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What are Horizontal Top-Bar Hives? (free, easy DIY 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" Horizontal Top-Bar Hive Plans:


The "Les-Is-More" Horizontal Top-Bar NUC BOX Plans:



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)

Why build (or buy) a Bee Mindful Top-Bar HiveTM?

In 1985, Les Crowder had been beekeeping professionally for already over 20 years, using heavy commercial Langstroth hives.

Tired of the back breaking lifting, the endless equipment building/transporting/storing, and the flimsy, expensive cumbersome frames used in those, he decided to use an ancient concept to design his very own horizontal frameless hive so that it was cheap, simple to make/assemble, and easy to manage. The Les Crowder Top-Bar HiveTM was born. 

With over 35 years of field testing building and managing his no-nonsense top-bar hives, he partnered with Nathalie B. to revisit and refine his original concept for a truly no-fuss, simple, budget savvy version that respects the natural angles of hexagonal cells (30 degree) and the catenary curve the bees naturally follow when building comb, while making the hives super simple, cheap and easy to manage, turning it into the People's Hive Of The Future: the “Bee Mindful Top-Bar HiveTM” was born.

This Top-Bar Hive features standard 20in” bars that have the tremendous advantage to feature longer comb attachment surface and shallower depth than 17” TBH, which means a higher center of gravity for the combs and much less risk of honey heavy comb collapsing in the heat. They also seem to better promote bee health. 

The elegance of this hive resides in its utmost simplicity, accessibility to all, and versatility (can you say double, triple top-bar hive? Langstroth to TBH conversion? Maximum airflow? High customization options? Increased insulation and thermal mass?)



95% of Beekeepers in the US are backyard/homestead beekeepers that do not need to keep their bees the way commercial beekeepers do, and have the luxury to use a more robust, easier to manage hive (commercial hives are best for migratory beekeepers to stack and transport on semi-trailer beds to pollination contracts).

Today, Bee Mindful, LLC provides these free plans for stationary heavy duty top-bar hives so everyone somewhat crafty can make them at home with basic materials, tools and woodworking skills: it only takes a few simple cuts, 5 parts and 30 bars, a few screws and very little time to make.

COMING SOON: our detailed Easy-Peasy Lang to TBH adapter hives (4-in-1 TBH) (see an intro above)

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