Topbar Beekeeping

I'm an urban topbar beekeeper in Albuquerque, NM. I manage hives in backyards and small organic farms within city limits. These hives are probably pollinating your veggie patches right now. Visit my website at:


Beginning Topbar Beekeeping Class

CLASS CANCELLED- I'm so sorry, but this class has been cancelled for this year.

I'll be teaching a Beginning Topbar Beekeeping Class through Mother Nature Gardens as part of their Dryland Urban Farming Course on May 15th from 10 am to 3 pm. You can email them for more details at

Astounding Hive Designs in "Queen of the Sun"

"Queen of the Sun" just came to the Guild Cinema last weekend. Even though the movie was about the huge crash of bee numbers not only in our country, but the world, I found it full of hope. The movie was light-handed in science, but full of feel-good spirituality. I walked away with my mind whirling over the variety of hive construction people are using. 
The hive below is at the Melissa Garden, a honeybee sanctuary, outside of Healdsburg, CA. This hive was designed by artist Gunther Mancke to imitate beehives in the wild. The entrance is at the bottom of this egg shaped hive and the shape allows for 2 feet of hanging comb. 

The bottom picture is of Rob Brelan's Dodechahedron hive. Here is a write up of his work in the SF Gate Archive and in the Center for the Micro Eco-Farming Movement. Brelan is located in West Nyacy, NY. The dodechahedron hive is meant to be more a bee sanctuary, rather than a honey harvesting hive. 


Top Bar Hives

I built 11 new hives this weekend according to Les Crowder's Top Bar Hive Plans. I stick with top bar because it is very inexpensive to make (around $35 a hive), easy to move, no supers or extractors are needed and you don't need to store any parts over winter. The only downside to this type of hive is that you have to be in the hive a lot more often working with the bees to make sure they don't cross comb, or build comb in opposite directions then the top bars. Here is a link to a local who build his hive with an observation window and roof zeebeeman

There are as many variations of this plan as there are beekeepers in New Mexico. You can make the top bar hive as long or as short as possible, deeper, shallower, with different steepness of sides or the entrance in different locations. The most important measurement in this plan is the width of the top bars. They need to be 1 3/8" to allow room for the comb and enough space for the bees. If this measurement is bigger, the bees will still build to 1 3/8" anyways and you won't be able to pull up the bars and manage the hive. The benefit to sticking with the plans, or at least a consistent experiment, is that the comb can be interchangeable.

New Mexico is very unique in that many people work with top bar. In the last NM Beekeeping meeting there was a show of hands of how many people worked with either type of hive and it looked like 60% of the audience was top bar.


Cow dung, curvy combs and signs of spring

March 20th and the temperatures are over 74 degrees, sunny and the wind stays still. Time to peak in on the bees. I use cow dung, or horse manure, broken into pieces, for my smoker fuel. I light some twisted up newspaper or dry weeds, and add this to the smoker first. I then puff the smoker a few times until the paper is burning hot and then I add the dung on top. It smells surprisingly great and is slow burning.

There is no sign of drones (male bees) in the hive. Only eggs in drone comb. I consider it too early to split this hive into 2 because there probably aren't too many mature drones to impregnate a virgin queen in the neighborhood. Here is a great link to test the maturity of drones: beeclass/ drone

Peach blossoms where I watched small black and blue native bees, bumble bees and honey bees chase each other off the blooms.


Bee Song

Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through.
When I'm dead and gone,
that's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
but I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey.
Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through. 

From "The Secret Life of Bees", Sue Monk Kidd

Getting ready for the bees

It's time to expand. Here is a load of boards, soon to be made into 11 top bar hives this weekend. Taking a Unimog and a military trailer to pick up a few boards is like using a hammer on a thumb tack, like using a stock pot to cook a few grains of rice, like using a snow shovel to play in a kids sand pit! You get the idea.
Last year I ordered a random variation of bee locally from For the Love of Bees but they were so back ordered that I decided to get a few packages of Russians from Honey Bee Genetics from California and a cross between a Minnesota Hygienic and Italians from Papa Bear's Honey from Utah via Edgewood. I'm excited about the mix of types although really I would love to get my hands on a hardy wild swarm.


Pomelo with Bees

A 2005 piece by the amazing Caroline Siegfried that I have looked at so often, it is burned forever in mind