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What are Horizontal Top-Bar Hives? (free, easy plans below)

The concept of Horizontal Top-Bar hive has been around for hundreds of years and has been used all over the world, from Greece to Africa. Today’s Horizontal Top-Bar hives are the modern version of very ancient and simple beekeeping methods. 

They are beekeeping at its simplest, easiest and cheapest: a protected cavity, with bars placed across the top and spaced appropriately so the colony may be inspected and managed by the beekeeper easily.


In Horizontal Top-Bar Hives, the bees make 100% natural combs from their own wax, building different cell sizes as needed based on the season, so there is no exposure to the heavy chemical contamination from foundation and the colony can best adapt to their specific needs.


When inspecting, only 3-4 bars are removed and the brood’s nest is never fully exposed, which protects the colony and keeps the bees much calmer than in vertical hives. 

Bars are inspected one at a time, so there is no heavy lifting. When using legs (optional), the work is all done at waist level without bending or twisting: this is a back-saver, ergonomically friendly hive.


Top-Bar hives best adhere to the scientific principles of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) pyramid, use only natural comb, and facilitate mechanical intervention/manipulations. Applied properly and in a timely fashion, IPM strategies eliminate and discourage the need for treatments, so in effect Top-Bar hives are a great tool in the fight against Pests and Pathogens, especially Varroa Destructor. 

We offer the plans below free of charge, because we want to encourage more people to build and use them, and even start a business of their own selling them and/or selling Top-Bar NUCs of bees for their customers (in Texas, those sell for about $350 each for 4/5 bars of brood/food/bees/queen!).

Please note on the last page there is an Easy-Peasy Method to convert Langstroth colonies and frames into Top-Bar Hive format through a horizontal conversion.


Yes, we do realize we could monetize these plans for our own profit...

However, our overarching goal is instead to promote horizontal top-bar beekeeping as a sustainable option for most beekeepers around the world, and to make these plans available to people of all backgrounds and means, so that anyone, including those who would not otherwise have the means to access these plans or hives, still can start keeping bees in top-bar hives as easily and cheaply as possible.

So we are making our plans accessible to all to remove friction to adoption!

Because, like Les Crowder always says, together we rise...

But that's not our only motivation: from working with many different types of hives, including Langstroth, Layens, Long Langs, Warre, Flow, Barrel, AZ/Slovenian, and 17in top-bar hives, we know 20in horizontal top-bar hives don't use expensive, hard to make, constraining frames, and are simpler, cheaper, much lighter and more practical than most other hives, making them ideal for most urban or backyard beekeepers, hobbyists and side liners, because they make for calmer, healthier bees and happier beekeepers. A lot of beekeepers around us are switching or starting with these because they make so much more sense than those other complicated to manage, expensive, and hard to build options.

Our plans and instructions  are free, but if you'd like to support us in our mission and our community outreach efforts, we do welcome donations, or simply your promotion of our plans and Horizontal Top-Bar beekeeping.

Whichever way you decide to help, we will be eternally grateful for your spontaneous support and will use it to continue our efforts of democratization of Natural, Easy Beekeeping as a source of pleasure or income.


Because together, we can make the world a better place, for people of for bees.

Thank YOU!

Nathalie B. and Les Crowder

Below are plans for the newly revamped and improved Les Crowder/Bee Mindful designed 19" top-bar hive, which the popular podcast The Hive Jive calls "The People's Hive Of The Future"


Click to listen to the Podcast Episode to hear all the reasons why it is getting so popular :

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The "Les-Is-More" Top-Bar Hive Plans:



  • Use thicker wood for cheaper material costs, sturdier hive and better insulation

  • Use thinner wood to transport often and ship, or for mini-Top-Bar Hive NUCs 

  • Make it shorter (8-10 bars wide instead of 30-33) for TBH NUCs, transport, Queen rearing and swarm traps

  • Make it longer (40+ bars) to increase available volume and colony size.

  • Use another end piece and additional entrances to split the hive in 2 and host 2 colonies​ in the same hive

  • Use 20" bars instead of 19" bars so they can sit comfortably on the hive edges instead of slipping in

  • Use bamboo skewers glued in the center of the bars for guides


Nathalie B. assembling hives on a Texas roof:

Our friend Darin filmed a video on how to assemble the hive body and the underside legs for 3-in-1 hives:

Our friend Duane filmed a video on how to assemble the hive body and the underside legs for 3-in-1 hives:

This is what the hive looks with our "HINGED ROOF":
(we simply used two pieces of 2x4s cut at a 30 degree angle and attached the lid to them with roofing screws)

This is what the hive looks like with our "DELUXE ROOF":
(dimensions for the top of the hexagon are the same as those for the bottom of the hexagon, except the top one is made up of 2x4s)

How to repair cross combing with repair bars:
(Video technique + how to make the repair bars)