside of the contiguous states, please  contact us and we’ll get you a shipping estimate! We ship a lot of hives and we're incredibly conscious of the environmental impact shipping can cause. That's why Bee Built opts into UPS' carbon neutral shipping program. UPS buys certified carbon offsets to balance out the emissions caused by transportation of shipments. UPS has also supported projects involving reforestation, landfill gas destruction, wastewater treatment, and methane destruction. We're proud that we're able to demonstrate our clean climate commitment to our customers every time we ship a package. 


We not only build top bar hives, but we use them in our own apiaries in Portland, Oregon. Since 2008 we’ve tested our designs with our own 30+ honeybee colonies; we know they work well. We’re confident we make the best hives on the market, and we stand behind our products. Take a look at our   return policy to learn more.