About Me and My Hives

My name is Sean, and I am a beginning beekeeper from Chapel Hill, NC (where I recently finished graduate school). I decided wanted to start with top-bar hives, and this blog follows my experiences with my hives and bees.

I designed and constructed these hives, and blogged about it as I went. To make the info easier to find, I am setting up some pages to describe the design and construction.

51 Responses to “About Me and My Hives”

  1. bob Says:

    Hi there,
    (I didn’t see a name but I didn’t look closely either).
    I just wanted to say that I am very impressed with your TopBar hives and that I didn’t realize anyone close by was running top bars (except me). I live in Wendell.
    Compared to my top bar hives, your bees will be staying in the Marriot!
    Last year I presented three backyard bee workshops in conjuntion with Josh Summers at the NC State bee lab. I am hosting another one this May in Knightdale.
    My sister Pam in Minnesota has ordered two packages of bees and is starting out with top bars too. She is the only one in her area doing so and the local beekeepers think her “experiment” with top bars is destined for failure.
    I can’t wait till she proves them wrong!

    I noticed one of your links is to Bush Bees. That is, without question, the best site I have found to get “common sense” answers to beekeeping. Michael also seems to be very patient with “newbees”. Answers emails very quickly even though I get the feeling he is a very busy guy.

    Anyway, I just started a blog too, (that’s the bob-familyscience thing in the Website window). I haven’t posted anything on bees yet, just a litttle write up on Trypanosoma brucei(sleeping sickness). The topic is strange but not in my circle of friends. I work for a museum in Raleigh and am in charge of the homeschool programs. So any topic in science is game.

    Your little girl is an angel. My girl is three years old and my son is six and a half. (He is becoming quite the beekeeper too!)
    Good luck with your honeybees and let me know if I can be of any help.

    • rjatpen@innova.net Says:

      I am in Clemson SC and put a new package in a tbh about a month ago. Have been looking for someone local to get advice from but haven’t found anyone yet. Could really use some help.

  2. kawayanan Says:

    Ya, I haven’t put my name anywhere I guess. I suppose I should add an “I’m Sean” somewhere.

    I have been to a few meetings at the Orange County Beekeepers Assoc., and I think there is someone there who has a couple of top-bar hives, but I haven’t met him yet. The people I have talked to either seem interested, or have no idea what a top-bar hive is. No one has tried to discourage me yet. I also met on of the state inspectors at a meeting and he says he hasn’t seen many top-bar hives. I guess we are reasonably few and far between. 🙂

    Yes, Michael’s website is very useful. I also really like Dennis Murrell’s site. I read that one over and over while designing my hives. 🙂 The forums on Beesource.com are also very, very useful (both Michael and Dennis post there pretty regularly).

    I’ll keep an eye on your blog. I am a grad student in Biophysics, and have a very good friend who is studying parasitology. Her focus is Malaria, but knows a lot about many different parasites. There are a lot of very interesting topics in that area of science.

    Which museum do you work for? My daughter and I love the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. We try to make it to all their special events. BugFest was particularly great. 🙂

  3. Jan Says:

    Hi guys,
    Another mid-state Carolina tob bar hive keeper here! Bob, if you’re doing a top bar clinic in May, I want to attend.
    Four of us down here in Southern Pines are keeping top bars. The bees are coming the end of April – small cell bees from Dixie Bees of Lula GA.. We took the Chatham bee class this winter. A few TBH keepers there too.
    I second the remarks on Michael Bush, and also Dennis Murell. I read everything I could find about Les Crowder of NM too. There’s a guy around here (west of the Triangle) who has worked with Les, and is willing to help any TBH newbies.
    Looking forward to reading the blog, Sean. Someone sent me your link. Exciting that there is a growing number of TBH keepers around here.
    Email off-blog, and I’ll put you on my bee list, also share a management protocol that Scott McPherson wrote out.
    Jan in Southern Pines (about 30 minutes below Sanford

