(PART 1 OF 5)
Welcome the amazing world of honey bees! When your journey into beekeeping first begins it is vital to know the decisions you will have to make to get started. Historically, new beekeepers did not have many choices to make. Modern-day beekeepers have many!
What type of hive will you house your bees?
How will you get bees to put in your hive?
Will you use chemicals in your hive or will you keep your bees chemical free?
What additional equipment do you need or want to get started?
How much protective gear is right for you?
We will begin by learning about the different hive designs’ pros and cons.
Langstroth 10 frame or 8 frame Hive
A TRADITIONAL STACKED HIVE THAT GROWS VERTICALLY
CLASSIC Invented by Rev. Lorenzo
Langstroth, this hive design revolutionized
beekeeping and made modern
methods of beekeeping possible.
Langstroth’s key insight was the notion
of “bee space,” providing wooden
frames and combs spaced precisely the
correct distance apart so that honey
bees will not build more comb between
them. This makes the frames “moveable.”
The corollary is that frames and other
equipment built to these dimensions are
MODULAR Langstroth hives also offer
the advantage of simple vertical
expansion or contraction by the addition
or subtraction of standard-sized boxes
VERSATILE & CONVENTIONAL
Langstroth hive equipment is
ubiquitous, meaning you can easily
find compatible equipment for
honey extraction, pollen harvesting,
hive moving and other colony
manipulation. If you want to resell
your equipment or colonies,
they will likely have more value on
the open market if contained
in Langstroth equipment.
Langstroth hives were designed
to hold large colonies and lots of honey –
consequently, they can be heavy
and may require physical strength to
manage and harvest honey supers.
Supers are the boxes that hold the frames
of honey, bees and brood in a hive.
Each super can weigh from 20 – 75 pounds,
depending on size, and whether or
not it is full of honey. If you are concerned
about having to move heavy boxes
of honey off the top of your hive, then
a Langstroth hive may not be for you.
On the other hand, you have the option
of harvesting one comb at a time, thus
reducing the burden. Placing the hive
on a stand facilitates accessibility if
bending or stooping is difficult for you.
Top Bar Hive
A HORIZONTAL HIVE WITH BARS, NO FRAMES
NATURAL COMB BUILDING
Top bar hives require bees to build
their comb from scratch in whatever
configuration they choose. Seeing
newly fabricated comb hanging from
the top bars can be fascinating!
NO MUSCLES REQUIRED There are
no supers to lift with top bar hives, and
you will work and harvest honey one top
bar at a time.
EASY ON THE BACK Because top bar
hives can be worked standing up, at
waist height and without bending over,
they may be a better choice if your back
prevents you from lifting or bending.
TIME-INTENSIVE Because top bar
hives require constant intervention to
enforce comb building on only one top
bar and eliminate comb attachments to
sides, this option will demand more of
DIFFICULT TO MOVE AND INSPECT
Combs built on top bars have no
reinforcement or wooden frame to
facilitate manipulation, movement
and inspection. One can inadvertently
cause the comb to become detached
from the top bar (especially on a hot
summer day), and it is very difficult to
inspect for embryos, larvae, queen or
disease. Moving a top bar hive can
cause the combs to fall off the top bar.
ATYPICAL Your bees will have to
work harder to heat and cool a top bar
hive because the space is difficult for
them to thermoregulate themselves.
PESTS Small hive beetles have more
hiding places in top bar hives.
BEE WEAVER’S COMPROMISE
THE BEST FEATURES OF BOTH
LANGSTROTH AND TOP BAR
If you want the features of a top bar hive,
but the management advantages and
honey production potential of a Langstroth
hive, then the hybrid is for you.
BEE OPTIONS You can start a hybrid
hive with a nuc or a package, or
by installing an established colony.
HARVEST OPTIONS Add honey
supers to the Langstroth portion and
extract honey from frames using typical
extraction equipment, or pull top bars
from the top bar portion to enable easy
comb or chunk honey harvesting.
BUILT-IN HIVE STAND The hybrid
hive is elevated on removable legs,
to ease back strain and put both top bar
and Langstroth brood chambers at
EXPENSIVE Bringing the two hives
together increases the initial cost of
buying a hive to begin beekeeping.
Sometimes the bees have a hard time
transitioning between the two hives.
Initially, special beekeeping practices
may be needed
There are several other hive types that may interest you. Warre hives, garden hives, and even indoor observation hives. We suggest trying one of the more conventional hives initially before working with a more challenging system. For more information and support go to our BeeFilm. Next time we will explore the different kinds of bees, how bees are packaged for transport, and what you will need to move bees into your new hive.