The most common type of hive used in beekeeping today is the Langsthroth hive which is a movable frame hive and usually holds 10 frames. There are other options and the most popular alternative is the the top bar hive.
The Langstroth Hive
Langstroth hives are more productive than the top bar hives but they also need a more intensive management style. Add to this that the beekeeper needs to able to lift the weight of a full box of honey.
This is still the most popular beekeeping hive design today because it produces the most honey. There are several reasons why this type of hive generally produces more honey. The main reason is that the combs are returned to the hive after the honey has been extracted and the bees reuse the same comb. Not having to rebuild the comb allows the bees more time to make honey.
The actual hive body is an open frame that supports the movable frames of comb. The combs are usually wooden frames that hold what’s known as foundation. Foundation can made from either natural beeswax or plastic and it’s embossed with a honeycomb pattern. The bees use the foundation as the starting point to draw out the comb.
When it’s time to harvest the honey the section of the hive body containing the honey is removed from the hive. The frames of comb are uncapped away from the hive and the honey is extracted, then the combs can be returned to the hive.
The Top Bar Hive
Top bar hives on the other hand are generally maintained with a minimal, leave well alone style of management. There is no heavy lifting as the honey is harvested one comb at a time. This really makes beekeeping accessible to anyone, even those with a disability or those who are concerned about lifting heavy boxes.
This style of hive has fewer components and consequently is less expensive. The bees build the comb in their own design attaching it themselves to the wooden top bars after which the hive is named.
The simple design of the top bar hive makes management easier and all the components are stored in the hive so there’s no need for extra storage space.
Honey from top bar hives is usually sold as honey in the comb and it’s generally honey of a high quality, so it’s usually sold for a good price. It is more difficult to use honey in the comb for anything other than eating it as it is, so the market is small. After the honey and the the honeycomb have been harvested the bees have to build new comb to store the honey, so this slows down honey production.
In any event which ever hive design you choose you need to think about where your going to put your hive. Putting the hive close to nectar producing plants is not as important as you might think. Bees can travel considerable distances to collect nectar and pollen.
You will need a source of freshwater close to the hive or your bees wont be annoying your neighbors by drinking from their paddling pools. It’s also best not position you hive close to your neighbors house or anywhere there is a lot of people traffic.
Finally choose the hive design that will suit you best, If you want to start a viable business and you are capable of lifting full frames of honey, then the Langstroth style hive is probably the better option.
If you aren’t capable of lifting full boxes of honey or you want a more natural style of bee management and you’re not looking for maximum honey production then you might find that a top bar hive will suit you better. Choose the beekeeping hive that suits your lifestyle and that will make it a pleasure to work with your bees.
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