Top Bar Beekeeping

Martin O’Callaghan has been keeping bees for nearly 20 years and was up for sharing his experience with us on Top Bar  bee hives and more natural forms of beekeeping. He is passionate about natural beekeeping and runs the Urban Hive, a Melbourne-based business that builds and sells Top Bar and Warre bee hives and removes bee swarms. He is a fountain of knowledge on beekeeping and bees in general!


  1. Lovely video. Keeping bees is magical. Any recommendations on best hives to protect bees in cold climates?

  2. Check out They have a golden means ratio top bar beehive that I fell in love with. Build two of them and can’t wait to start them up. They are from Colorado (zone 4), is that winter enough? :P

  3. Just listened to the Whole Earth Summit on Bees with Marla Spivak. Seems like a day for bees :D Well every day is a day for bees…

    For those of us DIY inclined does anyone know of any good links to plans for making your own Top Bar Hive? I know that you would need to use appropriate woods, etc.

    Thanks and Cheers,


  4. Thanks DGG and Tim for those links.

    I’ve got that Barefoot Beekeeper on order at the library here in Brisbane. I’ve been surprised at the amount of Permaculture and related books they actually have.

    Cheers and of course – thanks,


  5. Yup the barefoot beekeeper was a big influence on choosing top bar’s to film. They are pretty incredible creatures, and extremely productive for such a small space and time investment!

    We’ll be putting together a new short film every two weeks

    @tim…nice pun :-)

  6. Its a cool video. Look forward to the next installment.

    What do people use in Australia for the woods? Phil mentions Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir but I haven’t been able to find them easily here in Brisbane. Are there suitable local alternatives?



  7. I use radiata pine treated with beeswax and linseed oil for the body and cypress pine for the legs. I’ve had one like this running for 3 years with no problems.

    I am thinking about using cypress pine for the whole hive. A thicknesser would be useful to dress the rough sawn boards, though you could do without it.

  8. cypress pine for the legs.

    I use Frost fence posts cut to the desired length. I place the bottoms of the legs in metal bowls filled with water. No ants can get into the hive and mice cannot climb the legs in the winter.

  9. Thanks Tim and DGG for your valuable comments. I just started reading the Barefoot Beekeeper last night – very cool.


  10. I got interested in bee keeping last fall here in Buffalo, NY. I bought just about Ebook I could find. I read them during the eight weeks I spent in the Philippines with my wife. Upon returning home I built two KTB hives based on Phil Chandler’s plans. Ordered two packages of bees shipped one week apart. Last week I installed my first package. I did not use any protection it was finally warm and I was in shirt sleeves. The bees were unbelievably gentle. In three days the queen was free of the cage. The bees had built comb around the cage. I cut this free and reattached it to two top bars. Today four days later checking through the window it appears they have four bars with comb. Saturday I will have the second package to install in hive number two. The I will check hive one to see how and if the bees are built straight. They are amazing.

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