  4. Ken GIlbert Says:

    Hello Sean,
    You da MAN!
    I can’t rember how I stumbled onto your blog, I have only been researching for about a week, I am at that very “hungry” stage of information gathering.
    I have only scanned Michael Bush’s site and Dennis Murell’s but will more soon.
    I live in Southen California, the west side of Los Angeles.
    I became interested in this topic from the news reports of the declining honey bee population across the states and worldwide.
    My wife’s father used to keep a few Langstroth hives at their weekend house in the Croatian countryside (before the war).
    I am a weekend woodworker (not a very good one, just prolific) my wife always needs a shelf or cabinet for something. I was awestruck by your thoroughness of design and meticulous detail. Bravo! Inspiring.
    I imagine that I am going to build a top bar similar to yours. I have to check local laws about keeping bees within city limits.
    Keep up the good work, I will be checking in on your blog.
    I really appreciate all of the info/experience and photos you provide.
    Thank you and good luck!
    P.S. I have two 4yr old daughters, and your story of “building castles- queens and princesses” made me smile.

  5. NMC Says:

    Hey Sean,
    Great site. Lots more info than I thought I wanted, but I found it facinating! I will definitely keep up with your postings.
    My only suggestion is to include more photos of your darling daughter and her interest and reactions.

  6. peter Says:

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for post on the google groups. Nice looking website…..

    I noticed the first letter/reply was from ‘bob’ (or was that bouy lol) and he mentioned that his sis in Minn. was setting up a TBH. The info from most TBH’s deal w/people in the southern climes and she is the most northern one I have seen.

    Would you mind, if poss., to forward my email to her?? Or bob to forward. His blog link is ety.

    As soon as I am in operation w/my first ever hive will add bee page to my googlepages. As well there are links there to my other sites.

    cheers and thnx


  7. Mel Rimmer Says:

    Hi Sean. I’ve just come back from a 2-day beekeeping course and I’m really keen to get my own hives. I enjoyed reading your blog, it’s great to read the adventures of a fellow novice. I’d never heard of top-bar hives before, all the hives we saw on the course were National hives, so i learned something already.

    I’ve linked to you from my blog at
    I’d be great if you wanted to link back to me, but of course it’s entirely up to you. I mostly blog about my family’s quest for greater self-sufficiency. I hope I’ll be blogging about my own bees in the near future.

  8. peter Says:

    Hey sean


  9. David Says:

    Hey – great hives. I am very much impressed.

    I’ve got interested in bees about 3 months ago when it became apparent that I would be moving to a rural area (where I could easily keep bees). The more I read, the more I realized that the TBH was the best design for the bees and even for the beekeeper in most respects.

    Would you consider building one or two of your hives for me? I don’t have the tools or skills to do this on my own, and I haven’t seen a design as good as yours that I can purchase.

    If you are interested, please shoot me an email and we can discuss price, shipping and such. My email is deraley@gmail.com . Either way, great blog and a very interesting read.

  10. Rodney Says:

    After looking over your site I have started building two hives. I have never had bees before but my neighbor has. He is the one that got me interested.
    As he is out of the area right now I have a question.
    Did you paint the inside of the have?


  11. kawayanan Says:

    No, you leave the insides unpainted.

  12. Rodney Says:

    Thanks for the info.

    For those thinking of building the hives one thing that I found that will make it a lot easer is to have your home improvement store (HomeDepot, Lowes, etc)
    do the long cuts for you. I had them use their saw and make the cuts for the the sides and most places will give you the first two cuts free and only 50 cents per cut after that. So for a dollar I only had to work with a half sheet of plywood cutting out the rest of the hive pieces.

  13. kawayanan Says:

    Yes, Lowe’s and Home Depot will both do long cuts. I did have them cut the sheets, but only had them cut two 30″ pieces off (30″ will make two sides). Cutting the 30″ piece in half was not to bad, but it probably would have been easier to have them do it. I just wasn’t sure how accurate they would be. Turns out they did it quite accurately (I marked the cut points for them).

