Posts Tagged ‘Langstroth hive’

Checking the topbar hive

Langstroth hives

Last Sunday I spent 6 hours with my bee mentor Steve Wall at a class for beginning beekeeping.  There were 15 of us in the class…some folks already had bees but most of us were total beginners.  He demonstrated both types of hives: Langstroth and Topbar hives.  The Langstroth hive is the classic box that we are all familiar with. It was invented by Rev. L.L. Langstroth in the 1850’s.  Before this, bees were kept in conical straw baskets or hollowed out logs. The Langstroth hive had removable frames in which bees built the honeycomb and raised brood and filled the comb with honey. This really increased honey production and has been the standard for beekeepers since.

Recently a different type of hive has been developed that imitates the natural hollowed out logs that bees tend to live in.  It’s a horizontal box with bars on the top ( that’s why it is called a topbar hive) on which the bees build comb.

We learned that the Langstroth hive will produce more honey, but many bee hobbyists prefer the topbar as they are a bit easier to work with, and many folks feel that it allows the bees to create comb of their liking rather than forcing the bees to conform to a rigid standard. Both are good, and  I will be using the topbar hive.


He covered the A to Z of bees, and I feel very confident about venturing into this project. We all watched up close and personal as Steve opened up the hives to show us what was going on inside the hive. He pointed out the queen and we watched her work her way over the comb laying eggs in the empty cells.

Steve showing us the queen bee

He showed us the drones ( male bees) and we even found a queen cell, although it was empty.  The best part of it was how calm the bees were. Notice that none of us were wearing  a veil or gloves…..keeping calm and moving in a slow deliberate manner is a must. It really helped to allay our fears of getting stung. ( But I will still wear my veil when I start with the bees, for sure!)  One more month and I’ll have my bees.

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Bee Hives

I was familiar with the Langstroth hive, as it is the one used by almost all the commercial apiaries. There is a ton of information out there about them, and many catalogs from which you can order supplies. This type of hive provides bees with a honeycomb foundation, so more energy can go into honey production, and it is easy to extract the honey from the removable frames. There is a queen excluder to prevent the queen bee from laying eggs in the honey storage comb.

Langstroth hive

A top-bar hive

Then there is the Top-Bar hive, the one that I got introduced to here in Santa Fe. The bees create their own natural comb from the “top bars”  and the queen bee is free to roam the entire hive. There is a naturalness to the hive; when a comb is removed, only that section of the hive is disturbed, keeping calmer. The comb is crushed to release the honey, and productions is less than that of a Langstroth hive. There seems to be a lot of debate of which hive is “better” for the backyard beekeeper, but talking with experienced beekeepers, I realize it comes down to personal choice.  What I wanted is a hive that is easy to build and maintain without pesticides. I am not interested in maximizing honey production.

Since I have had no practical experience with either of these hives, and since almost all of my contacts and mentors are using top-bar hives, I have decided to build a top-bar beehive.

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