Top-Bar Beekeeping Advocate Les Crowder to Speak at WAS Conference at UC Davis

Aug 17, 2017

Are top-bar beekeeping hives for you? What are their advantages and disadvantages as compared to the traditional Langstroth hives?

You'll learn all about top-bar hives when Les Crowder of Austin, Texas, discusses "Major Considerations in Top Bar Hive Management" at the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, set Sept. 5-8 at the University of California, Davis.

Crowder will speak at 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 7 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Registration is still open to attend the conference. See registration. 

A top-bar hive is described as a single-story frameless bee hive with the comb hanging from removable bars.

Crowder and Heather Harrell co-authored the book, Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health, published by Chelsea Green Publishing Co. in 2012 and soon to be published in Spanish. He continues to teach and advocate nontoxic management of beehives.

Crowder says he began keeping bees--or the bees began keeping him--in Bernalillo, N.M., more than 40 years ago. "I began began looking for ways to raise bees without antibiotics in my teenage years and have been breeding honey bees for disease and parasite resistance since then. I also began early on to search for ways to regularly renew the combs in beehives because research indicated that old cocoon laden combs become havens for pathogenic fungi and bacteria that stress the bees' resistance to disease."

He built his first top-bar hive in 1979 and eventually begin using them exclusively for his 100-200 hive honey and beeswax business.

In his talk, Crowder will cover spring buildup, swarm prevention and making divides as a topbar beekeeper. In addition, he will compare and contrast top-bar hives with Langstroth hives.

Crowder served as president of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association for many years. His credentials also include honey bee inspector for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, and beekeeping instructor "in many parts of the world for more than 30 years."

"There's a lot of interest in top-bar hives," said Western Apicultural Society president Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus based at UC Davis. He expects an enthusiastic crowd at the four-day conference, which will include a variety of speakers, tours, networking, and a silent auction. See schedule.

WAS, founded at UC Davis, is a non-profit, educational, beekeeping organization geared toward the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America, Mussen said. The group encourages membership from all over the world. However, the organization is specifically designed to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming as well as the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. Contact Mussen at for more information.