    It sounds like you are well underway in the construction. I’d love to see a picture when your done.

    kawayanan at gmail dot com

  14. jhngfk Says:

    Hi Sean, Your site is very interesting and informative, you have contributed hard work. I want to make a top bar hive according to your dimensions but can not find all dimentions.
    I have worked out the following measurements, can you correct if I am wrong.
    sides 42inches long x 15 inches wide
    ends 24 inches long x 15 inches wide
    clean out doors 15 inches long x 3 inches wide
    tbs = 12 inches long x 4 inches wide
    These measurements are machine cut by the dealer, then I will cut according to your design by hand or bench saw.

  15. John Says:

    A very interesting site and tidy woodwork. There is much of interest in top bar hives and natural cell beekeeping – I come from London & Kent. A member of one of our local associations has kept a top bar hive for years. My journey to your site involved much surfing and included interesting at Dee Lusby and Dennis Murrell’s sites among many others.

    In Kent we would have difficulty in obtaining small cell foundation and in any case my bee-keeping has been gently evolving into natural cells, a process which will hopefully complete this year. Top bar hives are likely the next thing for me because foundation kept too long is unhygienic and changed every year is expensive and time consuming (no time). Furthermore there is the likelihood of chemical contamination which Dee Lusby rightly raises concerns about.

    Keep up the good work.

  16. Dave Says:

    Enjoyed your site, What are the rules for having a hive in Chapel hIll city limits……I have a strong interest in getting started in beekeeping. best regards, dave

  17. kawayanan Says:

    My hives are not in the city limits, so I never checked out what the rules are. I do know of at least two people who are definite within the Chapel Hill city limits. I would suggest checking with the Orange County Beekeepers Assoc. (http://www.theocba.org/). They are all very nice, and I believe some of them are in Chapel Hill. The North Carolina State Beekeepers Association might also be helpful (http://www.ncbeekeepers.org/).

  18. JoyeLynn in Chapel Hill Says:

    Today the loudest hum happened this morning about just after 11 am. I couldn’t figure where it was coming from but it only took about ten minutes to find a swarm. It was there for a good while. It’s about 3:45 now and have taken off. I was thinking that they were just annoyed or bothered with another loud noisy buzzy roar, but when I went out they were gone. I couldn’t believe how loud the noise was coming from the top of a tree! I got out my telescope and it started out just looking like bees on a limb. That’s how far up it was. Within an hourish, it was covered thickly and had tripled in size. I’ve never seen something so amazing. This was one of those times that I had wished like CRAZY that I had gotten a camera on my telescope!!! *sigh*

    I’m working on my garden. I’m hoping they return. What do I need to do to improve the quality of my garden in this drought to improve the food sources? What colors best attract bees in this area. I’m a fairly decent gardener with the right conditions and I’ve always thought I did my fair share of garnering the attention of bees and butterflies, but this was simply an amazing sight for me.

    I rarely use pesticides… about once in a blue moon. My daughter had allergies and asthma growing up so I had to avoid that. I’ve been known to use sevin dust on occasion. I’ve probably used it maybe twice in 5 years. Maybe I’m not as conscientious as I thought I was. I have a dog and I don’t think he’s allergic to bees. At least I hope not. We have hummer feeders to put out in about another day or so. Please email me. I have so many questions.

  19. bingbong Says:

    you a filipino?

  20. kawayanan Says:

    No, but I lived in the Philippines (Quezon City area) for 2 years and speak Tagalog (though I’m a bit rusty now without anyone to talk to). I really liked bamboo, and kawayanan makes a nice screen name that is pretty much never taken. 🙂

  21. Amy Says:

    Hi Sean,
    I really enjoy your blog, it is so very interesting to follow your experiences. I am down on the NC coast, not too far from you. My kids and I are educating ourselves on beekeeping and wanting to keep a couple hives for a hobby and for the environment. I have a yard full of sunflowers and zinnias and we watch and study our little pollinators everyday. We don’t use any pesticides on our property. I went to a beekeeping meeting and heard so much about pesticides in the beeswax, it was very discouraging, actually depressing. Then I learned about the tbh! I think I’d rather try the top-bar hives to avoid the recycled wax sheets. Problem is… building the plans is truly a huge challenge for me… no tools, etc. So, I want to respectfully ask, would you consider making and selling a hive or two? If so, I could pick up in Chapel Hill, we pass through often.
    Thanks for thinking about this. :o)

  22. akabc Says:

    Pleasure to see someone providing practical considerations for our endangered bee population. I found your site by happenstanch while searching on google.sketchup for info on flashing a roof, go figure! Love the Internet I do…well done on your part.

  23. Matthew Reed Says:

    Greetings Sean,

    Wonderful blog. I’ve had a link to it at http://www.BeeThinking.com here: http://www.beethinking.com/directory/Links/Top%252DBar-Bees/details
    for a good while now. I would be most appreciative if you would add Bee Thinking to your Beekeeping links!

    Best regards,

  24. Mike Scott Says:

    Hi Sean Great reading except in Belize plywood is very costly. Scrap lumber is the answer in Belize. Do you have plans for using cement?
    Come for a visit someday. I raised 3 kids in the jungle here. Mike

  25. Jennifer Says:

    Hi, I live in Boone and want to start using top bar hives. Wondered if I could come and visit you and possibly ask you to make me a TBH. Can this hive be made from all natural wood and no plywood? I have no toold or skills to make a hive. Thanks

  26. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  27. Judith Says:

    I am not a handy person at all and would not be able to make a tbh. Would you sell one of your hives? I live in WI. If you do not sell your hives, do you know anyone in WI that might be able to help me out? Thank you. I look forward to your reply. Judith G.

    • Christy Hemenway Says:

      Hello all —

      For those who would like to keep bees in top bar hives, but are not necessarily all that “handy” – this may be of interest:

      Gold Star Honeybees makes and sells a top bar hive kit. It’s secondary focus (primary focus being of course that it be good for bees!) is that it be good for beekeepers. It goes together very easily with only a screwdriver, and a staple gun. Everything is pre-drilled and the instructions get a lot of good feedback, not to mention a few laughs.

      Have a look. The pix on the website are actually being updated very soon, as we have improved the design a bit and the new pix are better.

      Call or email for more info if you’d like: 207-449-1121 or christy@goldstarhoneybeescom

      Happy Beekeeping!
      — Christy

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  29. Kat Walker Says:

    I’m trying to get a hive for my mom for her birthday. She would be new at beekeeping, but her dad used to keep them when she was a girl. Which type of hive is easier to maintain? Shes in her late 50’s so I figure top bar hives would be easier because of the lifting. She wont be getting bees yet…I don’t really want to spring that on her. I put an ad on etsy for someone to build a hive for her for $100, but the only responses I have received have been far away and shipping is pretty expensive. Would you be willing to build a hive? It would be easy to transport the hive from Chapel Hill. We make many trips made between here (Charlotte) and there.

    • Christy Hemenway Says:

      You’ve definitely nailed it on the lifting issue…

      There are hives available for $250 and the like but yes shipping is a concern to be dealt with.

      Gold Star’s hives are quite expensive and if your budget is $100 then the “deluxe” version would seem sky high (at $425). But we do offer a do it yourself kit (plans plus the hardware) for $50, and a second DIY kit that includes the plans and hard AND our really nice one piece bevelled top bars. That’s $250 (plus the shipping of course – don’t forget the shipping!)

      Let me know if I can help – women are important to the shift that needs to happen in beekeeping, and top bar hives are especially easy for women.
      — Christy

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  31. dede Says:

    This is a nice blog. I keeps bees in a TBH in TN. A good site with forums and plans is biobees.com

  32. Andrew Says:


    Just came across your blog and was very interested in you design. I am going to be a new beekeeper this next spring and wanted to find out if you would be willing to email me your plans for this hive. I tried to get the google sketch program but am running mac 10.4+ and they only have it for the new mac 10.5+. I would really appreciate it, thanks!

  33. Dan Says:

    Hello Sean,
    I live in Raleigh and plan on starting my first two top bar hives this April. I am having a problem locating packaged bees. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

  34. Christy Hemenway Says:

    Hi Dan —
    These apiaries advertise bees for sale in the American Bee Journal:

    Harrell & Sons
    (334) 548-2313

    Norman Bee Farm*
    (334) 562-3354

    Ed Norman*
    Queens Only!

    Arrowsmith & Sons
    (530) 527-2770

    Heitkam’s Honey Bees
    (530) 865-9562

    C F Koehnen*

    Lohman Apiaries
    (530) 476-2322

    Noble Apiaries*
    (707) 628-6046

    Olivarez Honey Bees
    (877) 865-0298

    Pendell Apiaries
    (530) 963-3062
    Queens Only!

    Powell Apiaries
    (530) 865-3346

    Shamrock Pollination*
    (209) 605-3932

    Strachan Apiaries
    (530) 674-3881

    Glenn Apiaries
    Breeder Queens Only
    (760) 728-3731
    (California cont.)
    (707) 449-0440

    Wooten’s Golden Queens
    (888) 565-8439

    Honeyland Farms
    (352) 429-3996

    Drew Apiaries
    (800) 831-6705

    H & R Apiaries*
    (912) 427-7311

    Hardeman Apiaries
    (912) 583-2710

    Rossman Apiaries*

    Shuman Apiaries
    (912) 367-2243

    Spell Bee Co.*

    Wilbanks Apiaries*

    Hawaiian Queen Co.
    (808) 328-2656

    Kona Queen
    (808) 328-9016

    (318) 964-2592

    Harper’s Honey Farm
    (377) 298-6261
    Merrimack Valley Apiaries
    (978) 667-5380

    (662) 767-3880

    North Carolina
    Holt’s Apiaries
    (336) 710-4904

    Miller Bee Supply
    (888) 848-5184

    Norton’s Honey Farm
    (336) 342-4490

    Parson’s Gold Apiaries
    (419) 235-7037

    Old Sol Apiaries*
    Nucs Only

    Ruhl Bee Supply
    (503) 657-5399*

    Long Creek Apiaries*
    (423) 623-2345

    (409) 625-1544

    B Weaver*
    (936) 825-7312

    R Weaver*
    (936) 825-2333

  35. ChrisS Says:

    Sean, I am holding an TBH building day on March 5th for some friends. We are planning to use a slightly modified variation your design. I was wondering if there was anyway that I could get a first hand look at your hives before then?

    I would have sent this via email but could not find a contact/email link anywhere. chriss.nc @ gmail

  36. Anni Reed Says:

    The good news is, my investment in new bees is not a total loss since my bees have swarmed to a nicer location… bad for me, but good for the environment! I made a terrible mistake that upset my new bees and I want to let folks know so they won’t make the same blunder I did. I tried saving money by creating my own sugar water device… a mason jar with twigs floating in it. I opened the hive a few days after installing new bees and three freshly created combs were knocked down when I tried removing one of the bars. (This really favors having some way of seeing into the hive as some hive builders have suggested!) Then, when the bees hurried to fill up with sugar water, in case they needed to leave the hive in a hurry, I accidently bumped the sugar water jar and a lot of bees, trying to fill up with nectar, were jostled into the brew. I could have dumped out the sugar water immediately, saving most of the drowning bees, but I did not think of that until it was too late. Thank goodness a good percentage of the bee population did not drown and ended up swarming with the queen and finding a new home that is better than the one I was providing. Let’s hope!

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  40. Christy Says:

    Hi Sean!

    I just found your blog today, and I love the amount of detail you put into it. Every little bit of info is so helpful to someone who is just starting out. I plan on building my hive in the next few weeks and we’ll be getting our first batch of bees in the spring. I just found a top bar mentor and will be checking out her hives in a few weeks.

    Thanks again!

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  46. Chad Says:

    Hi Sean
    I live in Canada and I’m preparing to build a couple hives.
    The problem that I foresee is the fact that my winter is -20 to -40 F
    Which means I will have to insulate whatever I build for the winter.
    If you were in my shoes how would you insulate your type of hives?

  47. Anonymous Says:

    I live in TN so don’t have a need to insulate. However, I’ve read about people using rigid foam sheet insulation on exterior of their hives. Also read that, just during the cold months, some stack square baled hay around the hive except for near the entrance.

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